These Former Microsoft Employees Are Worth Millions After They Did Their Own Startups

Bill GatesA lot of Microsofties have followed in his footsteps.

Photo: Business Insider, Microsoft

Microsoft alums are more than twice as likely to start companies as former Googlers.That’s according to recruiting startup TopProspect, which measured the career paths of more than 1.5 million users taking data mostly from LinkedIn. The company found that Microsoft employees have a 2.9% chance of being a CEO at some point in their life, versus only 1.4% for Google.

The data is a little bit skewed because Microsoft has been around a lot longer. Even so, check out some of the success stories created by former Microsofties.

RealNetworks -- sparked the digital media revolution before falling on hard times

Rob Glaser cut his teeth as a Microsoft exec in the 1980s, but locked horns with Bill Gates one too many times and went off to form Progressive Networks, which later changed its name to RealNetworks. It's hard to call Real a success now -- the company has struggled for the last few years -- but it did bring to market one of the first technologies to help stream audio and video over the Internet and helped kick off the digital media revolution.

Zappos -- sold to Amazon for $900 million

Hseih didn't start his career at Microsoft, but he did sell his first startup, LinkExchange, to the company in 1999 for $265 million. He stuck around for a while before the entrepreneurial bug bit him again, leading him to build online shoe store Zappos. Amazon bought Zappos in 2009 for around $900 million, making Hsieh a two-time winner.

Like Tony Hsieh, McCue didn't start at Microsoft, but sold his speech recognition company TellMe to Microsoft for somewhere near $800 million in 2007. McCue led the unit at Microsoft for a couple years, then left to found Flipboard, a magazine-style content aggregation app for the iPad, in 2010.

Gabe Newell (pictured here) and Mike Harrington left Microsoft in 1996 to create gaming software company Valve, which had a huge hit with the Half-Life franchise.

Picnik -- Google paid millions for this photo-editing service

Valve Software cofounder Mike Harrington (shown here) quit that company in 2000, then joined with former Microsoft colleague Darrin Massena to create online photo-editing and sharing service Picnik. Google bought the company for an unknown sum -- probably more than $40 million -- in 2010.

Pure Networks -- sold to Cisco for $120 million

Steve Bush and Rob Bennett left Microsoft to found home-networking company Pure Networks in the early 2000s. Cisco bought the company for $120 million in 2009 and still sells its flagship product, Network Magic.

Twango -- sold to Nokia for about $100 million

Serena Glover helped build the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) while at the company, then left to start online video and photo service Twango, which she ran out of the basement of her house. Nokia bought the company for a reported price of around $100 million in 2007.

iLike -- sold to MySpace for $20 million

Ali Partovi (pictured here) was a cofounder of LinkExchange, which sold to Microsoft for $265 million. He brought his brother Hadi over from MSN to found music sharing service iLike. MySpace bought it for $20 million in 2009.

Zillow -- the poster child for the American real estate obsession

Zillow capitalised on the American real estate obsession by letting normal Web users figure out how much their houses -- and their neighbours' houses -- might be worth, without having to hire a real estate agent. It was founded by Rich Barton and Lloyd Frank, who also led online travel agency Expedia when it spun off from Microsoft.

Glassdoor -- find out how much companies pay their employees

Zillow's cofounder Rich Barton also joined up with fellow Microsoft and Expedia alum Robert Hohman to found Glassdoor, which surveys employees at big companies to find out how happy they are, how much they get paid, and how much they love (or hate) their leaders.

Stack Overflow -- by geeks, for geeks

Joel Spolsky worked as a program manager on Excel back in the early 1990s, and has told some great stories -- like the time Bill Gates reviewed his feature -- on the Joel on Software blog. In 2000 he founded Fog Creek Software, which makes tools for software developers, and in 2008 he created Stack Overflow, a Q&A site for developers. Last month, Stack Overflow branched out into tech recruiting with Careers 2.0.

Cranium -- a party game for nerdy introverts

These two Microsoft employees created the board game Cranium in 1998. By 2004, the company had won the Toy Industry Association's Game of the Year award three times and had $40 million in annual sales. Hasbro bought the company in 2008 for about $77 million.

DocVerse -- Google bought it to make Docs work better with Office

Founded in 2007, this company created a plug-in that made it easier to share Office documents over the Web. Google bought it in 2009 for a reported $25 million.

Intellectual Ventures -- grabbing patents left and right

Some call it a patent troll, but former CTO Myhrvold's company certainly has influence -- the company has bought thousands of patents from inventors around the world and struck licensing deals with dozens of big tech companies.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- changing the world.

This isn't a startup in the traditional sense, but there's no question that it's having an enormous effect on world health, and may end up being Bill Gates's main legacy.

Now check out the companies started by ex-Googlers.

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