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Monday Motivation: Meet the self-starters

Ever fancied yourself as an digital entrepreneur? To get you inspired, we’ve taken a look at some of the most successful digital self-starters who, armed with a laptop and a great idea, grew their start-ups into global household names.

1. Daniel Ek, Spotify

The first time Martin Lorentzon met his Spotify co-founder, Daniel Ek was sleeping on a bare mattress in his apartment with just a laptop to keep him company. This is where the pair coined the name of the Swedish music streaming company, which they went on to launch in beta-form in 2007. The platform is now available in 60 countries worldwide with a catalogue of 30 million songs.

2. Pierre Omidyar, eBay

Originally called ‘Auction Web’, Pierre Omidyar launched the first iteration of eBay from his front room with only a few small items for sale. His girlfriend (now wife) was a Pez collector and he even set up an area of the site dedicated to finding other Pez enthusiasts. Now you can sell almost anything on the auction site and there have been some standout purchases over the years – including a grilled cheese sandwich with a likeness to Jesus, and a superyacht that sold for US$168 million.

3. Evan Sharp, Pinterest

Before Pinterest was Pinterest, Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra’s business idea wasn’t the success story they’d been dreaming of. Their first start-up was called ‘Tote’ and aggregated shopping results and sale information. After countless investment rejections, they finally had a taker and brought Evan Sharp in to help move the company towards the content saving and storing site we know today.

4. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, Snapchat

Snapchat started as a university project for students at Stanford and was first called Picaboo. Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown wanted to send pictures to friends that would then disappear. After a bit of a fall-out between the three guys working on the media-sharing app, it was renamed Snapchat and released to the public in the autumn of 2011.

5. Naveen Salvadurai, Foursquare

There’s no denying that coffee gets our cerebral juices flowing and that’s how Dennis Crowley and Naveen Salvadurai came up with Foursquare. The pair spent loads of time laptop-bound in New York coffee shops building the first iteration of the location-based recommendation site, so much so that friends began poking fun and thus, Foursquare’s ‘mayor’ feature was born.

6. Brian Chesky, Airbnb

All the best start-ups come from some good old-fashioned problem solving and that’s how Airbnb came about. Co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were broke and needed to pay their rent. They set up airbedandbreakfast.com and advertised three spare air mattresses in their San Francisco loft apartment, with people paying US$80 each, including breakfast. It took a further four years, countless rejections and a simplification of the company name to get big money investors interested.

7. Garrett Camp, Uber

Serial entrepreneurs Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanik were attending the LeWeb tech conference in Paris together and wanted something new to work on. They locked themselves in a hotel room with good music and good drinks until 5am and came up with the idea of making taxi ordering more reliable and affordable. Uber was born. Today, you can find an on-demand driver in over 600 cities worldwide and get food delivered with the service too.

8. Reed Hastings, Netflix

Sick of late fees and driving back and forth to the rental store, Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings started Netflix for an easier way to watch their favourite movies. Today, the video behemoth is available in 190 countries and now has a substantial production arm that’s doing pretty well. Netflix’s home-grown titles have won a slew of Emmys, including Best Supporting Actress for Orange is the New Black and Best Director of a Drama Series for House of Cards.

9. Drew Houston, Dropbox

Possibly one of the humblest beginnings of all on our list, Drew Houston had a brainwave for Dropbox in a bus station. He was waiting to catch his ride home, when he realised he’d forgotten his USB drive. Right there and then he whipped out his trusty laptop and started writing the code for the file storing and sharing service.

10. Stewart Butterfield, Slack

You may have come across this start-up in your office. Slack is the messaging and productivity service taking our workplaces by storm. Stewart Butterfield’s start-up actually began as an internal tool, created for his team at games developer Tiny Speck to better communicate with each other. The name is an acronym for ‘Searchable Log of All Conversations and Knowledge’, as it allows users to search all messages and files sent on the platform.

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