10 Huge Successes Built On Second Ideas

[image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ac97849f1df9c506137626e/image.jpg" link="/10-huge-successes-born-from-early-failures-2009-10/aol-1" caption="" source="" alt="evolution" align="left" size="xlarge" nocrop="true" clear="true"]
It takes a lot of faith in an idea to start a company around it.

But for companies to succeed in the long run, their founders also need to be ready for those ideas to fail. They need to be ready to learn from those failures and adapt.

See 10 huge business successes born from evolutions →

Marc Andreessen, the serial entrepreneur who successfully created and sold two billion dollar companies — Netscape and Opsware — preaches this lesson:

“Trying to understand how a tech company is going to be successful is a little bit like looking at a sonogram and trying to predict the baby’s hair colour,” Marc said recently.

“The idea really matters and the products really matter, but you know so little about the adventure you’re undertacking when you’re starting a new tech company, you have to assume that things are going to change. You have to have a very healthy awareness of what you don’t know. You have to be super flexible and able to reverse yourself very quickly. “

Marc knows this firsthand. When Jim Clark and Marc got together to found a business in 1993, the original idea was to write software for Interactive TVs. This was before the Internet, and people thought consumers would be willing to network their TVs before they networked their computers. These people were wrong — mainly because it cost $50,000 to connect each TV. Jim’s second idea was an online gaming network for Nintendo. That didn’t pan out. Finally, Marc said to Jim, “This Internet thing. Nobody takes it seriously but it keeps growing.” Soon the Netscape Navigator was born and the consumer Internet with it.

Marc’s second company, Opsware, went through an even more radical change after its first concept flopped. Opsware began life in September 1999 as LoudCloud, a managed services provider. That business boomed until the entire Internet busted at the turn of the millenium. In 2002, Marc sold off LoudCloud’s orginal business to EDS, changed the company name to Opsware and got into server and network device provisioning, configuration and management. Opsware sold to HP for $1.6 billion in 2007.

Here are some more companies that only saw huge success after a good bit of evolution:

  • Facebook was briefly a “Hot Or Not” for Harvard.
  • AOL began as a video game on-demand service.
  • Twitter started as podcast delivery service.
  • Intel sold computer memory, not microchips.
  • Microsoft wanted to build software tools.
  • Tiffany & Co sold paper.
  • Google wanted to search bulletin boards.
  • Silicon Graphics got its start making graphics terminals.
  • Avon sold books door to door.

Click through to read about them →
Photo: Nima Badiey

[slideshow]
[slide
permalink=”aol-1″
title=”AOL”
content=”In 1983, a man named Bill Von Meister started a company called Control Video Corporation. CVC sold one product for $50 a pop.

It was called Gameline and it allowed Atari 2600 video game console owners to buy new games over their phone lines for $1 each.

20-six years and countless corporate iterations later, Von Meister’s company is now known by a different name: AOL”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/c07a6c79beef5c4a95535800/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”twitter-2″
title=”Twitter”
content=”After Ev Williams quit Google in 2005, he agreed to work partime for Odeo, a startup that syndicated podcasts through the RSS (the technology that brings blog posts to your Google Reader).

The gig became fulltime, but Odeo flopped.

So Ev and his friend Biz Stone decided to focus the company on a product Odeo employee Jack Dorsey had come up with: a site that broadcast the notes people put up in the AOL instant messanger away messages. Thus, Twitter was born.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ad4f55d0000000000f434ec/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”intel-3″
title=”Intel”
content=”When Intel was founded in 1968, it specialised in manufacturing SRAM chips.

Though it produced the first ever microprocessor in 1971, memory remained its focus throughout the ’70s and into the early ’80s.

The impact of mounting competition from Japanese chip makers and the rise of IBM’s PC business convinced Intel to shift its emphasis to CPUs. No one has challenged Intel’s dominance in that market since.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ad4f5b50000000000d76576/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”microsoft-4″
title=”Microsoft”
content=”When Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to make his fortune, he was working on a BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800.

‘Micro-soft’ was the name he and his partner Paul Allen gave to their collaboration on the project. Needless to say, operating systems have ended up a somewhat more central part of Microsoft’s business than have programming tools.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/ceb9b914abab2e4a59b41d00/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”tiffany–co-5″
title=”Tiffany & Co.”
content=”From CNN: ‘The jewelry and silverware hot bed was originally a stationer called Tiffany, Young, and Ellis when it started in 1837. In 1853 Tiffany switched its core business and began focusing on jewelry.’

Photo: Sabarella
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ad4f6ad0000000000bb1cdb/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”facebook-6″
title=”Facebook”
content=”Before he built Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg what amounted to Hot Or Not for Harvard called Facemash.

In 2004, the Harvard Crimson repoted Facemash ‘drew the ire of students and administrators alike, and Zuckerberg shut it down within days of the initial launch.'”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a6afde7152ed40125e913a3/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”google-7″
title=”Google”
content=”Sergey Brin and Larry Page originally developed the alogrithm that powers Google search to crawl through the notes about academics were leaving each other on bulletin boards.

The notes were typically comments about Web sites. Eventually, Sergey and Larry realised there might be more to search on the Web itself. Bonus fact: Google was originally called ‘BackRub.'”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/f137544bf729254a8ca5ac00/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”silicon-graphics-8″
title=”Silicon Graphics”
content=”Silicon Graphics, Inc. got its start making graphics terminals — visual accessories for general-purpose computers.

As it released subsequent generations of its product, Silicon’s focus became steadily broader, ultimately becoming a manufacturer of super-computers.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ad4f7f400000000009ac897/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”netscape-9″
title=”Netscape”
content=”When Jim Clark hired Marc Andreessen to start Netscape, his original idea was to write software for Interactive TVs.

This was before the Internet, and people at Time Warner thought consumers would be willing to network their TVs before they networked their computers. These people were wrong — mainly because it cost $50,000 to connect each TV.

Jim’s second idea for Netscape was an online gaming network for Nintendo. That didn’t pan out.

Finally, Marc said to Jim, ‘This internet thing. Nobody takes it seriously but it keeps growing.’ Soon the Netscape Navigator was born and the consumer Internet with it.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ad4f79600000000006b9e17/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”avon-10″
title=”Avon”
content=”From CNN: ‘David H. McConnell started Avon in 1886 without really meaning to. McConnell sold books door-to-door, but to lure in female customers he offered little gifts of perfume. Before long, the perfume McConnell was giving away had become more popular than the books he was selling, so he shifted focus and founded the California Perfume Company, which later became Avon.'”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ad4f8320000000000a363f5/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”dont-miss-these-great-slideshows-11″
title=”Don’t miss these great slideshows!”
content=”The ‘Average American’ Is Dying Off

15 Amazing Stock Market Charts

Google Wave’s Early Reviews: ‘Impressive’ But ‘Useless’

image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4ad3d1f40000000000e538f7/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[/slideshow]

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.