When entrepreneur Michael Wolfe started this Quora thread asking people to name some unlikely startup successes, he used Facebook as the ultimate example. Wolfe sums up the idea, pointing out how useless a rehash of MySpace or Friendster must have seemed at the time: “We’ll only open it up to a few thousand overworked, anti-social, Ivy Leaguers. Everyone else will then join, since Harvard students are so cool.”
In a thread with more than 100 answers, a lot of people pointed out that most of the best business ideas sound crazy at first because they’re new. Anything that diverges from the norm is going to be met with at least some cynicism. Take PayPal, for instance, which Wolfe describes as people using their insecure AOL and Yahoo email addresses to pay each other real money, “backed by a non-bank with a cute name run by 20-somethings.”
Here are five other standout unlikely startups, in no particular order.