5 Successful Startups Founded By Students In The Past 10 Years - Jumpstart Magazine (2024)

Meet the entrepreneurs who went from the dorm room to the boardroom!

Imagine you’re sitting in your dorm room, surrounded by textbooks and buzzing with student energy. Suddenly, one fine day, inspiration strikes like a thunderbolt—a spark that might just lead to a billion-dollar venture. It sounds fantastical, but it’s not unprecedented; we’ve all seen Zuckerberg doing the same with Facebook. Why couldn’t the next big thing come from someone just like you?

Around the world, many young entrepreneurs have transformed their academic settings into breeding grounds for innovation. In this article, let’s dive into the journey of some of the most successful startups founded by students over the past decade.

1. Zepto (India)

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Zepto’s founders: Kaivalya Vohra (left) and Aadit Palicha (right)

Image by Nitu Singh via LinkedIn

Founded by Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra, Zepto has been making headlines with its ultra-fast grocery delivery service. Launched in the thick of the pandemic in April 2021, the app promises that groceries will be on your doorstep in less than ten minutes. Palicha and Vohra, who were childhood friends from Dubai and dropped out of Stanford to pursue their vision, have quickly climbed the ranks to be listed on the IIFL Wealth-Hurun India Rich List and Forbes’ 30 under 30 in Asia for e-commerce in 2022.

The company’s efficient delivery system relies on “dark stores”—these are strategically placed storage hubs that are closed to the public but are crucial for speeding up the order process. The staff at these hubs are trained to pick and pack each order within a minute, ensuring that your groceries arrive fresh and fast. Zepto’s operation has rapidly expanded to several major Indian cities including Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Noida and Pune.

In a recent exciting expansion, Zepto launched “Zepto Cafe” in Mumbai in April 2022, broadening their offerings to include ready-to-drink beverages and packaged snacks. Data from Bobble AI Data Intelligence highlights an incredible 946% increase in Zepto’s user base from December 2021 to March 2022, outpacing competitors like Blinkit, BigBasket and Dunzo.

Zepto’s growth trajectory has been strong since the beginning, with a funding influx of US$60 million led by Glade Brook Capital, alongside contributions from Nexus Venture Partners and Y Combinator, in November 2021. Following a massive fundraising round of US$665 million in June this year, Zepto’s valuation skyrocketed to US$3.6 billion, more than doubling its previous valuation of US$1.4 billion in under a year. To date, Zepto has amassed US$1.26 billion across eight funding rounds, signaling a bright future for this innovative enterprise.

2. Canva (Australia)

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Canva’s founders: CliffObrecht (left), Melanie Perkins (center) and Cameron Adams (right)

Image from Startup Daily

Canva‘s journey from a college project to a US$26 billion enterprise is nothing short of remarkable. It all started when Melanie Perkins, a communications student at the University of Western Australia, grew frustrated with the cumbersome design software available. Determined to make graphic design more accessible, she launched Fusion Books in 2007—a user-friendly online tool for creating school yearbooks.

Building on this success, Perkins teamed up with Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams, a former Google engineer, to take her vision further. In 2012, they launched Canva with the goal of democratizing design. The platform quickly caught on, and by 2017, it had attracted ten million users and achieved a valuation of US$1 billion, securing its status as a tech “unicorn”.

Today, Canva is valued at US$26 billion and has become essential for anyone looking to create eye-catching graphics. Its easy-to-use tools have democratized design, making it a crucial skill across various industries. Serving everyone from solo freelancers to large corporations, Canva exemplifies how a straightforward idea can revolutionize an industry, making professional-level design accessible to all.

3. OYO Rooms (India)

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Ritesh Agarwal, the mastermind behind OYO Rooms

Image by bhubaneswarbuzz.com on Pinterest

OYO Rooms, launched by Ritesh Agarwal in 2013, has significantly transformed the budget hospitality sector. Agarwal, who left college at 19, was inspired by his own experiences and frustrations with the inconsistent quality of budget hotels. His entrepreneurial journey took off when he received a US$100,000 grant from the Thiel Fellowship, propelling him to pivot from his initial project, Oravel Stays, to what would become OYO Rooms.

