5 Entrepreneurs Who Started Out At Microsoft And Went On To Found Their Own Billion Dollar Companies

On April 4, 1975, Bill Gates and the late Paul Allen founded Microsoft. 45 years ago. Can you believe that? They were at the forefront of the companies that managed to be among the pioneers to bring us to where we are today – an all-digital, Internet-obsessed application that brings us everything and everything we want, the computerized society . Microsoft was also at the forefront of entrepreneurship, not only for Gates and Allen and Steve Ballmer, but for a number of men, and unfortunately, to our knowledge, these are all men, who have spent time working at Microsoft before moving to the foundation their own billion dollar + businesses.

You have heard of some of these companies. And Zappos? Tony Hsieh worked at Microsoft. The same is true for Rich Barton, founder of Expedia and Glassdoor. The same was true for Nick Huzar of OfferUp and the founder of Zulily, Darrell Cavens. We will focus on the founders of the technologies below, but we think we should also mention some older employees who then founded extremely popular companies in the pre-digital age. Were you a kid in the 80s? Do you remember Cabbage Patch Kids? (I may or may not have mine in a closet in my house). Cabbage Patch Kids founder Bob Greenberg was a Microsoft employee who left the company in 1981 – before it went public – but created the adorable and then highly sought after dolls. Jim Alchin was a Microsoft executive responsible for obtaining Windows 98, XP and Vista (the latter causing too many hard drives to crash with its updates). Nowadays, Alchin is a popular blues guitarist and singer.

Today Microsoft has a market capitalization of $ 1 trillion. There aren’t too many people on earth who haven’t heard of the company or Bill Gates. Microsoft has also been the parent, so to speak, of a number of popular companies, including the ones we mentioned above. Was it something in the water on the Redmond, Washington campus that inspired so many entrepreneurs to leave the security of corporate lifestyle with the software giant to start their own business? The success rate of companies founded by Microsoft alumni is staggering.

Tony Hsieh: Zappos

Present net worth: $ 850 million

Years at Microsoft: He stayed with Microsoft after selling the company LinkExchange in 1998. He left to co-found Zappos about a year later.

Tony founded LinkExchange, an advertising network that capitalized on the growing popularity of the Internet in 1996. The business was launched in March 1996 and experienced explosive growth from the start, having entered the new niche at the right time. In 1998, the site had more than 400,000 members and five million advertisements were running every day. Microsoft came to call and spent $ 265 million to buy the company. In 1999, when Hsieh was 26, he and Alfred Lin were approached with the idea of ​​selling shoes online. It worked well for them and in 2009 Amazon acquired Zappos for $ 1.2 billion worth of stock. Hsieh made at least $ 214 million from the sale. After the sale on Amazon, Hsieh remained an advisor to Zappos. By the way, I know Tony and he’s an incredible human being, that’s all. We became friends when I applied for a job at Zappos in 2007. I was invited to a number of happy hours for the employees he organized, while he and the HR manager tried to find a place in Las Vegas based society for me and he was always kind, courteous and amazing. All the employees I met loved their work, Tony, Alfred and Zappos. Zappos’ motto is Delivering Happiness and it’s something Tony embodies on all fronts, just like his business.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com (Photo Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Nick Huzar: OfferUp

Present net worth: Not known

Years at Microsoft: 1

Nick Huzar spent time at Microsoft and T-Mobile after graduating from Washington State. Then he came up with the idea for his second-hand sales startup OfferUp in the simplest way. OfferUp is currently valued at approximately $ 1.4 billion. He had the idea when he was a brand new father and needed to sell some of his personal belongings to make room for his baby. Back then, there weren’t many options online, and let’s face it, Craigslist, as useful as it is, can also be full of scams and creeps causing people to not trust it. . Huzar launched OfferUp in 2011 as a simple and reliable way for people to buy and sell their goods. Today, OfferUp has more than 44 million annual users. If you’ve moved and had to downsize in recent years, you probably already know how useful OfferUp is.

Rich Barton: Expedia, Zillow and Glassdoor

Present net worth: $ 400 million

Years at Microsoft: 8 ½

Rich Barton graduated from Stanford in 1989 with an engineering degree. In 1991 he started working for Microsoft. In 1994 Microsoft planned to create a travel guide on CD-ROM. Barton had a better idea. He was knowledgeable enough to already be aware of rudimentary textual Internet services at the time, and he believed there was a greater opportunity to create an online travel booking company. Gates and Ballmer gave Barton permission to pursue his idea. Expedia was officially launched in 1996. Barton was CEO of Expedia via the company’s IPO in 1999. He remained at Expedia via its IPO until 2003. In 2001, IAC bought an equity stake majority in the company for an estimated amount of $ 1.5 billion. In 2003, it was fully purchased by IAC for $ 3.6 billion.

After a gap year, Barton returned to Seattle and launched Zillow in 2006 with Lloyd Frink, who had also worked at Microsoft and Expedia. He founded Glassdoor in 2008 with Robert Hohman and Tim Besse. Barton is president of the company. Glassdoor sold in 2018 for $ 1.2 billion to a Japanese human resources company. During this sale, Barton took over the position of CEO at Zillow.

As for Barton’s business valuations, Expedia is valued at $ 12 billion, Zillow at $ 13 billion and Glassdoor at $ 1.2 billion.

Robert Hohman: Glassdoor

Present net worth: not known

Years at Microsoft: 3

As mentioned above, Robert Hohman founded Glassdoor with Rich Barton and Tim Besse. The idea for Glassdoor came during a brainstorming session between Hohman and Barton when Hohman told Barton the story of accidentally leaving the results of an employee survey on the printer to Expedia (because Hohman was there also worked). Barton and Hohman hypothesized what would have happened if the results of this investigation had become public. Hohman graduated from Stanford in 1992 and started working at Microsoft in 1993. He was a software developer at Microsoft and was part of the team that built Expedia. Glassdoor was acquired in 2018 for $ 1.2 billion.

Darrell Cavens: Zulily

Net present value: not known

Years at Microsoft: 1 ½

Darrell Cavens is originally from Canada and graduated from the University of Victoria before becoming an executive at online jewelry company Blue Nile and then at Microsoft. He left his position as director at Microsoft in 2009 to launch the e-commerce site Zulily with his Blue Nile colleague Mark Vadon. Zulily went online in late January 2010. It initially focused on children’s clothing, but quickly spread to clothing, shoes, toys and home products. Zulily went public in 2013 at a valuation of $ 2.6 billion. In 2015, QVC acquired Zulily for $ 2.4 billion. He sits on the boards of a number of companies, including OfferUp, a former Microsoft employee, Nick Huzar.



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