Experts say venture capital is a pain in the back. They always advise startups/companies against taking VC money until and unless they really need it. Although external funding is a great tool, it can go wrong at times, and can even backfire. With investors on the board of the startup that you painstakingly brought up spending considerable time and energy, you as a founder may even lose control over it.

At times, investors call the shots, and they even turn down your proposals for “the overall good of the company”. A bad VC can even stop you from experimenting with new things because they cannot afford to see things going wrong, as they always think about great returns.

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While some great startups in the world were built on massive VC money, there are a bunch of them that scaled the heights with self funding. According to an estimate, 84 per cent of high-growth companies are not built with venture capital (only 144 of the 900 fastest growing companies in America (1997-2007) had venture capital). At a time venture capital has become a household name of sorts, it is worth knowing these companies that have made it to the multi-million revenue bracket while taking zero venture capital.


Basecamp is now a familiar name. The firm was started in 1999 as a web designing firm, by erstwhile 37Signals. With the release of Basecamp (a project management app) in 2004, it began its journey to become a software company. Once Basecamp revenue surpassed web design revenue in 2005, the transition was complete. Currently, there are around 15 million accounts on Basecamp. The company is now spread out across 26 different cities around the world.


Zoho is a company from India that has become a role model for startups entrepreneurs in the country. Started in Chennai, Zoho is a comprehensive suite of online productivity, collaboration and business applications for businesses of all sizes. With over thirteen million users, Zoho’s productivity and collaboration applications include e-mail hosting, document management, office suite, project management and more alongside a host of business applications ranging from CRM and campaign management to customer support.

With headquarters in the US, Zoho has offices in London, Tokyo and Beijing, besides Chennai. Zoho has nearly 2,500 employees.

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Shutterstock is a popular name in the media world. It is a provider of high-quality licensed photographs, vectors, illustrations, videos and music to businesses, marketing agencies and media organisations around the world. Working with its growing community of over 70,000 contributors, Shutterstock adds hundreds of thousands of images each week, and currently has more than 50 million images and 2 million video clips available.

Headquartered in New York City, with offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Denver, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, Paris and San Francisco, Shutterstock has customers in more than 150 countries. The company also owns Bigstock, a value-oriented stock media provider; Offset, a high-end image collection; PremiumBeat a curated royalty-free music library; Rex Features, a premier source of editorial images for the world’s media; Skillfeed, an online marketplace for learning; and WebDAM, a cloud-based digital asset management service for businesses.


Esri (acronym for Environmental Systems Research Institute) is an international supplier of Geographic Information System (GIS) software, web GIS and geo-database management applications. Headquartered in California, Esri has over 40 per cent of the global market share. The company has 10 regional offices in the US and a network of 80 international distributors, with about a million users in 200 countries. The firm has 3,000 employees in the US, and is still privately held by the founders. Esri’s annual revenue is indicated to be US$1.2 billion from 300,000 customers.

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Started in 2008, WooThemes is an international team of designers, developers, support ninjas and marketing people, catering for a passionate and constantly growing community of hundreds of thousands of users. It offers a range of themes and plugins to extend WordPress experiences, including WooCommerce, an e-commerce solution that gives both store owners and developers complete control.

WooCommerce powers over 25 per cent of all online stores numbering 600,000-plus. Its app has 7 million downloads to its credit and has more than 55 people across 19 countries working for it.

Campaign Monitor

Launched in 2004 by Ben Richardson and David Greiner in their last year of university, Campaign Monitor was originally started as a web design company. As time passed and the business grew, more clients were approaching them to manage their website and e-mail marketing. That’s when the company launched e-mail marketing software.

Today more than 120,000 designers, agencies and amazing companies of all sizes use Campaign Monitor to manage their e-mail marketing. On any given week, it adds more than 5,000 new customers to this list. The firm currently has 117 staff, over 120,000 paying customers, and over a billion e-mails are sent a month.

Image credits: chrisdorney/Shutterstock