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Start-ups that have shaped our world

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Smartphones, lightning fast search engines and the ability to stream music in an instant: Start-ups have helped define the modern world in more ways than one.

Here, CNBC takes a look at the humble beginnings of some of the planet's biggest companies.


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Technology giant Hewlett Packard's story began in the 1930s. In 1938 Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard began working together out of a rented garage in Palo Alto, California.

The business went on to develop everything from computers and calculators to atomic clocks and printers.

In 2015 the company split into two companies, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.


Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates
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Founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft has gone on to become one of the world's biggest companies, with various versions of its Windows operating systems becoming an integral part of many computers around the world.

According to the company, over 400 million devices are currently using its Windows 10 operating system, while over 1.2 billion people use its Microsoft Office software.


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Founded as Apple Computer in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, the company now known as Apple has become one of the world's most influential.

From its first computer to the iMac, iPod and iPhone, Apple's products have consistently helped to set the standard for innovative technology and sleek, trendsetting design.

Jobs died in 2011.


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According to the company, the roots of eBay can be traced back to Labor Day weekend in 1995, which founder Pierre Omidyar spent at home writing code for a site called AuctionWeb.

By June 1996 AuctionWeb had sold $7.2 million of goods. In September 1997 the company was renamed eBay and in 2015 the business celebrated its 20th anniversary.


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In September 1998, Google filed for incorporation in California, with Larry Page and Sergey Brin – who met at Stanford in 1995 – working out of the above Menlo Park garage.

Almost 20 years later, the reach of Google is vast, with millions of people using its search engine, browser, email service and Android platform every day.

The word 'google' has even entered the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb.


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Mark Zuckerberg and co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin launched Facebook in February 2004.

The site has gone on to become a global phenomenon, enabling people to share everything from photos and life events to status updates.


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On March 21 2006 Jack Dorsey sent out the world's first Tweet.

More than 10 years later, Twitter has become a global conduit for information sharing, used by heads of state, dissidents, the general public and everyone else in between.

As of June 2016, Twitter had around 313 million monthly active users, employed more than 3,800 people and had over 35 offices globally.


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Founded in 2008, Airbnb has become a major player in the so-called 'sharing economy', helping to transform the way people list and book places to stay.

Today, the company says it offers users listings in over 34,000 cities and 191 countries.