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10 billion dollar companies that didn't exist 10 years ago

Updated Tuesday, 10 May 2016
To continue the celebrations around OpenLearn's 10th birthday, here's a list of ten billion dollar companies that didn't exist ten years ago. 

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1: Airbnb

Back in October 2007 skint housemates, Brain Chesky and Joe Gebbia, were unable to pay their rent so they turned their living room into a bed and breakfast and set up a website, charging $80 per person. In 2008 they got former roommate and tech whiz Nathan Blecharczyk on board and the site officially launched on August 11, 2008. In 2009, the site name was shortened to, and the lodgings expanded from air beds and shared spaces to a diverse range of properties from swanky private islands to humble tree houses. In 2016, the site has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. It was recently valued at $25 billion and is the largest rental site, despite owning zero real estate. 

2: Instagram

Instagram icon

Where would we be without Instagram's 'Valencia' filter to capture the perfect #ShamelessSelfie? The online photo/video-sharing and social networking service was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and launched in October 2010 as a free mobile app. In 2012, social media giant Facebook could see the app's potential and bought it for $1 billion. These days the app, with an enormous 300 million users, is said to be worth a whopping $35 billion. In fact, Instagram seems to be growing at a greater rate than its parent company, Facebook, with a growth rate of 23% and 3% respectively. 

3: Fitbit

Fitbit stand

Wearable tech was unheard of ten years ago and deemed a bit geeky, but now it seems to be one of the most up and coming trends for an increasing health-concious market. One of the market leaders is Fitbit with its range of activity trackers. The Fitbit tracker, the company’s most popular product, is a bracelet that counts your steps, works out what calories you have burned, monitors your sleep and connects wirelessly with your computer and mobile. You can even 'taunt' your friends by connecting your Fitbit to your mobile devices and pressure them into getting their step count up. Founded in 2007 by James Park and Eric Friedman, experts now believe Fitbit is now valued at more than $4 billion.

4: WhatsApp

Whatsapp logo

Remember the days of having to pay to message someone on their mobile? This is now effectively redundant for the SmartPhone user, thanks to Whatsapp. WhatsApp, founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, has allowed us to use the internet to send text messages, documents, images, video, user location and audio messages to our friends instantly and for FREE on any smart mobile device or network. So, we can forget ye olde texting. Once again, Facebook acquired the messaging app for 19.3 billion in 2014. The app now has one billion users across the globe. 

5: Tinder

Tinder Moments

With 25% of couples now meeting online, it's a wonder how people ever crossed paths way back when. Dating app Tinder, released in 2012, revolutionised the way people meet online because it's location based and uses Facebook to import information such as photographs, number of mutual friends, and common interests. Over 1 billion 'swipes' occur everyday (the user chooses between the photos of other users in their area by swiping right for those that they dig and swiping left on those that they don't to move to the next one). The app is said to be worth $5 billion, despite criticism on its addictive gaming style and a culture of users wanting casual sex, not relationships. 

  • Looking for love? Or maybe you're in a relationship but want to explore the idea more. Check out our snappy philosophical animations What is Love?

6: Quora

Want to know how to make a million? Or, how long you should boil an egg for? Or, what's the big deal about Beyonce's Lemonade? Quora can provide all the answers. Quora's model combines questions and answers to a range of subjects. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers. Founded in 2008 by two former Facebook employees, Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, the company is estimated to be worth over $900 million - ok, so it's just a little under the 1 billion mark but it's still a massive business achievement.

  • Want to know some in-depth answers to life's burning questions? Discover a range of questions at the heart of modern life with our throwback series The Big Question.

7: Tumblr

Tumblr homepage

With the likes of Lady Gaga and Barack Obama using it, Tumblr is the star-studded go-to microblog. Founded by David Karp in 2007, and acquired by Yahoo! in 2013 for 1.1 billion, the website allows users to post multimedia content to a blog where they can follow other users' blogs, as well as make their blogs private. The site has come under fire for not controlling microblogs encouraging suicide, eating disorders and self harm - something it is trying to address. In 2013, Tumblr encouraged companies to pay to promote their own posts to a larger audience - the average advert purchase on Tumblr is said to be nearly six figures.

8: Uber

Uber taxi ride in Bogota, Columbia

The nemesis of traditional cabbies, but loved by stranded people across over 60 countries - Uber has spawned the 'uberfication' movement, with other companies following its business model since it launched in 2009.  The Uber mobile app allows those in need of a lift and with smartphones to request a trip which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars to pick them up at their exact location. What's more you can pick your level of luxury from a regular Ford to a high end Merc – for a price. You can also read reviews on your driver to make sure they're not dodgy. The company has been criticized for using drivers who are not licensed to drive taxis as this could be deemed unsafe and illegal. Despite this, by the end of 2015, Uber was estimated to be worth $62.5 billion.

  • Will we always be able to be ferried around in taxis? Discover the energy and environmental impacts of transport activities in our free course Transport and sustainability. 

9: Dropbox

Dropbox logo

Founded in 2007 by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, Dropbox is the answer to every scatty student's prayers. The idea came about when Houston kept forgetting to bring his USB stick to college to hand his assignments in (yeah, right!) - and the rest, they say, is history. Dropbox is a file hosting service that allows users to send videos, transfer various documents and keep images safe online via cloud storage. It has been speculated that Dropbox's valuation could be up to $10 billion. It's estimated that 400 million people use the service. 

10: Spotify

Spotify stand at King's Cross Railway Station

Created in Sweden in 2007, Spotify is a music streaming, podcast and video app that allows users to listen to music from a range of artists. Spotify uses a freemium model (basic services are free but additional features, such as removal of advertisements and improved audio quality, are offered via a subscription fee). However, some high profile artists have condemned Spotify for unfairly compensating artists - it pays artists based on their "market share" not a set fee. Taylor Swift even pulled her music from the site saying "I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music." The company has been valued at over $8 billion. So much for an 'experiment', Taylor. 

The Open University launched OpenLearn, a website dubbed 'The home of free learning', in October 2006 and since then it has gained over 40 million unique users and won awards recognising its array of valuable free learning content.
To celebrate OpenLearn's 10th anniversary, we are releasing a new listicle centralised round the number 10 on the 10th of every month in the 10 month lead up to October. Check out our Ten Years of OpenLearn hub to enjoy even more free learning!


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