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These are all brick-and-mortar companies that were built around a single product (electricity, telephone, railways, airlines, dairy roll-up) and later expanded by merging with competitors or expanding into related fields. You can also add P&G, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, and many more.

In each and every case, these companies delivered a product or service in exchange for the customer's cash. This is the key distinguishing factor between companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, who deserve to belong on that list, and companies like your hyped SV unicorn that has no business model besides "eventually we'll introduce ads".

"If we don't want to look like we are harvesting data for ad networks, we'll just sell to Google."

If someone wanted to start a company with a definite product (not ads), maybe even a brick and mortar product, how does the process differ with starting a garden-variety startup?

It doesn't, really. It's just that these companies tend to draw more modest valuations, generating a more subdued kind of excitement. Forbes just wrote about how VCs should invest more in B2C startups [1]. A different piece from CB Insights last year [2] argues the same point. There are some VCs who specialize in B2C stuff, Maveron [3] being notable on the West Coast. Mostly, though, this capital does not concentrate in a small area like SV.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrismyers/2017/01/09/why-entrep... [2] https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/vc-investing-in-consumer-goo... [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maveron

Conventional wisdom says you should only go with VC money if you have a rapid scaling step that requires astronomical burn rates while you capture market share. Usually rapid scaling like that comes from some sort of network effect (you will switch to facebook because everyone you know is).

Brick and mortar products are less likely to have this property than social-network-of-the-month, so the process can be very different.

Chinese can rip it off, or one of the big players just subsumes your idea in some way. Or it ends up trivialized as "as seen on tv"

What about Tesla, SpaceX and even Airbnb. Shouldn't those be allowed on the list as well? They have very clear business models and don't have to get acquired by anybody and are providing tremendous value.

Absolutely. Would you put companies like Facebook, Twitter, or companies that may struggle to fix unit economics like Uber or Lyft on this list?

I want to know your bookmarking methods because you clearly have it figured out :P

If that is bookmarking I'd be surprised. I'd bet it's instead the `site:` search modifier on Google.

I used HN search, through Algolia.

Wow, you are really good at HN - Thanks for this. :)

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