The Best And Most Successful Business Partnerships In History

Some people prefer to start a business on their own. Others, however, realize the power of a strong partnership (some sooner than others). Over the years, there have been countless business partnerships that have accomplished big things in their respective industries. Here, we’re going to discuss some of the best business duos of all time. We’ll learn why going into business with a partner worked for these people and how they ultimately found success.

Sheryl Sandberg And Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook

Sandberg and Zuckerberg at an event
Pinterest/oliversegovia
Pinterest/oliversegovia

Sheryl Sandberg wasn’t in the Harvard dorm room when Facebook got its start, but she’s played an integral part in the growth of today’s largest social media platform. While Zuckerberg has been the mastermind behind Facebook since day one, his second in command, Sheryl Sandberg, has had a big hand in the company’s success.

Like many good business partnerships, Sandberg and Zuckerberg have a strong relationship outside of work. For example, Sandberg noted that Zuckerberg was instrumental in her ability to rejoin the company after her husband’s death. “Mark talked to me every day, came over to my house every day and was just there for me and my children — and his wife, Priscilla was — in every way possible.”

Oprah Winfrey And Gayle King: OWN Network

TV personality Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey
John Sciulli/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards
John Sciulli/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards

Most people know who Oprah is. You don’t even have to say the last name. However, just as many have no idea that her long-time friend Gayle King has been such an integral part of her success. They met in 1976 when working for the same television station. Soon enough, Oprah offered King a place to live during a rough patch and the rest is history. They built on their friendship over the years to grow a variety of businesses, including the OWN Network.

To give you an idea of why the duo has been together so long, here’s a quote from Winfrey: “She is the mother I never had. She is the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don’t know a better person.”

Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield: Ben & Jerry’s

ice cream makers Ben Cohen (L) en Jerry Greenfield, founders of the brand, Ben & Jerry's
ADE JOHNSON/AFP via Getty Image
ADE JOHNSON/AFP via Getty Image

Who doesn’t like ice cream? Maybe a better question is who doesn’t like Ben & Jerry’s world-famous ice cream? Ben & Jerry’s was founded in 1978 by childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, with a $12,000 investment. Their first ice cream parlor was situated in a renovated gas station.

While the company was later sold to British-Dutch conglomerate Unilever, its high-quality products and silly flavor names remain a favorite among ice cream lovers throughout the world. Like many partnerships on this list, Cohen and Greenfield understand the importance of giving back, which is why the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was founded in 1985.

Bill Gates And Paul Allen: Microsoft

Microsoft Co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen
© Doug Wilson/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
© Doug Wilson/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Bill Gates and Paul Allen teamed up to create one of the most iconic brands of all time in Microsoft. The company was founded by the duo in 1975, and by the mid-1980s it began to dominate the personal computer operating system market. While there’s no denying the impact the two have had on the software industry, Gates’ own words say it all about their overall vision:

“When Paul Allen and I started Microsoft over 30 years ago, we had big dreams about software. We had dreams about the impact it could have.”

Warren Buffett And Charlie Munger: Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett (L), CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and vice chairman Charlie Munger
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

When it comes to the greatest investors of all time, you don’t have to look any further than Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. While Berkshire Hathaway was founded nearly 200 years ago, and when Buffett assumed control in 1962 things really took a turn for the better.

Although Munger often flies under the radar, he’s been instrumental in the success of Berkshire Hathaway, as he’s served as vice chairman of the company since 1978. “In the 54 years [Charlie and I] have worked together, we have never forgone an attractive purchase because of the macro or political environment, or the views of other people,” said Buffett. “In fact, these subjects never come up when we make decisions.”

Jenn Hyman And Jenny Fleiss: Rent the Runway

Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss attend the Rent the Runway DC store Opening
Kris Connor/Getty Images for Rent The Runway
Kris Connor/Getty Images for Rent The Runway

Rent the Runway may not have the same name recognition or history as many companies on this list, but its founders have achieved great success since meeting each other at Harvard Business School. In addition to being close friends, which can help kick start a business relationship, the pair were able to combine their unique skills to advance the company. Hyman, for example, handled all aspects of sales and marketing during the early days, while Fleiss was in charge of finance.

