Business Technology

The moments of genius that created your favourite brands and products

5 min read

14 November 2014

Whether it was frustration, necessity, sadness or hardship, these great businesses and product ideas can trace roots back to a particular moment.

Successful businesses are often based around solving a problem. Finding a way to deal take a new approach and then monetising it. This means entrepreneurs have found ideas in the strangest places. Here’s a rundown of the events that inspired some of your favourite brands and products. 

GoPro

The GoPro is a heavy-duty camera that’s helped created some of the internet’s most awesome videos. It’s allowed fans from across the world to film in high-intensity environments at a relatively low cost, whether the cameras strapped to a skydiver, a drone or the end of a snowboard. 

Founder Nicholas Woodman is now a billionaire. What gave him the idea? He created Woodman Labs, the company that produced the camera, to solve a simple problem. The surf-obsessive had no way to film himself taking part in a five-month surfing trip around Australia and Indonesia, which was set up to give him inspiration for his next big project. 

Dyson hoovers

James Dyson has a simple mantra to inventing products: “Like everyone we get frustrated by products that don’t work properly. As design engineers we do something about it. We’re all about invention and improvement.”

When it came to the infamous hoover brand, his frustration was lack of suction and the inspiration for the solution came from an industrial cyclone tower he’d recently built for his factory that separated paint particles from the air. That was just the start, it took him five years and 5,127 prototypes to perfect the idea.

The telegraph

Samuel Morse invented the single wire telegraph leading us on a path to the communications network we have today (he also co-invented the morse code, in case that wasn’t obvious).

Morse’s inspiration was heart breaking. He received a letter saying “your dear wife is convalescent” and the next day another from his father saying his wife was dead. Heartbroken at having missed her final days due to the delay in the post he committed himself to discovering a means of rapid long-distance communication. 

Henry Ford’s production line

Henry Ford is known for revolutionising automobile production and ensuring the US was at the forefront of automotive industry for decades. He realised he needed a more efficient way to mass produce cars to cut the costs and the inspiration came from Chicago’s meat packing district and a grain mill conveyor belt. 

He took lessons from the food industry and applied them to manufacturing, introducing a production line to ensure workers spent less time moving around and installed a version of the meatpackers’ overhead trolley for car parts. 

IKEA’s flat pack furniture

Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder, was 17 his father gave him money as a reward for succeeding in his studies. He used it to establish his own business, which now has more than 350 stores in 40-plus countries.  

The idea for flat pack furniture came to Kamprad 13 years after he started the business. One of his first IKEA co-workers removed the legs of the LÖVET table so that it will fit into a car to avoid damage during transit. After the discovery of how convenient the flat pack approach was self-assembly become part of the business’ concept.

The bra

Necessity is the mother of invention and the Caresse Crosby the inventor of the modern bra thought quickly. At the turn of the twentieth century she was attending a ball wearing a corset stiffened with whalebone, which poked out from under her gown. Noticing the problem she called to her maid: “Bring me two of my pocket handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon… And bring the needle and thread and some pins.” She quickly fashioned the material into a simple bra and later patented the invention.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney grew up in an authoritarian household, with his father Roy reportedly regularly administering corrective beatings. Disney’s escape was drawing and it’s here he started to create his own fantasy worlds. After he returned from working with the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in France he started animating and soon he had bootstrapped a company that would evolve into today’s entertainment giant.