Made in America, Gone Global

companies made in america

In honor of the 4th of July, we want to turn the spotlight on four companies made in America, gone global. These companies started out small, with little to no money, and were able to become globally recognized and used brands. Test your entrepreneurial knowledge by guessing which story belong to which company.

2-Cans-and-a-String Technology Updated

This story starts with a 16-year-old boy who immigrated with his mother from the Ukraine to the U.S. They lived in a small two-bedroom apartment trying to make ends meet. By 18 he had taught himself computer networking by borrowing used books and enrolled in San Jose State University. He started working at Yahoo, and shortly after dropped out of college. Yahoo is where he met his future business partner. In 2007, the two left the company and applied to Facebook, where they were both turned down. They started working on their own business idea, an app that would revolutionize messaging.

The app in its early stages was full of bugs, it kept crashing and getting stuck. The two friends managed to raise a round of seed funding and started perfecting their app. Soon the team was batting away requests from venture capitalists. The app’s user base soon started growing from 250,000 active users in 2009 to 200 million users in 2013. They decided it was time to raise more money, and with that funding round they were valued at $1.5 billion. And it just kept growing…

We are of course talking about WhatsApp! In 2014, WhatsApp was sold to Facebook for $19 billion by founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton (note the irony that they were both denied a job at Facebook 7 years earlier)! For the full tale of rags to riches, check out Forbes exclusive here. The app is now the most popular messaging app all over the world and is used in 109 countries (that’s 55.6% of the world), with 1 billion monthly active users. We can no longer imagine a world without free international messaging because of this app.

When Pez Was Cool

This platform grew from one man’s idea, who was born in Paris and moved to the U.S. in 1967. He had interest in computers as a teenager and preferring playing on the high school’s computers rather than attending PE class. The principal of the school saw his potential and rather than punishing him for skipping the gym, hired him to handle programming and printing library catalog cards. He then went to to attend Tufts University for his bachelor’s degree. During this time, he created a rudimentary e-commerce platform named eShop. The concept of e-commerce caught Microsoft’s eye, who bought the company from him.

He moved on to designing web pages after this. His girlfriend, who is now his wife, was a Pez dispenser collector and was frustrated with the internet and her search to find other Pez collectors. To help her out, he built a dedicated area on his website for her to reach out to other like-minded collectors. From that idea grew the first online marketplace people could list their collectibles, used items, and anything you can think of.

This is the origin story of eBay! eBay is now a household name in over 50 countries around the world. eBay has 162 million active users worldwide with over 800 million items for sale on the site at any given time.


Garage Makeover

Just 10 miles from the garage where Apple was started (but a good 30 years earlier), Stanford graduates launched their own company with an investment of just $538. In their 12-by-18 foot garage, they built their first product: an audio oscillator. One of their first customers was Walt Disney Productions, which bought eight audio oscillators to use for certifying the surround sound systems installed in theaters for the film Fantasia. For years to come, the garage was used as a research lab, development workshop and manufacturing facility for nearly a year before the partners outgrew it and moved to roomier quarters nearby.

This famous garage belonged to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard who set up Hewlett-Packard Co. Today, this garage is a private museum known as the “birthplace of Silicon Valley.” The company is now an American multinational IT organization that provides hardware and software to businesses across industries and across the globe. There are 120 HP computers sold each minute of each day, and more than 324,600 employees in the organization globally.


From Farm to Store

Picture a boy living with his family on a farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. In order to make ends meet, he helped his family out by milking the cow and driving the milk out to customers. He also delivered newspapers and sold magazine subscriptions. By 26, he was managing a variety store after graduating from the University of Missouri with a B.A. in economics. He used $5,000 from the army and a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law to buy a Ben Franklin variety store in Arkansas. He expanded the chain, and then went on to found what is now the planet’s largest retailer.

Drumroll please… This is the story of Walmart! As of January 31, 2017, Walmart has 11,695 stores and clubs in 28 countries, under a total of 63 brand names (this is why their world domination might not seem obvious in the first place). This retailer The company ranks No. 15 on the Forbes’ Global 2000 list of the world’s biggest and most powerful public companies. To put that in perspective, if Walmart were its own country, it would have the the 25th largest GDP in the world or roughly the economic size of Belgium.


Modern-day storytelling

This story is about a businesswoman who was born in India and earned a PhD in cognitive neuropsychology at Brown University. She moved to San Francisco to conduct her postdoc, where she realised her love for human-computer interaction. She then left academia to start her own user-experience consultancy. During that time, her and her husband built a site for people to share presentations online, in just 6 months.

This one is a little harder to figure out, so if you guessed which company it is you are officially an entrepreneurial expert! This is the origin story of the company SlideShare. Today, SlideShare is the world’s largest community for sharing presentations, with 60 million monthly visitors. It was acquired by LinkedIn in 2012 for over $100 million. The website gets 70 million unique visitors a month, and has 38 million registered users from all over the world. In fact, 89% of SlideShare’s mobile app users are outside the U.S. Even more impressive are some of SlideShare’s users, including The White House, Nasa, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM.


All these entrepreneurs started small in the U.S.A. and grew to be global. With all this inspiration, you are ready to start the work week off right! What is your favorite company origin story, from rags to riches? Share it in the comments below.

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