Garages can be used for a multitude of things. Car storage is the obvious one, but Australian garages also contain everything from discarded electronics to framed sporting memorabilia.
However, the humble garage isn’t just a storage space. It can provide the ideal space to launch a new business, as last week’s naming of iiNet founder Michael Malone as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year demonstrates.
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As Malone told us last year, iiNet launched in his mother’s garage, only moving due to the extraordinary amount of phone lines he needed installed to the premises.
“I’d love to say it was a plan but in reality, we had 300 phone lines coming to my mum’s house by then. Telstra were very accommodating but they ran out of capacity,” he recalled.
“Their recommendation was the CBD because it was the only place they felt they could cope with our growth.”
iiNet now has more than 500,000 customers in Australia. But the businesses rise isn’t a one-off – indeed, some of the world’s leading brands have grown from garage beginnings.
Here are the top 10 garage start-ups. You’ll never view your garage the same way again.
In 1976, two technology enthusiasts, Steve Wozniack and Steve Jobs, decided they wanted to embark upon building a personal computer.
They talked a local electronics retailer into stocking 50 units, which the penniless duo had to fund on credit, based on their first purchase order.
The Steves’ hand-built the 50 computers in 30 days from Wozniack’s garage in Cupertino, California. Thus, the world’s most valuable technology company was born.
Twenty-two years on from Apple’s genesis, another Californian garage was spawning a brand that is now world-famous.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented the garage from Susan Wojcicki, who needed help paying her mortgage. For the next five months, the duo worked on creating the search engine, in-between raiding Wojcicki’s fridge and relaxing in her hot tub.
Within a year they had to move to what is known as the Googleplex. In 2006, Google bought the house where it was conceived, while Wojcicki went on to work for the business as vice president of product management.
In 1994, Jeff Bezos decided he wanted to exploit the fledgling online retail space by launching his own book selling portal.
From his garage in Bellvue, Washington, Bezos launched Amazon, which went on to sell its first book – Douglas Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought – in 1995.
By 1999, Bezos was Time magazine’s Person of the Year, while Amazon is now the world’s largest online retailer.
Another Californian garage start-up, Disney came about when young animator Walt Disney set up shop in his uncle Robert’s premises after winning a contract to produce a series of cartoons based on Alice in Wonderland.
Within a few months, Disney had shifted to a small office in downtown Los Angeles.
5. Hewlett Packard
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard graduated from Stanford University in 1935 and decided to launch a business together.
Four years later, the duo created HP in Packard’s garage with a start-up investment of $538. Although Packard won a coin toss to decide the business’ title, Hewlett’s name eventually ended up being first.
HP’s first product was an audio oscillator sold, co-incidentally, to Walt Disney.