It’s easy to look at major corporations and assume that their progress has been a straight line. Someone had a brilliant idea and some good business sense, they founded a company, and that company grew. It turns out that most of the companies that you can recognize in an instant have a history nothing like that. If you’re curious how the biggest names in business today got their start, keep on reading. You’ll find yourself surprised by the weird, wacky, and occasionally confusing tales of accidental success.
You might think of them strictly as a credit card company, but originally they did shipping. Their name suddenly makes a lot more sense.
Bank of America
Bank of America actually started out as Bank of Italy. That makes no dang sense except that it was a small bank for Italian immigrants.
Do you know about Twitter, that internet giant? It started out as a podcasting company that almost died when iTunes launched. What a pivot!
Look no further than The Marriott. You know them as a hotel, but did you know they started as a root beer stand? For 20 years before they became a hotel? Weird.
In WWII a pair of brothers made boots for soldiers. Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for Adolf “Adi” Dassler, who attempted to get his brother captured as a prisoner of war so that he could go solo with a company called Adidas.
But the story doesn’t end there. Adolf’s brother Rudolf eventually got free and decided he couldn’t stay out of the shoe and clothing business so he started a little business called Puma.
Here’s a roundabout route to success. If you have a Samsung phone, just know that the company originally was a grocery store that specialized in seafood and noodles. It went through sugar refining, textiles, and mills before it finally moved into electronics.
The oil company Shell has an adorable shell logo, but there’s a good reason. They started as an antique shop (totally unrelated) before selling actual literal shells, and 50 years later getting into the oil business. What a saga.
DuPont, which makes Teflon pans, was originally a manufacturer of explosives. How do you even make that leap?
You’ll never guess how old cell phone manufacturer Nokia is.
1865. You better believe they were not making phones back then. Instead, it was a paper mill.
You’ll never guess what Flickr was built to do. It was called The Game Neverending, and it was exactly what it sounds like. But over the course of playing, people found a way to share pictures. It turned out that was way more fun than the game, so the creators nixed the game and stuck with the photo sharing.
Sure, TGI Fridays might be the only place to go if you want the best apps in town, but its creator, Alan Stillman, knew nothing about food. He just wanted a place to meet the models who lived in his neighborhood. Wonder how much of his food those models ate?