7 Successful Businesses Started Over a Couple of Beers

Man with short hair in black suite and tie standing in a pub holding a glass full of beer.

Before there was ever a such thing as Facebook, the teenaged Mark Zuckerberg live-blogged in October 2003 that he "was a little intoxicated" the night he launched Facemash with his Harvard roommates. 

Zuckerberg was not the only one to find his entrepreneurial spirit after a few drinks. It turns out, chatting at happy hour is good for more than networking, and a few amazing companies have started with the help of drinks and friends.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers discovered that creative problem solving abilities are improved with a more diffuse attentional state. "Moderate intoxication" is apparently the perfect means of achieving this state conducive to creative processing. In the study, intoxicated participants solved more items in a creative problem solving test in a shorter time compared to sober participants. 

Looking for a little inspiration? Read how these successful startups were born with the help of a little "liquid courage."

1. Four Wharton classmates started Warby Parker while having Yuenglings in a Philly pub.

Warby Parker

Neil Blumenthal, Jeffrey Raider, David Gilboa and Andrew Hunt started the online eyewear company Warby Parker while at Wharton Business School when they decided that quality eyewear could be very affordable. Blumenthal, speaking at Philly Tech Week in 2013, told the story of how Warby Parker came to be.

From the beginning, the four founders promised one another that they would remain friends through the experience and would meet in the same place each month to stay on the same page:

"There were four of us. We were at a bar at 23rd and Walnut, Roosevelt's Pub, having a Yuengling. We promised each other two things: First, we would bust our butts and work really hard; second, we would remain friends no matter what. So we thought about the processes we could create to protect those friendships. So equal ownership. We created a vesting schedule up until graduation so people could leave without feeling resentful. The thing that had the biggest impact is that we'd go back to Roosevelt's every week, take a four-top and surface issues. It created a healthy work dynamic."

2. Ben Lerer and Adam Rich were drinking beers on their roof when they came up with the idea for Thrillist.

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Thrillist Media Group founders Ben Lerer and Adam Rich were buddies living in New York in 2004 when they single-handedly started the first Thrillist blog. In an interview with Mashable, Lerer recounted the day that Thrillist was conceptualized:

"We were sitting on my roof six years ago hanging out having a beer (you know), half complaining that we were unhappy with our jobs or felt sort of under-utilized and a little bit lost, and the other half, Adam was getting ready to take a girl out to dinner. We were trying to find a place and both sort of started talking about how frustrated we were with the city guides that we were reading, and we had also been talking about how we just wanted to go and do something else. And that sort of sparked it."

3. Founders came up with the idea for Uber with the help of music and drinks while in Paris.


Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp were hanging out in Paris after a day at the LeWeb conference in Winter 2008. They both already sold their first companies and were trying to decide what was next. Kalanick actually posted the story on the companies own blog:

"Jamming on ideas, rapping on what's next is what entrepreneurs do. Garrett and I would get some good music, good drinks and jam until 5am. Garrett's big idea was cracking the horrible taxi problem in San Francisco — getting stranded on the streets of San Francisco is familiar territory for any San Franciscan. Garrett's m.o. fits the Uber brand. He likes to roll in style, comfort and convenience. His over-the-top idea in Paris that winter started as a limo timeshare service."

4. Tinder actually launched at a USC college party.

Daily News

The Huffington Post reported that Sean Rad and Justin Mateen actually launched Tinder at the University of Southern California during a birthday party for one of the founder's brothers while he was at school there.

The guests had to prove had Tinder on their phones. By the end of the same week, downloads jumped from 400 users on the first day to over 4,000. 

Maybe more apps should launch that way?

5. Reddit founders won VC over with beers in Boston.

Reddit's Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman actually originally set out to develop an app to order food from their phones. Ohanian revealed in an episode of the A Total Disruption webseries that they got their funder's attention by offering to buy him a beer. 

After a conference in Boston, the two approached Y Combinator's Paul Graham, and took him out and later, Paul Graham asked them to develop "the front page of the Internet" instead.

6. PopSugar started after founder Lisa shared celebrity gossip with a friend at a party.


In February 2005, Om Malik, founder of GigaOm, suggested that Lisa and Brian Sugar should start an online blog network after hearing Lisa rattle off celebrity gossip over wine at their Oscar party.

And Sugar Inc. was born with Brian handling the technical aspects and Lisa blogging. Today, Sugar Inc. is an entire media group.

7. Elias Bizannes came up with StartupBus while having a few with friends in Australia.

StartupBus is an exclusive community of hackers and entrepreneurs that compete in an hackathon-style competition on buses traveling to SXSW.

In 2010, Elias Bizannes was having farewell drinks with his friends before leaving Australia for Silicon Valley when he thought of the concept for StartupBus. 

In a few weeks, buses will leave from 8 different regions for SXSW, and "buspreneurs" will have 72 hours to conceive, build and launch a startup.

With the exception of the driver, of course, those guys may want to grab a drink.