5 hugely successful startups you can learn from

12th June 2019

It's pretty common knowledge that starting up your own business is not easy. In fact, it's often said that more than half of new businesses fail during the first year. However, according to the Small Business Association, only 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10.

So, how do you ensure your start-up gets past its first two years, and is built for longevity and success?

Take a look at these 5 highly successful startups to inspire you.

1. Slack

Slack is a workplace platform and has more than 6 million users. Slack describes itself as "a collaboration hub for work, no matter what work you do. Project discussions, important documents, free food announcements: they all live tidily together in Slack. Communication in Slack happens in channels, organised by project, topic, team or whatever makes sense for you".

Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield launched the company in 2013, and it was recently valued at $5 billion.

Slack allows company employees to communicate in one place, whether they are working from their office computers or tablets while on the road, but perhaps its greatest allure is how engaging and fun the platform is to use. When compared to other workplace communication tools, Slack has definitely nailed it in terms of its design and usability.

2. Handshake

Too many students find it hard to get a job after graduating and this has been a big problem for a very long time. A new startup called Handshake was designed to solve this widespread problem. Three Michigan Tech students invented the solution. The idea is simple, yet brilliant. Handshake is a social network for students (similar to LinkedIn for professionals), where employers can source talents and students can seek opportunities. As of 2018, more than 500 university career centres are involved with the network, 9 million plus students are registered, and 250,000+ employers offer jobs. Handshake has already taken the grad recruitment world by storm and if it continues to evolve, we envision long-term success for this startup

3. Groupon

We've all heard of this one and you may be thinking, is it still even around? Yes, it is. And it's still going strong.

The interesting thing about Groupon is its unusual beginnings. A social network for activists turned into a daily deals site that scaled to 45 countries and gained a $1 billion valuation within two years. Groupon's journey to success is the epitome of startup mentality.

Originally named The Point, a platform that brought together people who wanted to back a specific cause, but when founder Eric Lefkofsky saw users joining together to buy an item in bulk to receive a discount, his ingenious Groupon idea was born.

4. UnSplash

UnSplash came at a time when the internet really needed it. Image creation is expensive, as well as paid-for image libraries such as Shutterstock and Getty. When a Canadian startup crew hired a professional photographer for a shoot, they shot more than they needed. Instead of letting good photos go to waste, they threw them up on a site and gave them away for free. One viral HackerNews post later, and the photos had been downloaded over 50,000 times. This just goes to show the power of great content. Today, Unsplash hosts thousands of high-quality, engaging photos, free to download and has become the go-to place for free imagery online.

5. WeWork

Founded in 2010, WeWork is headquartered in New York City. This US company provides shared workspaces and offices to startups, freelancers and global companies. Wired explains: "WeWork's model is simple: it takes on large commercial leases, does the space up in its signature style of hip decor and prosecco on tap, then rents it out in smaller chunks and on shorter terms."

The company has grown rapidly. It now has 253 locations in 22 countries and manages more than 1.3 million square metres of office space. WeWork raised $4.4 billion in 3 months! WeWork CEO Adam Neumann says what makes WeWork so special is that it's much more than office space. It's because of the "We Generation" - a largely Millennial workforce who demand more from their work than just a job. This group of people tend to value experiences over material goods, crave a sense of community and want to be part of something greater than themselves. And this is where WeWork fits in.

As you can see, 5 very different business models yet all widely successful. What's the common denominator? They are all centred around people. Make your startup consumer centric and don't lose sight of that.

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