From coffee to platforms: four global businesses that were born in crisis contexts

Outside of all romanticism, it is true that economic adversity makes starting new businesses more complicated. But in no way make them impossible.

For inspiration, there are four global success stories that prove it.

Nescafé and the stock market crash

In Argentina, seven out of 10 people start the day with a coffee, according to a study carried out by the Argentine Chamber of Coffee in collaboration with the firm The Brand Bean. And in that product category, instant or soluble coffee represents more than 50 percent of consumption.

Nescafé, the brand of the Swiss giant Nestlé that leads the business, was the one who created the product in 1929, in the context of one of the longest economic crises in history: the so-called Great American Depression, triggered since the stock market crash. Wall Street in that year.

The company itself relates on its website that it was in 1929 when Nestlé was presented, at the request of the Brazilian government (the neighboring country is still the world’s largest coffee producer today), the challenge of helping to conserve surplus coffee beans to root of Wall Street crash.

Max Morgenthaler, the company’s coffee specialist, worked for a long time to develop a coffee powder that could be prepared simply by adding water, and retaining its flavor and properties.

In 1938 Nescafé was launched in Switzerland. World War II began in 1939 and aborted what was to be a great success. But during the war, Nescafé became a staple in food rations for American forces. At the end of the war, it was exported to Europe and the United States.

Airbnb, “startup” in full bubble

More than seven million properties of different types in more than 100,000 cities in 220 countries and regions of the world offer Airbnb, the platform that facilitates the rental of accommodation.

It was founded by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk in San Francisco (United States), at the start of the strong economic crisis of 2008.

The idea came about a year earlier, when following a conference in that city, Brian and Joe’s apartment rent went up 25 percent in one day.

Both decided to create a platform for attendees to get cheaper alternatives than hotels.

In 2008, and to take advantage of the Democratic Party convention that took place that summer, in which former US President Barack Obama was elected candidate, they launched an overcoming version of the hosting website. The start was good, but not enough to get the financing that his startup required.

So they devised an original series of cereal boxes with the faces of Obama and McCain that they sent to journalists and put up for sale. on line. The curious move gave them press and allowed them to be the target of news in the media like CNN.

With that, they raised funds and Airbnb attracted strong investors to boost its global growth.

Monopoly: game against the Great Depression

Monopoly (or Monopoly in Spanish), the board game that when used by more than 500 million people became the most played in the world – it came to the Guinness book – is also the son of the crisis.

Charles Darrow, a heater salesman who was part of the large group of unemployed in the United States during 1935 (the time of the Great Depression), was the one who patented it under the name of Monopoly that year.

However, the real creator of entertainment had been Elizabeth Magie, who in 1903 devised it as a playful way of teaching the oppression to which land workers were subjected by the owners.

In 1904 he patented it as The Landlord’s Game, but some time later other versions multiplied in the United States, and one of them was Darrow’s.

The merchant managed to sell it to the Parker Brothers company, now part of the multinational Hasbro. As of 2015, it had sold 275 million copies in 43 languages ​​across 111 countries.

Nutella, a replacement that was a worldwide success

The Ferrero Internacional SA, the parent company of the Ferrero Group, closed the last reported year (during 2019) with a turnover of 10.7 billion euros (almost 12 billion dollars), 94 companies throughout the world and 25 factories in operation.

Among its products, present in 170 countries, those that led the 2.1 percent year-on-year growth it achieved were: Nutella, Ferrero Rocher, Kinder Joy, Kinder Bueno and Kinder Chocolate.

The Second World War was the birth context of Nutella, the hazelnut paste, sugar and a small amount of cocoa that Pietro Ferrero devised, the Italian pastry chef who formally started the company in 1946.

The trigger? The shortage in the supply of cocoa after the war.

Looking for an alternative, Ferrero created the sweet paste that can be spread and sliced, and which until today is a success.