10 Top Startups You Can Learn From

startups to learn from

startups to learn from

Top Startups You Can Learn From

Building a successful startup takes more than just a good idea. Here’s what you can learn from the top startups that are changing the game.

Have you ever wondered why the top startups are so successful when others struggle or even fail?

Many startup entrepreneurs begin with a startup checklist. Then they look to best practices for starting a small business.

But a startup is different from a small business in that it’s founded with the intention of rapidly achieving exponential growth through scale.

From there, it is either later acquired by a larger company or goes public in an Initial Public Offering (IPO). And the founders and investors receive massive returns.

All of this begs the question:

Just How Did Those Top Startups Succeed?

It turns out there is wisdom to some of those best practices for starting a small business that apply to startups.

But it works the other way around too.

There is much to learn from successful top startup entrepreneurs.

The following are ten of the top startups and how they’re changing the way business is done:

1. Instagram

Even if you don’t use it, you’ve probably heard of Instagram. It’s hugely popular.

This photo sharing app gets people excited about sharing their pics by using filters to enhance photos.

Once Instagram was released on the Android market, it ditched the whole idea of using a marketing budget. Instead, it relied entirely on a passionate community of fans to spread the word about it.

And it worked. It set download records and built a community of over 50 million loyal users.

Eventually, Instagram sold to Facebook for almost one billion dollars.

Instagram’s bottom line? Build and nurture a community. Once you’ve done that, the loyal members will market you.

2. Pandora

When Pandora came on the scene, it filled an empty niche.

While Sirius radio was a step up from old-school radio and provided a new listening experience, Pandora took it to the next level.

Pandora changed the game by offering tailored stations based on a listener’s music preferences. They provided a personalized listening experience.

People could enjoy music selected specifically for them. This unique experience gave them a feeling that they mattered. And that equaled deep brand loyalty.

Pandora’s bottom line? Personalization is not just a perk.

It’s essential.

3. Airbnb

With a wealth of websites helping travelers find various hotels, Airbnb tried a completely new approach.

By creating a website that allowed people with extra space to rent it out to travelers, they tapped into a market of travelers who craved a genuine experience away from hotels.

Plus, Airbnb offered far more affordable options.

The hotel industry was turned on its head.

There were bumps along the way though. The inevitable burglarized home, along with poor customer service, resulted in a huge PR scandal.

This scandal could have knocked the startup to the ground. But instead, Airbnb responded quickly. They instituted new protection for hosts and improved their customer service.

Today, they continue to be one of the top startups and are more popular than ever.

Airbnb’s bottom line? A PR disaster does not mean the end of your business.

4. 2U

If you’re not familiar with 2U, they offer infrastructure, marketing and software-as-a-service technology to help universities digitize and scale their programs.

Partnering with top universities to bring their degree programs online, they provide support to students, faculty and the entire learning and campus-management processes.

They established their startup by offering the most advanced learning-management software and a suite of great tech products. And they insisted on only the best technology.

2U’s bottom line? Set yourself apart by focusing on technology and hiring some of the best technologists in the industry.

5. ShoeDazzle

In 2009, ShoeDazzle launched its personalized online styling platform to help women find shoes, apparel, and accessories.

They quickly built a huge user base of over 13 million members and raised $66 million. Riding on the tails of their success, they decided to drop a successful subscription model.

Huge mistake.

But it didn’t take long for this startup to recognize its critical error and reinstitute the e-commerce model. Once they reintroduced the subscription option, the company has thrived.

ShoeDazzle’s bottom line? The classic, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

6. Square

So many businesses resist giving away their product or service. They think they’ll be seen as desperate or inferior.

Not Square.

They became one of the top startups and a billion-dollar company by providing mobile merchants with a free app that allows them to accept credit card payments. They generate revenue by requiring a small percentage on transactions.

Square’s bottom line? Sometimes you need to give away your product in order to generate strong revenues.

7. Kaltura

Kaltura is a video platform used for managing, publishing and distributing video content. They’ve been highly successful to the tune of $25 million.

The foundation of their success is in their ability to target and cater to several niches – most specifically enterprise, education and media. And they’ve built features and functions tailored to each of these sectors.

Kaltura’s bottom line? You don’t need to target everyone or get pigeon-holed. Instead, select several niches and master them.

8. Gett

When you live in a huge city like New York, London, Tel Aviv or Moscow, it’s not always easy to get a cab or black car.

This was the motivation for the highly successful Gett.

Initially launched in Israel, Gett is now a global mobile ride-ordering app that makes it easy to order a taxi or black car in 20 different cities across the Middle East, Europe, and United States. Because of their global expansion, they have more than 1 million users, as well as 1,500 enterprise clients.

Gett’s bottom line? To gain success by going global, but be sure to still customize for each market.

9. Voxy

Voxy is a popular mobile app that helps Spanish speakers learn English. It does this through short daily lessons based on real-life experiences rather than rote memorization.

Part of Voxy’s success is in their advanced proprietary technology.

And while they could have expanded their service to other languages, they decided to keep their focus on teaching English to Spanish speakers.

This focus established them as one of the top startups with over 3 million users and $15 million in funding.

Voxy’s bottom line? Don’t try to do too much at once.

10. Zappos.com

If you’ve ever bought shoes from Zappos.com, you’ve had one of the greatest customer service experiences on the internet. Possibly the best.

That’s because this popular shoe e-tailer began with one of the most fundamental principles of business: focus on customer satisfaction and everything else will fall into place.

By staying true to that principle they redefined the definition of customer service. Their customer-centric focus landed them $1.2 billion in 2009 for their acquisition.

Zappos.com’s bottom line? It’s simple. Treat your customers well, and they’ll treat you well.

What Can You Learn from the Top Startups?

The above companies certainly offer some valuable lessons for those hoping to launch their own startup.

But if you’re looking for some more guidance on how to really make the most of your startup idea, contact me today for consultation services.