Instagram, Snapchat, AirBnB, Facebook: How did they start?

We all know or use some of these apps Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, AirBnB. When we mention or talk about them we think Success, we think connection, we think social network, we think globalization. But what we forget is how they started.

In fact, they have something in common: they started small locally before going globally.

If you watched the movie The Social Network about Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg you’ll understand that all started at Harvard campus while he was studying there. Few days after the beta version the website became famous among Harvard students. Quickly this craze has reached other university campuses. Incrementally and organically it generated traction. Another important component of Facebook which is unknown by most people is the perseverance of Zuckerberg when almost all of his initial team left him. Look where who and what they are doing now.

AirBnB is the best example of starting locally before scaling a business internationally. The founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia who moved to San Francisco from NYC saw an opportunity in the hospitality industry in the Bay area. All the hotels rooms were booked due to the local Industrial Design conference. They started with few airbeds and quickly design a website initially called Air Bed and Breakfast to host the visitors. Most of the first customers are from NYC what motivated them to travel there to meet their users.  Once in NYC they found that there was an issue with the listings because the pictures weren’t good. With a camera they did a door-to-door to take better pictures. Created in October 2007, it took 4 years before AirBnB started its international expansion in 2011.


Snapchat, created in 2011 by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, a team of students from Stanford University is very popular among millennials. But do you that its first name was Picaboo? The current CEO and founder, Evan Spiegel proposed Picaboo, former name of Snapchat, as a class project in 2011. Since the ideation, founders of Snapchat faced difference challenges at different level. The first was to survive criticism from peers at school at Stanford. In fact, Spiegel presented the project to his classmates as a final school project but he faced resistance meaning that the classmates rejected the idea of temporary photos. Despite this disillusion, Spiegel and his team kept going and started locally. Story tells you the rest.

Instagram also started with few influencers from the Bay Area, to generate local traction, before opening the tap.