Agarwal’s vision was clear: to standardize hotel rooms across the globe, ensuring they were both affordable and reliable. By 2018, OYO had expanded internationally, marking its presence in countries like China, Malaysia, Nepal and the UK. The venture’s growth surged in 2019 after securing US$1 billion from the SoftBank Vision Fund, which pushed its valuation to a whopping US$10 billion. Today, OYO boasts operations in over 80 countries, managing more than 44,000 hotels and 1.2 million rooms.

Looking to the future, OYO is investing in technologies like AI and machine learning to optimize pricing strategies and enhance customer experiences. It’s also branching into new ventures like long-term rentals and co-living spaces.

4. DoorDash (USA)

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From left to right: Tony Xu (Co-founder and CEO), Stanley Tang (Co-founder and CPO), Ding Zhou (Vice President of Engineering) and Andy Fang (Co-founder and CTO)

Image from Wired

Back in 2013, four Stanford students—Tony Xu, Stanley Tang, Andy Fang and Evan Moore—started DoorDash with a simple yet powerful idea. They noticed a common problem plaguing local restaurants: the struggle to manage delivery orders efficiently. This observation led them to create DoorDash, a platform that connects people with their favorite eateries and simplifies the delivery process.

The concept was as clear as it was innovative. Customers would use the DoorDash app or website to place orders. Then, independent contractors, dubbed “Dashers” would pick up and deliver the food. This model not only promised convenience for customers but also offered vital support to local restaurants. By 2015, DoorDash had expanded its operations to 22 major U.S. cities, quickly becoming a key player in the food delivery industry.

DoorDash’s growth trajectory hit a high point in December 2020 when it went public with an initial public offering (IPO) that pegged the company’s value at US$16 billion. The following years saw continued growth, with revenues hitting US$8.6 billion in the fiscal year 2023, up 31% from the previous year. By 2024, DoorDash’s market capitalization has surged to approximately US$46.56 billion, cementing its status as a dominant force in the sector.

5. Bolt (Estonia)

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Markus Villig, the founder of Bolt

Image from Bolt’s website

Back in 2013, while still a high school student in Estonia, Markus Villig launched what is now known as Bolt. Starting as Taxify, a humble ride-hailing service, Bolt has grown into a big transportation platform, offering everything from traditional car rides to micromobility options like electric scooters and bikes, along with food delivery services.

From the outset, Villig aimed to create an affordable and reliable alternative to conventional taxis in his home country. With just a small team and a tight budget, the startup quickly captured the hearts of local users. By 2019, as the company expanded its range of services, it rebranded from Taxify to Bolt, reflecting its broader vision. Now, the company has a presence in over 45 countries, primarily in Europe and Africa, competing with giants like Uber.

Bolt has also committed to environmental sustainability, actively rolling out initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint. This includes promoting the use of electric bikes and scooters, aligning with its goal to make urban mobility more sustainable.

Recently, the company has secured a EUR220 million (US$235 million) credit facility, which will support its preparations for an IPO. This fund was raised from a consortium of global banks including Barclays, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, LHV, Luminor and Citi.

In conclusion

The entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive and thriving among students. The past decade has shown us just how impactful startups, founded by young visionaries, can be. Each of these five startups began with a simple yet powerful idea, growing to offer valuable services and products that have reshaped industries.

These stories are a call to action for anyone, regardless of age, who has a spark of an idea. So, what’s your next big idea? The next game-changing startup might just be simmering in a notebook in a classroom or being brainstormed in a late-night dorm room chat. If you’re sitting on a potential idea, don’t wait. Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. Let’s get innovating and see where your ideas can take you!

Also read:

  • Why Startups Should Adopt Agile Methodology for Better Software Development
  • 5 Startups Transforming Unusual Ideas Into Success
  • 5 Reasons Why Data-Driven Decision-Making Is Key for Startup Success

Header Image from Pexels

5 Successful Startups Founded By Students In The Past 10 Years - Jumpstart Magazine (2024)


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