10 Invisible Unicorns: Startups That Thrived Without Funding

Started with little to no money, automated email newsletter creation, and became a $400 million run rate business.


Produced training films for web designers, started with minimal capital and achieved a $1.5 billion acquisition by LinkedIn.


Began as a DIY electronics e-commerce empire without significant funding, employing 85 people and generating $33 million in annual revenue.

AdaFruit Industries:

Started selling electronics kits out of a dorm room with minimal capital, grew into an e-commerce empire with 154 employees and $32 million in annual revenue.


Addressed online money exchange issues, survived on transaction proceeds for four years before raising $69 million and was eventually acquired for $800 million.

 Braintree Payments:

Created a shopping cart solution independently, running the business for six years before raising VC and later going public with a billion-dollar valuation.


Leveraged online celebrity and cosmetics brand relationships, started with <$500,000 in seed funding, and generated $150 million in revenue before raising $100 million in VC.


Bootstrapped a self-install security business, raised a small amount of money from friends and family, and achieved hundreds of thousands of customers, hundreds of millions in revenue, and $57 million in VC.


Pre-sold registrations to races to fund the construction of electrified obstacle courses, turning $7,000 in savings into a company with over $100 million in annual revenue.

Tough Mudder:

Started as a website showcasing painted figurines, later designed and distributed games through Kickstarter, running 27 campaigns that raised $35,943,270 in non-dilutive funding.


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