See How Google, ‘Minecraft,’ Others Got Their Start

Everybody had to start somewhere—even tech luminaries whose websites and platforms have radically altered how we live and work. dug up some early postings by Google CEO Larry Page, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Linux creator Linus Torvalds, all asking for help on their respective projects. Those tiny undertakings eventually snowballed into gargantuan efforts, something that none of the three could have predicted at the time. (The possible exception is Bezos, who refers to his nascent startup as having the potential to “pioneer commerce on the Internet.”)

In addition to Page, Bezos, and Torvalds, also found early emails and forum postings from Pierre Omidyar (who founded eBay), Drew Houston (who started up Dropbox), Jan Koum (who built WhatsApp), Markus Persson (creator of the video game Minecraft), Palmer Luckey (who got lucky with the Oculus Rift VR headset), and Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web).

While the emails and postings differ in tone and intent—Koum is just interested in promoting the then-tiny WhatsApp to a forum, for example, while Larry Page needs some help with a technical problem related to Java—many share some interesting similarities. Whether genuine or not, most of these creators take a self-effacing tone with regard to their creation, describing it (for example) as a “hobby” or “little tool.”

Nearly all of these creators also acknowledge (justifiably) that their respective products are nowhere near done, hinting at a broader ambition. And virtually none (again, with the exception of Bezos) seem to have any idea that their project could change the world in some fundamental way. Let that be an inspiration to any developer toiling away at a small project.

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Image: Markus Persson