Top 10 unlikely start-up successes

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6. Craigslist

 

Craigslist looks like websites did in 1999. Viewing its sparse lines of text, placed atop a featureless white savannah of nothingness, you almost expect to hear the accompanying pop and crackle of a dial-up modem.

 

Stubbornly refusing to add superfluous nonsense such as colour, homepage pictures or social media plug-ins, Craigslist should’ve slid into obscurity. In fact, its annual revenues are estimated at $150 million.

 

It began in 1995, started by Craig Newmark who started listing events in San Francisco. It has since expanded to include job ads and services and now spans cities across the world. It was never intended to be a business. Maybe that is, conversely, why it has actually worked.

 

CraigsList

 

7. Doggles

 

At the climax of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Animal Farm, pigs walk around on two legs wearing clothes.

 

Ken and Roni di Lullo attempted their own brand of anthropomorphism by trying to force their dog to wear a pair of glasses after they noticed it was squinting in the sun.

 

Realising the fallacy of this, they could’ve easily given up. Instead, they went on to develop a range of tinted sunglasses specifically for dogs, called Doggles.

 

At $40 a pop, Doggles aren’t cheap, but in a world where pets are lavished with diamond-encrusted collars, the idea proved a winner. The business now has revenue of $3 million. Most dogs have remained on all fours though, thankfully.

 

 

8. The Pet Loo

 

In further evidence of the viability of unusual start-up ideas in the pet care industry, a Melbourne-based business is seeking global expansion for its product – a portable square of lawn that acts as a toilet.

 

Simone Iglicki and Tobi Skovron started up The Pet Loo in 2006 after their pet dog created one mess too many in their apartment. The piece of turf has a drainage system and is aimed at those living in small apartments or people who are unable to take their dogs out for regular toilet-induced walks.

 

 

9. Million Dollar Homepage

 

Most people seeking to find some extra money to see them through university get a job in a bar or a call centre. Not Alex Tew. In 2005, he decided to set up a blank webpage and charged advertisers a dollar a pixel to advertise on it.

 

The idea was so unexpectedly successful that Tew dropped out of his degree to reap the rewards. Many imitators have come before and since, but Tew was the original million dollar pixel man.

 

 

10. Superjam

 

If a 14-year-old who started making jam at his grandmother’s house can become a multi-millionaire, there really is hope for every budding entrepreneur out there.

 

This isn’t to diminish the achievements of Fraser Doherty, the fresh-faced Scot behind Superjam. He has achieved astonishing success and, after getting his product stocked in every major supermarket chain in the UK, he is now set to crack the US market.

 

But, a product as ubiquitous as jam? Made by a schoolboy? Maybe those who’ve spent millions developing pieces of software or bootstrapping a consultancy should look to the condiment market instead.

 

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