Accelerating Culture

Successful Companies You Didn’t Know Started as College Startups


As entrepreneurial culture continues to spread, it’s becoming more common for people to step away from the norm and pursue their ambitions on their own. Startups are the basis upon which successful companies erupt and every year there are hundreds of new ideas coming to fruition as hopefuls bring their creations to life.

While not all startups make it big, there are some that have revolutionized the way that we view the world. From Dell to Facebook, entrepreneurs that were brave enough to step away from the traditionalist approach to success, created companies that we now can’t imagine living without.

As universities and colleges around the world incorporate entrepreneurial learning into their curriculum, more and more students are coming up with new ways to make money. Here’s a look at five different successful companies that were originally just an idea thought up by a student.


Rebranded as Catalant, HourlyNerd was founded by Rob Biederman, Peter Maglathlin, Patrick Petitti and Joe Miller from Harvard University.

HourlyNerd works to provide small business owners who require help with short term projects, such as “mergers and acquisitions, strategies and marketing,” with skilled MBA students who are looking for part-time work. Since fruition, the company has gone on to do work with notable companies, including General Electric Company, American Apparel Inc. and Coca-Cola Company.


Created by Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy from Stanford University, the SnapChat app was quick to permeate into millennial culture. If you’re not familiar with what SnapChat is due to an impressive amount of self-control, at it’s essence, it’s an app that allows you to send pictures and video messages to your friends, which once viewed, will disappear.

The amount of people that have probably regretted sending a picture to someone, knowing that it will stay with them forever, is perhaps what first drew users to the app. Much like the founders, the idea of choosing how long someone can see something for, is quite alluring and has obviously allowed the creation to blow up.

With new updates that allow you to decide whether or not you want to save a picture, or receiving notifications when someone takes a screenshot,allows users to feel more in control of what they are choosing to send out, and it’s not a surprise the app has done as well as it has.


Founded by high school sweethearts Susan Gregg Koger and Eric Koger from Carnegie Mellon, ModCloth was an idea breathed to life from a need to sell old clothes.

A fan of vintage clothes and thrift shopping, Susan needed to figure out what to do with all her articles of clothing that could no longer fit into her closet. Together with her boyfriend at the time, Susan was able to set up her online shop that has since blown up.

According to Mashable, “ModCloth is one of the fastest-growing fashion and home e-commerce ventures to emerge in the past decade. The company did more than $100 million in sales last year, and is growing at a rate of 40% annually.

Invite Media

From the University of Pennsylvania, Nat Turner is the creator of Invite Media which upon success, went on to be sold to Google.

According to the official website, Invite Media allows you to do the following:

  • Connect with your precise audience wherever they are
  • Gain full visibility into all costs and sites in your buys
  • Set global controls such as universal frequency capping for de-duplicated reach
  • Use real-time reporting to gain greater insights into your campaigns and customers
  • Streamline your workflow with a platform designed for speed and efficiency
  • Leverage the technology, expertise and resources of a proven partner

With the help of some seed money, Nat was able to create an ad tech company that caught the attention of the media giant, enough for Google to pay $81 million for it. Not bad for the ambitions of an initial undergrad student.


With the surplus of Apple products throughout the globe comes the need to maintain them. Created by AJ Forsythe and Anthony Martin from the California Polytechnic State University, iCracked serves the consumer demand for service repair of their devices.

According to Fastweb, iCracked is “one of the largest iPhone, iPod and iPad repair companies with more than 687 certified iTechs in the United States… [It] is now known as the world’s largest on-demand repair and trade-in network for iOS devices.”

Catering to the needs of almost every household in North America, the founders were able to find one of the greatest gaps in the tech market and design the perfect solution.

As aspiring founders continue to come up with new and innovative ways they can change the marketplace, we get to witness the way consumer demand is revolutionized.

As Steve Jobs so aptly put it, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” So we can take a step back and appreciate what it takes to bring these creations to life; watch as society alters around those who are willing enough to do what it takes, to shape the world as we know it.

unsplash-logoJohn Schnobrich



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