While they have more help today, it was their complementing talents that helped get the company up and running.

Jerry Yang And David Filo: Yahoo

Yahoo! founders David Filo, left, and Jerry Yang are seen in Santa Clara, California
Eric Sander
Eric Sander

Most people are familiar with the Yahoo brand, but many don’t know how the company got its start. In 1994, while studying at Stanford University, the duo created a website known as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” While the name was corny, the site became a huge hit, with the pair eventually renaming it Yahoo.

Within a year, the two received an investment of $2 million and by 1996 the company went public. Google may be top dog in the search engine game today, but it was Jerry Yang and David Filo who took the internet by storm in 1994 when they launched the first version of Yahoo.

Sergey Brin And Larry Page: Google

Brin and Page
JOKER/Martin Magunia/ullstein bild via Getty Images
JOKER/Martin Magunia/ullstein bild via Getty Images

It’s crazy to think that it’s only been a bit more than 20 years since Sergey Brin and Larry Page launched Google as Ph.D. students at Stanford University. While the two put Google on the map in 1998, it is what they’ve done since that is most impressive.

While Brin and Page are famously tight-lipped about the future of Google, one thing is for sure: both of them appear to have a seat at the table. Not only do they own a combined 14 percent of company shares, but also control 56 percent of the stockholder voting. What started as nothing more than a search engine has grown into one of the world’s most valuable companies.

Bill Bowerman And Phil Knight: Nike

Knight
Pinterest/witnify
Pinterest/witnify

Look down at your feet. Do you have a pair of Nike tennis shoes on? Even if you don’t, there’s a good chance you own a pair. But if it weren’t for the relationship between Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, you’d be wearing a different brand.

Bill Bowerman, the former Oregon University track and field coach, would make his own molds for the shoes he was creating. Soon enough, this led Phil Knight to try out one of his prototypes, and the rest is history. The two would eventually go into business together, forming Nike, which has become one of the most powerful apparel companies in the world. Knight has discussed how Bowerman made him, and others, better people. “If you talk to a lot of Bowerman track men who have been out of school for 20 years, they have a great appreciation for that way of looking at things and for his impact on their lives.” It’s this approach to business that has made Nike a success.

Bill Hewlett And Dave Packard: HP

Hewlitt Packard
Pinterest/ellescreative
Pinterest/ellescreative

Much the same as Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard are responsible for pioneering the computer industry in its early days. But Hewlett-Packard, also known as HP, was founded well before Microsoft. In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard made their partnership official. From there, they got down to business in a rented garage with an initial capital investment of $538.

As one of the greatest duos of all time, this joint quote from Hewlett and Packard sums up their approach to business: “The best business decisions are the most humane decisions. And, all other talents being even, the greatest managers are also the most human managers.”

Steve Jobs And Steve Wozniak: Apple

American businessmen and engineers Steve Jobs (left) and Steve Wozniak
Tom Munnecke/Getty Images
Tom Munnecke/Getty Images

There aren’t many business partnerships that are more well known than the one of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Not only did they build one of the world’s most successful companies when the computer and software industries were changing, but it’s still going strong today.

The mutual respect between the two of them was magic. “Steve Jobs didn’t really set the direction of my Apple I and Apple II designs but he did the more important part of turning them into a product that would change the world,” said Wozniak. “I don’t deny that.”

Orville And Wilbur Wright: Curtiss-Wright

Picture of the Wright Brothers with Orville watching Wilbur take readings outdoors,
Fotosearch/Getty Images
Fotosearch/Getty Images

It’s easy to turn your attention to tech companies when it comes to the most successful business partnerships, but Orville and Wilbur Wright were among the original duos of success. It took quite a few years of development and research, but the Wright brothers’ team eventually met its goal of launching an aircraft in 1903.

