Garages tend to get most of the credit when it comes to entrepreneurship. Many people think of garages as being the most common place to get the next billion-dollar company started — who could forget Steve Jobs building the first Apple computer in a garage, after all? However, basements play a similarly important role in building many of the most interesting entrepreneurships out there. Just look at these companies that started in a basement, many of which are very tech-based.
BASIC Programming Language
Many of these companies would not exist if not for the BASIC programming language. BASIC served as the foundation for many early computers; Microsoft, Apple, HP, and IBM all made use of the language. It got its start in the basement of Dartmouth College in 1964. Professor John Kemeny ran the first line of BASIC code at 4 a.m. on one of the huge computers they kept in the basement.
Though SoftKey no longer exists, it was a huge deal for many years, publishing and distributing CD-ROMs, typically for the home audience. The business started because Kevin O’Leary, now perhaps most well-known for being a judge on Shark Tank, got a $10,000 investment from his mother and a place to put it to work in the basement. He sold the company in 1999 for $3.65 billion, which is equivalent to $5.7 billion today.
In 1992, computer games became a genuinely important part of entertainment options, and Tim Sweeney took note. On weekends, he would drive from the University of Maryland to his parents’ home, where he had a computer in the basement. There, he would spend time designing video games. “Epic MegaGames,” as he called the company, eventually shortened its name to Epic Games, and in 2017, it would come out with the world-famous game Fortnite. Today, the company has a valuation of $15 billion.
Qualtrics is a uniquely beneficial software for people interested in doing research. The project started as a family endeavor; Ryan and Jared Smith’s father came up with the idea of software for academic field research, the Smith family provided the basement as a hub of operations, and Ryan convinced his brother Jared to quit his job so he could write the code and manage the technical needs. By selling to both individual customers and overall companies, Qualtrics was able to grow to a $11.1 billion valuation.
Though it’s now a key part of HP’s holdings, Voltage Security actually got its start as a computer science class research project. The three co-founders actually worked out of a basement office in the Packard Engineering Building at Stanford University while they worked on it. Winning the Stanford BASES Entrepreneurs Challenge earned them $150,000 in capital, and when HP acquired the company, they had raised $39 million in funding.
Accounting software is an important part of many businesses’ operations. In 2004, FreshBooks got its start in Mike McDerment’s parents’ basement. He focused on invoicing, which was a fairly new niche at the time, and he maintained a loyal fanbase of 10 customers paying $9.99 per month for the first two years. Eventually, that number grew; FreshBooks has a user count of over five million, and it’s valued at over $172 million.
The ability to make the most out of your e-commerce options is an important one, especially when you take into account how instrumental e-commerce is in keeping many of today’s businesses afloat. Bold Commerce started in 2012 with the idea of helping companies make e-commerce easier. They cycled through basements in three of the four co-founders’ homes, ranging from a basement with nothing but vapor barrier walls to a fully furnished basement with carpeting. Its current valuation is around $16.5 million.
Sure, garages are an important facet of entrepreneurship, but if you have a basement in your home, chances are you have the perfect spot for your beginning business already. Consider cleaning up and maintaining your basement; you never know if someone will have the next million-dollar idea in your home’s basement.