Well before they became known as the go-to social media platforms for Russian hackers to disrupt American elections, many now-successful social-media companies started in the garages, basements, and dorm rooms of brilliant (and possibly borderline insane) entrepreneurs. The apps we can’t seem to do without were once struggling startups. Many entrepreneurs who tried to follow the same path as Facebook failed, and the ones who made it could have easily been ended up in the same boat. Their one-in-a-million ability to succeed is never more clear than in their origin stories, which are often sort of comical or depressing, depending on how you look at them.
You may have some knowledge of some major startup stories of their beginnings because they’ve seeped into pop culture through film and TV (as in Social Network, which portrays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as an asshole-genius, giving rise to the startup-founder-bro stereotype). But for many apps and devices we use daily, there are quirky truths behind their rise to fame that are forgotten from public memory.
Whether they were started because the founders just needed an idea to make rent or because their CEOs just couldn’t resist a challenge, most startups had to bootstrap from the beginning and then hang on for dear life, especially as competitors started to emerge (hey, not every startup has help from notable celebrities). This high-pressure environment caused for some interesting behaviors, as well as strange and brilliant innovations that defined these companies’ futures. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about your favorite startups—most of which come from their surprising origins.