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4 big-name companies that sprang from inventors solving a humble problem

Posted by Shivali Anand

August 4, 2021    |     3-minute read (606 words)

Some of today's most well-known technologies were developed by regular people in response to everyday issues. Check out these innovators' stories if you're searching for motivation to establish a business that will help solve a problem.

  1. George de Mestral, inventor of Velcro
During a hunting trip in the French countryside, George de Mestral observed that he and his dog were covered with burrs. De Mestral, a long-time science enthusiast, examined the burrs under a microscope to see what made them so capable of adhering. He discovered that they were made up of tiny hooks that allowed them to stick to fibers.

De Mestral saw a need for a solution to clothing closures that couldn't be solved with existing fasteners like zippers and buttons. So he set out to make a product that allowed hooks and loops to cling together in the same way as burrs do.

De Mestral successfully converted a problem into a solution, naming his firm "Velcro" to blend the words "velvet" and "crochet.” His invention has survived for many years following his burr problem in 1941.

  1. Martin Cooper, inventor of the mobile phone
Although AT&T's Bell Labs pioneered the concept of transferring calls from one cell to another without disconnecting the call, the firm originally used the technology to build vehicle phones. Martin Cooper, a researcher at AT&T competitor Motorola, attempted to transfer that technology to a mobile version, resulting in the invention of the portable cell phone.

Anyone who remembers when only landlines were accessible may see the difficulty Cooper was trying to tackle. "People who want to chat on the phone have been limited for 100 years by being wired to their workstations or in their homes," he later told CNN.

In 1973, Cooper made the first public cell phone call on the streets of New York City after three months of development on the prototype. That phone, which weighed roughly 2 pounds and had a 30-minute talk time battery, eventually developed into the tiny smartphones we use today.

  1. George Eastman, inventor of the camera
Thanks to the smartphone's magic, virtually everyone now has a portable camera with them at all times. However, because modern photographic equipment was expensive and bulky in the 1800s, most individuals did not have access to a camera.

George Eastman was a bookkeeper at the Rochester Savings Bank in upstate New York in 1878. Eastman had planned to travel overseas and purchased photographic equipment for the trip but found it too large and heavy to carry with him. Following his return, Eastman began developing a system that would allow individuals to take cameras with them wherever they went.

In 1880, he was successful enough in his business that he left his day job By 1900, he had invented the Brownie camera, which cost a dollar and allowed anybody, including service members, children and families, to snap photographs wherever they went.

Eastman might not have recognized the difficulty of bulky photographic equipment if he hadn't been interested in recording his journey overseas.

  1. Sara Blakely, inventor of Spanx
In 1998, Sara Blakely was getting ready for a party when she discovered her outfit of white trousers and ordinary underwear was inappropriate. Blakely cut a pair of control-top pantyhose in half with a pair of scissors for a more suitable undergarment, and Spanx was created.

With her Atlanta-based company, Sara has become one of the world's youngest self-made female millionaires. Spanx products are sold in more than 50 different nations. According to Forbes, Blakely reportedly converted her $5,000 investment into a net worth of $610 million in 2020 by addressing a fundamental, relatable problem.

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