It may not be common knowledge, but many of the websites, social networks and online services that we all use daily almost never happened. Before logging into your Facebook account first thing in the morning, think about what might have been if the company remained a site to pick which of two faces were hottest. Imagine how you'd discover viral videos and listen to your favorite music had YouTube remained a video dating site. Try to comprehend how you'd get your news and hear when your coworker checked into Starbucks on Foursquare had the founders of Twitter stuck to their original idea of a home for podcasts.
It's hard to believe that all of these successful companies came from pivots but more companies than most would expect actually came as a second attempt. Before pioneering mobile phones Nokia produced everything from rubber boots to chemicals. Decades before becoming a leader in gaming Nintendo had ill-advised attempts at producing playing cards, operating a taxi service and even ran adult hotels first.
For startups, knowing when to pivot is perhaps one of the trickiest and most emotional parts of the job but as these successful Internet companies have proved, sometimes when things aren't going so well, changing course can be the key between becoming second fiddle to Foursquare, like the original version of Instagram, to becoming a property swooped up for a billion dollars, like the highly successful photo sharing platform that Instagram became.
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Before it was the YouTube that everyone knows and uses regularly, it was a video dating site. YouTube has now grown into the largest video sharing site on the planet.
It was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in stock.
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Before it was Facebook or The Facebook, it was Facemash, where users (basically college-aged bros) could compare two faces side by side to vote on which was hotter. Needless to say, Facebook was the much more successful venture.
Facebook's IPO was one of the biggest in technology (and Internet history), with a peak imarket capitalization of over $104 billion.
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Nintendo began as a playing cards manufacturer in late 18th Century Kyoto, Japan, and attempted to diversify many times over the next century. They tried their hand as a taxi firm, a TV network, a food company selling instant rice, and a "love hotel." Moving into the toy market in 1966, Nintendo eventually found its niche producing electronic games.
Nintendo is now worth $18.4 billion.
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Months before making microblogging wildly popular, Twitter was founded as Odeo, a platform on which to post, subscribe to and listen to podcasts.
Twitter went public in 2013 and set their IPO price at $26 a share, which valued the company at $14.2 billion.
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Yelp founders, who previously worked for fellow pivoting company PayPal, originally created an email system that would allow people to contact others for recommendations on local businesses then made the leap to provide a one-stop shop for local business reviews.
The company's 2012 IPO valued Yelp at $900 million.
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At first, Pandora sought to develop a music recommendation service that could be sold to companies like AOL and Yahoo then passed along to the masses but when that didn't work, they went right to the people, added in a social aspect and became wildly successful.
Pandora's 2011 IPO raised nearly $235 million and ended up giving them a market value of $2.78 billion.
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Before it was everyone's favorite place to post selfies, Instagram started as a location-based service called Burbn, which was similar to Foursquare. You could check into locations, earn points for hanging out with their friends, and share pictures inside of the app.
Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion.
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Groupon started as a side project of founder Andrew Mason, who predominately ran a site called The Point, which aimed to raise funds from donors to do social good. Donors would only pay if the funds reached the "tipping point" to get the job done.
Mason used the same "tipping point" concept to unlock discount on activities and services through Groupon. Probably not surprisingly, people swarmed to the daily deals site while Mason's "social good" concept did not do as well.
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