6 Garages That Gave Birth to Billion-Dollar Companies
If you’ve been meaning to clean out your garage since, like, forever, there’s no time like the present. And here’s some extra incentive to start clearing things out: Your garage could become the birthplace of a billion-dollar company. In fact, the likes of Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and other beyond-famous entrepreneurs all got their start in this humblest of home offices.
Even if you aren’t the entrepreneurial type, you could profit in a big way from that unassuming space currently occupied by your Nissan Leaf (or your leaf blower). There’s no reason why you can’t just post an ad on Craigslist (which also started in a garage, by the way), offering up your reasonably priced “start-up facilities” for a modest rent … plus a percentage of the profits from anything created on your premises.
Hey, it sure beats housing a bunch of bikes your kids have outgrown and boxes of junk, right? For further inspiration, just check out these inspiring true-life tales about huge companies that got their start in tiny spaces.
In the summer of 1923, 22-year-old Walt Disney moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles, paying $5 per week to rent a room in his uncle Robert Disney‘s cottage—plus an extra $1 per week for a garage where he would realize his dream. The place had a pesky mouse that, according to legend, gave the younger Disney the idea for a little cartoon character he would eventually call Mickey. In that windowless space, located at 4406 Kingswell Ave., Disney cobbled together a crude camera stand and filmed a series of 30-second joke reels with stick figures.
The reels soon got sidelined once Disney was tapped by a film distributor to do a series of “Alice in Wonderland” skits. This required bigger offices, so Disney didn’t stick around in his uncle’s garage for long. Nonetheless, you can still visit this garage, which has since been transported to the Stanley Ranch Museum. Although the Disney Company doesn’t consider it Disney’s first “studio,” it does deign to call it his first “workshop.” That’s something!
In 1939, Stanford grads Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard moved into 367 Addison Ave. in Palo Alto, CA. They chose the two-story house for its 12-by-18-foot garage, where they’d set up shop. Flipping a coin to see whose name would come first, they founded Hewlett-Packard with an initial investment of $538, and started developing a line of electronics. Their first big break? They built an audio oscillator that they sold to none other than Disney to improve its sound system for the movie “Fantasia.”
Today, that garage in Palo Alto is known as the birthplace of the entire Silicon Valley tech industry. Although Hewlett-Packard legally ceased to exist in 2015 and split into two companies, HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the garage still exists, and has become a tourist attraction.
Long before he launched Amazon, Jeff Bezos was busy in his parents’ garage.
“As a young boy, I’d been a garage inventor,” Bezos said in an interview with CNBC. “I’d invented an automatic gate closer out of cement-filled tires, a solar cooker that didn’t work very well out of an umbrella and tinfoil, baking-pan alarms to entrap my siblings. I’d always wanted to be an inventor.”
Bezos eventually went to work on Wall Street, but left at the age of 30 and moved to Bellevue, WA. With $40,000 of his own money and holed up in his garage at 10704 NE 28th St., he started selling—you guessed it—books on the internet. At the time, he drove his shipments to the post office in his 1987 Chevy Blazer.
“I thought maybe one day we would be able to afford a forklift,” Bezos told Charlie Rose in 2016. Yeah, they can afford a few forklifts these days.
Apple, now worth more than $750 billion, was started in 1976 by three guys: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne. And, famously, the magic started in the garage of Jobs’ parents’ home.
The garage at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, CA, is where these budding tech titans put together their first computer and sold it to a local store for $500. They went on to hand-build 50 computers in 30 days in that garage, and those were the seeds for the Apple and Macintosh lines of products that have since evolved into i-everythings.
In 1998, Susan Wojcicki rented out her garage at 232 Santa Margarita Ave. in Menlo Park, CA, to a couple of Stanford grads named Larry Pageand Sergey Brin. And she’s probably so glad she did, because that’s where Page and Brin developed Google, the world’s largest search engine, which became one of the most valuable companies on the planet.
In 1975, Harvard dropout Bill Gates moved in with his buddy Paul Allen, who was living at 115 California St. NE in Albuquerque, NM. Allen was working at a tech company at the time, but soon got wrapped up with Gates in his garage to start their own enterprise: Microsoft (a name made by merging the words “microcomputer” and “software,” by the way).
In 1976, revenue from their little garage-based company totaled all of $16,005. Soon after that, an $80,000 contract with IBM helped launch the $500 billion behemoth of today.
A plaque on a rock now sits in front of the home where Gates and Allen got their start, although it’s been stolen repeatedly. Perhaps Microsoft could afford to, um, make that plaque a bit bigger and heavier so people can’t cart it off.