Student Life

Noteworthy College Start Up Companies

You know the famous start up companies that began in college, like Facebook and Google, but these are just as notable.

Student Contributor, Charles Schnell

May 06, 2022

Noteworthy College Start Up Companies
These start up companies began in and out of college classrooms.
Colleges, in their ideal states, are birthplaces and harbors of innovative, creative ideas for enterprises. These ideas can lead to newly formed businesses inspired by ideas developed during college. Some of these recent “start-ups” have become so well-known that the reader is bound to recognize some names: Netflix and Instagram are popular companies, for instance. However, I am one to argue that to find the most innovative and impressive start-ups, one ought to look even further back in history. Here are four that I find to be noteworthy.

Federal Express (FedEx)

As noted on FedEx’s website, FedEx originated in the mind of one undergraduate student, Frederick W. Smith, at Yale University in 1965. He had created a system for delivering packages very rapidly compared to what was common at the time. This would be helpful for packages that needed to be delivered as quickly as possible.
Several years later, Smith remembered his idea from his undergraduate education and decided to pursue it to fruition. The beginnings of his endeavor were unsurprisingly not without their hiccups. He sought aid from the Federal Reserve but did not receive any. This hiccup was not insurmountable. After this, he established company headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee because of the location’s national centrality and good weather–which was especially vital for a business dependent on air travel. In the spring of 1973, FedEx officially delivered their first packages from the north end to the south end of the east coast. As it “soon became the carrier of high priority goods” and set a standard of quick deliveries, FedEx made its first profit in the summer of 1975. By the 1980s, FedEx was a large, lucrative corporation and was set on the path towards becoming the name many people around the world know today.


Dropbox–a service I find to be very helpful for sharing large files with others–is a college start-up. Dropbox was created by its current CEO, Drew Houston. While at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Houston conceived of the idea for Dropbox in 2007, as noted by Eudaimonia on Medium. He had a simple problem to solve: He kept forgetting his USB stick! Originally having designed Dropbox for himself, he realized he could make a business out of the service, as he figured other people would use Dropbox as well.
With the aid of co-founder Arash Ferdowsi, he publicly launched Dropbox as a service in 2008. Since then Dropbox has grown into a service utilized by hundreds of millions around the world.

Insomnia Cookies

Sometimes profitable ideas are simple–and often they are sugary. Insomnia Cookies bake and deliver deliciously sweet cookies and are a favorite among college students. This may be because, per their own website, Insomnia Cookies was founded by a college student. Seth Berkowitz, a student at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, founded Insomnia in his dorm room. Having trouble getting through long study sessions himself without a tasty pick-me-up, he decided the world needed more companies willing to deliver at night and began baking cookies for himself. His fellow dorm residents quickly took notice, soon prompting the spread of his baking, which soon prompted the creation of Insomnia Cookies. Start-ups don’t always need to be as international as FedEx or as technological as Dropbox. All that matters is that demands are met!


Our perspective may judge Dell to be a run-of-the-mill technological company that is commonly known in many countries, but back in the day, when Dell was founded, it was a remarkable founding–and it was a college start-up. Per Dell’s website, Dell began as “PC’s Limited,” founded by Michael Dell with a budget of $1,000 while he was 19 years old and a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, intending on studying medicine after college. He soon had a change of heart and decided to devote himself fully to the development of his new company. What was so innovative about Dell was that they sold their products to customers directly, without a middle-man. This was not a common practice before Dell. By doing this they avoided the costs of selling through a retail marketplace, allowing them to design powerful computers and sell them at an appealing price. Dell expanded and went on to become one of the most well-known and popular technology companies today. College start-ups may intimidate college students, but they can also inspire them. These lucrative companies began as ideas in the minds of college students. Future companies may as well.

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