Most of us use garages to store cars, tools and lawn maintenance equipment. Some convert their garages to home offices or guest bedrooms. Still others turn the space into a workout area or man cave.
And then there are the dreamers. They use their garages as birthing rooms for their ideas. While most fail, a few of those ideas have shaped our lives. Here are some world-famous companies that got their start in garages.
Jeff Bezos grew up in Albuquerque, NM. There he would spend hours in the family garage, tinkering with electronics and creating gadgets for the home. It was a passion that never left him.
As a young man, Bezos made his mark on Wall Street, rising up the ranks of various financial firms. However, electronics still fascinated him, especially the new field of e-commerce. In 1994, he quit the financial world and moved to Bellevue, WA to start an online bookstore. He set up shop in his garage, hired a few employees, and began designing software. A year later, Amazon.com sold its first book.
Today, Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, employing more than 117,000 people. Its massive warehouses cover more square footage than 700 Madison Square Gardens – quite a jump from that Bellevue garage.
Like the founder of Amazon, the cofounder of Apple received his electronics training in the family’s garage. There Paul Jobs would show his son how to dissemble and reconstruct electrical products, instilling a sense of confidence, curiosity and determination in the boy. Those traits would help Steve Jobs become one of the greatest innovators in history.
At 21, Jobs started Apple Computer with friend Steve Wozniak in that same Los Altos, CA garage. They sold their first computer kit in 1976 and never looked back. Today, Apple is the world’s largest publicly traded corporation by market capitalization. Employing more than 72,000 people worldwide, its valuation recently topped $662 billion. And that garage where it all started is now a historic site.
In the early 1920s, Walt Disney was creating cartoons for a Kansas City theater owner. He eventually opened his own production studio but soon went bankrupt. Undeterred, Disney headed to Hollywood to pursue a career in the movies.
He moved into his uncle Robert’s Los Angeles home and started visiting the movie studios. No one was interested. As time passed, his uncle became annoyed at Walt’s lack of employment. To earn income, Disney fell back on what he knew: animation.
At that time, most animation was being done in New York. However, he and Roy set out to develop cartoon reels in the summer of 1923. They began their work in Robert’s 12’ x 18’ garage, but eventually found it too confining. That fall they moved their studio to the back room of a real estate agency down the street. The rest, as they say, is history.
(Speaking of history, the fate of uncle Robert’s garage could be the plot of a Disney movie.)
Stanford University PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin had a problem. They knew they could improve upon existing search engine software. However, they needed a place to make it happen.
They approached Menlo Park resident Susan Wojcicki about renting three rooms and the garage. Concerned about mortgage payments, Wojcicki agreed. It was there in 1998 that Page and Brin began developing the search engine that would revolutionize the internet: Google.
The garage still holds a special meaning for the duo. Google now owns Wojcicki’s former home, and she’s the CEO of YouTube, a Google subsidiary. In 2013, the company celebrated its 15th anniversary by opening the garage – now a landmark – to the media.
Coming next: Companies Started In Garages: Part 2.