We’ve all heard the stories of people dropping out of college to work on their startups, living on their friends’ couches, or eating ramen every day for a month.
Some ambitious entrepreneurs take this to the next level, going the extra mile to make their businesses successful.
We’ll take a look at the lengths startup founders go to get their companies off the ground, from AirBnB’s wacky fundraising side business to Paypal giving away money to get initial users to join.
The founders of AirBnB got their initial funding by selling their own brand of cereal.
AirBnB, the service that helps people rent out their rooms to travelers, was recently valued at $1.3 billion.
Yet in its early days, angel investors were wary about investing in it. To raise money, the cofounders sold their own breakfast cereals. They purchased huge quantities of bulk cereal, pasted together cardboard boxes, and branded them as limited-edition, politics-themed cereals called Obama O’s, Cap’n McCain, and Breakfast of Change.
In two months, they sold 800 of them for $40 each and earned more than $30,000. Apparently, they made great sales on their Obama cereal, but had to eat the McCain cereal to stay alive.
The founders of Reddit created tons of fake accounts.
Reddit, known as the “Front Page of the Internet,” is a site based on user-generated news links. In 2013, it had 731 million unique visitors.
But when it launched in 2005, it had so few visitors that the cofounders operated multiple fake user accounts and responded to themselves to give the semblance of traffic. Furthermore, since the founders owned all the fake accounts, they could build the tone and shape the discourse and direction of the site.
Their “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy paid off. As the real user base grew, they were able to abandon the fake accounts.
The founders of Warby Parker bought an old yellow school bus and traveled across the country.
Warby Parker, a brand that sells designer eyewear at a lower cost, started when one of the cofounders, Dave Gilboa, lost his $700 glasses on a backpacking trip and couldn’t afford to replace them.
To attract media attention early on, the team bought an old yellow school bus, traveled across the U.S., and created a mobile store called The Warby Parker Class Trip. Since they knew half of their traffic was from word of mouth, they wanted to make strong impressions in person.
Since it launched in early 2010, the brand has sold 1 million pairs of glasses.