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Posted on Sep 8, 2020 in Blog, Business | 0 comments

Success stories: from side projects to million-dollar startups

Success stories: from side projects to million-dollar startups

Perhaps you’re thinking of launching a side-project. Or perhaps you want to turn your side-project into a proper startup, but aren’t yet ready to quit your day job.

Whether you are looking for a steady source of alternative income or you’re doing it as a personal challenge, a side project is a great step towards becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Side-projects, also called side hustles, have become really popular with ambitious individuals. And, many of them have become million-dollar startups.

These days, one can run a company from anywhere. All you need is a laptop, decent internet, a dream, and a lot of willpower. If you still find it hard to believe, check out these success stories.

Apple: The Startup to Beat All Startups

Everyone is familiar with Apple’s prosperity. It’s one of America’s most famous success stories. Back in 1976, Steve Wozniak used to work at HP as an engineer, and his buddy, Steve Jobs, worked the night shift at Atari. The two Steves were college dropouts with just a few pennies to their names.

They were adamant about putting together a computer of their own. They used Atari parts for their machine. To get the funds they needed, Wozniak sold his $500 calculator while Jobs sold his VW van.

Jobs presented his new invention to his boss but he wasn’t interested in investing. It was his loss because Jobs’ and Wozniak’s side project quickly grew into one of the most successful startups in the country.

Over the next few decades, their company developed one of the most popular phones of all time, a one-of-a-kind media player and internet radio broadcaster, and one of the tiniest mp3 players the world has seen. The startup that started in Jobs’ parents’ garage revolutionized the entire tech industry.


Back in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched The Facebook with his friends Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, and Eduardo Saverin. Before that, he created Facemash, a website that allowed Harward students to rate each other based on their looks.

The site didn’t last more than a couple of days since it was very controversial, but it inspired Zuckerberg to create one of the biggest social networks of all time.

Facebook expanded from Harwads’ campus to colleges all over the U.S, and, eventually, the whole world. Today, it has over 2.6 billion active users.

After the company fully matured, they went on to acquire other successful startups, such as Instagram and Little Eye Labs. Which brings us to another successful side project.


Back in 2005, Igor Salindrija was a typical college student who lived in a rented apartment with a roommate. To support himself throughout his studies, Salindrija worked at a local casino as a bartender.

But, his real passion lied in web design, so he was always looking for creative jobs in IT and taking on freelance gigs. Salindrija wasn’t that confident in his bartending skills, and he often designed websites on his laptop instead of tending to the bar.

One day, his supervisor caught him. The word spread around the casino and one of the big shots heard it as well. Instead of firing Igor, he offered him a promotion at their headquarters. The company wanted to expand to the online space and Salindria’s new job was to build them a website.

This opportunity allowed Salindria to gain extensive knowledge of online marketing and iGaming. Since he was always entrepreneurial in nature, his new job inspired him to launch an iGaming portal called AskGamblers with a bit of help from his friends.

He was confident that he could build a better platform for promoting casinos. Considering that the site counts 75,000,000 page views each month, it’s safe to say he was right. Eventually, Salindria sold his site to Catena Media for about $17,1 million.


Kevin Systrom used to work as a product manager at Next Stop. When he wasn’t working, he spent most of his time learning how to code. While he was still working his day job, he built Burbn—a picture-based check-in app.

FourSquare already dominated that niche market, so his app wasn’t as successful as he hoped it would be, but he still managed to raise enough money to quit his day job. Then, he partnered up with Mike Krieger and the duo launched a re-envisioned version of the app that revolved entirely around photos—Instagram.

In its first week, the app gained 100,000 users. Two years later, in 2012, Krieger and Systrom sold the app to Facebook for $1 billion. In 2018, Instagram reached 1 billion monthly users, and the number continues to grow.

Spanx: From Door-to-Door Selling to One of the Most Successful Startups

Back in the ’90s, Sara Blakely worked for an office supply company, Danka, as a door-to-door saleswoman. One night, she cut the feet out of her pantyhose as she was getting dressed.

When Blakely had realized that she’s onto something, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work. While still working her day job, she took her intuitive design and turned it into a proper startup.

Working nights and weekends, she researched manufacturers, wrote her patent, and built a prototype. Out of her invention, Spanx was born. Today, Forbes lists Blakely as the 93td most powerful woman in the world.


Long before launching TheSkimm, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin used to describe themselves as news junkies. They worked as associate producers at NBC back in 2012. However, their job didn’t allow them to be involved in the news industry as much as they wanted.

They launched their own email list in their free time and started sending curated news to people’s email boxes. Even though they hadn’t attracted any investors, they quit their jobs at NBC and expanded their side project into a full-time job.

They quickly slipped into credit card debt since they had only $4,000 between them when they started. However, soon after TheSkimm was born and they sent their first email, everything changed for the better. Today, their site has over 7 million members, which include the likes of Oprah and Hillary Clinton.


If you feel like you are stuck in a dead-end job, do know that there is a way out. If you have the right idea, a great deal of passion, and a bit of free time, you can make your dreams come true. You will succeed eventually, but you have to dare to dream big.

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