The old-fashioned garages are now called innovation labs

Why Do So Many Innovative Companies Start in Garages

The legend of the multibillion dollar company that got its start in a garage is almost a cliché at this point, and has elevated the humble garage to a symbol of grit, determination, and passion. Starting a company out of a garage, a dorm room, or other makeshift officehas become almost a given in the backstory of many famous founders. To Google founders, the garage they worked in was so ingrained in their origin story that they bought the house and garage in question on the company’s 8th anniversary. But why are garages seemingly such a hotbed of innovation and success?

Humble Beginnings are the Norm

It’s a romantic idea: combine the talents of a couple of brilliant people, some hard work and creativity, and a garage, and you have an immensely successful company. But of course, it’s not that simple. The real reason many innovative companies start in garages is because humble beginnings are absolutely normal for new businesses. Every business has to start somewhere. Although many companies now have their genesis in coworking spaces or coffee shops instead of garages, romanticizing the space doesn’t take into consideration that nearly every new company goes through this phase. Venture capitalists and other investors won’t usually take a chance on a startup until they’ve proven themselves, and most startups have to bootstrap for a while before they have a chance at becoming a “unicorn” (valued at over $1 billion in under 10 years).

A Safe and Private Workspace

Garages do more than provide a space for ideas and tinkering. They represent the privacy and opportunity to innovate without oversight, fail without judgement, and develop a business without the pressure to release an unfinished product. With more companies now focused on online business models, having a dedicated space is less important to early success, with many founders working on a more nomadic basis anywhere they can get Internet access. However, that need for uninterrupted brainstorming time is still vital to successful innovation, whenever founders can get it.

The Modern Garage: Innovation Labs

With coworking spaces now commonplace all over the world, innovation labs are also growing in popularity. Innovation labs are today’s garage environment for some entrepreneurs working toward getting their ventures off the ground. Today, the focus of innovation is based on collaboration rather than solitary tinkering, and the agile environment of innovation labs allow founders to collaborate with others and receive feedback in order to hone their business model and products. The goal of these labs is disruption and to work toward meaningful change. While many labs are still working on solidifying their identities, they can be a great place for today’s entrepreneur to get started and explore possibilities.

While many innovation labs find some success in copying the superficial aspects of the garage environment, the truly successful innovation labs are the ones that are able to dig deeper and stimulate the inspiration and ethos behind these garage start-ups. For example, many of the entrepreneurs in these garage start-ups had quit their jobs and allocated most, if not all, of their resources to their start-up companies. This all-or-nothing approach created an intense, yet tremendous momentum propelling the entrepreneurs and their companies forward. With this momentum came immediate action upon uncovering an idea, as opposed to a more laid-back approach to waiting the next day. Those looking to simulate a similar approach need to ensure that they adapt the philosophical approach of garage start-ups, all the while aligning this momentum with the company brand and overall strategy.


The Garage Doesn’t Make the Company

Why do companies become successful? Primarily, the innovation and good sense of their founders (along with sufficient resources and a little bit of luck). Founders drive the creative vision and provide the unique selling proposition for a company, but they must also be skilled at the helm of a business and understand how all the different components work together to create lasting success. We hear so much about the multibillion dollar companies that started in garages because they were successful. However, if we were to take a look at other companies that didn’t succeed, there’s a good chance there is a similar story behind them as well—we just don’t hear about them.

It’s Easier than Ever

Back in the day, when HP and Apple founders were building hardware in their garages, entrepreneurships was, in many ways, much more difficult than it is today. In the Information Age, we have access to resources across borders and oceans, with all the knowledge we need at our fingertips. Thanks to the early work of founders in their garages, we can store, distribute, and learn from data, which is allowing more innovators to bring new companies into the world with fewer resources than their predecessors. Innovation and inspiration are found everywhere now—not just in a few garages scattered around the globe.