When you think of basements, you might not immediately consider the geeky achievements they can birth. However, a surprising amount of companies got their start in a basement, just like all the titans of industry that got started in a garage. Take a look at these successful companies that got their start in a basement, then consider a few of the geekiest achievements on the list.
BASIC Programming Language
This might not be a company, per se, but it’s definitely an invaluable achievement overall. The BASIC programming language was a standard for early PCs, and companies like Apple, HP, and Microsoft all used BASIC as part of their initial offerings. The invention of BASIC occurred in the basement of Dartmouth College in 1964, when professor John Kemeny ran the first line of BASIC code on the gigantic computers they owned.
If you know Epic Games today, chances are you know it because of the hit game Fortnite, which they introduced in 2017. However, the company has released far more games than just that. They started in 1991, when Tim Sweeney started designing video games from his parents’ basement. He started his company with the name Epic MegaGames to try and make himself look more successful from the beginning, and shortened the name to Epic Games along the way. Today, the company has a $15 billion valuation.
Anyone who’s ever done any sort of academic research, whether as a subject or as a researcher, probably knows about Qualtrics. It’s one of the biggest academic research platforms out there. It started when Ryan Smith convinced his brother Jared to quit his job at Google so he could write code to program the site. They started out working in their parents’ basement in Utah, but eventually managed to broaden the company enough that it’s worth $11.1 billion today.
Today, Kaplan’s well-known as a test prep and tutoring company, but when it first started, it was just one man tutoring immigrant families in the Brooklyn area. Stanley Kaplan started his tutoring business in 1938 when he realized many of the immigrant families near him needed help with preparation for the NY Regents exam, which was a standardized test in the area. The company steadily grew, and in 2018, it drew an annual revenue of $1.5 billion.
When FreshBooks got its start in 2004, accounting software was a fairly niche market. However, that didn’t stop founder Mike McDerment from starting the business out of his parents’ basement in Toronto, focusing on his niche and eventually accruing 10 paying customers. Today, FreshBooks has over 5 million users every month, invoicing more than $8 billion yearly, and its valuation is somewhere between $172 to $258 million.
Though it’s called “Voltage Security,” this company isn’t a security company as you might popularly think of the concept. Rather, it’s a data security and encryption company that helps people keep their private things private. The company incorporated in 2002, then worked out of a basement office in Stanford’s Packard Engineering Building for about a year before they won $150,000 in capital from the Stanford BASES Entrepreneurs Challenge. In 2015, the company maintained $39 million in funding and was then acquired by HP.
Boolean Girl Tech
In 2016, Boolean Girl Tech ran a massively successful Kickstarter campaign — so successful, in fact, that the two co-founders believed there was no way they’d be able to fulfill all their orders in the 60 days after the end of the campaign. To make it easier for them to fulfill their orders, co-founder Ingrid Sanden came up with a simple solution: hire her 16-year-old daughter’s friends and make an assembly line in their basement. The plan worked and they were able to send out each and every order.
As you can see, even though garages may get a lot of attention with regards to burgeoning businesses, basements should be in the limelight a little more often. Keep your basement maintained and think about its benefits. You never know if the next billion-dollar company will end up starting in your home’s basement, after all.