Every duo on this list faced a variety of challenges when building their company, with Orville and Wilbur Wright leading the way. When you look back at what they did, it’s easy to see that their special bond was a big part of the birth of the airline industry.

Gordon Moore And Bob Noyce: Intel

Intel founders
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In 1957, Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce set out to start their own company, with it taking on the official name of Intel in 1968. It only took two years for the company to go public, and now, its revenue is north of $70 billion per year.

While Moore and Noyce rode under the radar for most of their career, their leadership style and unique approach to business helped them reach extraordinary heights. “With engineering, I view this year’s failure as next year’s opportunity to try it again,” Moore said. Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as you can so you can make progress rapidly.”

Henry Wells And William G. Fargo: Wells Fargo

Wells-Fargo
yurumazu
yurumazu

It’s not uncommon for a business to pivot multiple times before finding its true calling. You don’t have to look any further than Henry Wells and William G. Fargo to learn this lesson. The duo got together in 1850 to found American Express to capitalize on the growth of the shipping industry in the United States.

However, once the gold rush began in California, they pivoted and began to focus solely on bringing express shipping to the state. That same year, they collectively decided to expand their offerings, which resulted in the bank that millions of people rely on today.

Reed Hastings And Marc Randolph: Netflix

Netflix
George Pimentel/Getty Images for Audi & Ore Huiying/Getty Images for Netflix
George Pimentel/Getty Images for Audi & Ore Huiying/Getty Images for Netflix

Do you remember when Netflix was nothing more than a mail-order DVD subscription service? A lot has changed since then, with the company now one of the leading streaming platforms. None of this would have been possible without the direction of Reed Hastings (right) and Marc Randolph (left).

There are many reasons why this partnership worked, but it was the brutal honesty between the two that helped continually push the company. “The culture at Netflix sprung not from a PowerPoint, not from some manufactured wisdom on paper, but from how Reed and I treated each other — and it was with brutal honesty,” said Marc. As soon as one of us realized the other was right, we’d have this egoless fall-in and recognize, ‘Of course that’s the right solution.’ Culture is not what you say; it’s what you do.”

Mike Krieger And Kevin Systrom: Instagram

Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger (L) and Kevin Systrom are interviewed
Jim Bennett/WireImage
Jim Bennett/WireImage

Remember the guys who built Instagram in two years and subsequently sold it to Facebook for $1 billion? Well, those guys are Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom. Their partnership was synergy at its finest, resulting in one of the biggest success stories the tech industry has ever seen.

Perhaps their key to success was never taking things too seriously. Here’s a quote from Krieger that illustrates their “have fun with it” attitude. “In 2010, the night before we launched ‘Instagram v1’, my co-founder Kevin and I bet on how many people would download the app its first day in the wild.”

Evan Williams And Biz Stone: Twitter

Biz and Evan
Twitter/biz
Twitter/biz

Evan Williams and Biz Stone never saw their friendship coming, but it soon blossomed into something special. Williams was working at Google after his former company, Blogger, was acquired. And soon enough, Williams hired Stone to be part of his team.

Here’s what Stone had to say about the development of their relationship: We started out as rivals but became great friends. We really respected each other. When Evan left [Google for Odeo.com] I was like, ‘What?? You’re Leaving me?’ So I followed him.” They teamed up with Jack Dorsey and Noah Glass, and Twitter was born.

John D. Rockefeller And Henry Flagler: Standard Oil

circa 1918: Three people look under the hood of an automobile
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Many years before the tech boom, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler brought their business acumen together to build Standard Oil.

Despite the fact that Rockefeller was already a rich man, he realized the importance of surrounding himself with those with complementing skills. And that’s where Flagler comes into play. In 1867 they first connected, and three years later they launched Standard Oil Company. With Flagler’s strategic vision guiding the way, Rockefeller had just what he needed to continue to build his wealth.

Pierre Omidyar And Jeffrey Skoll: eBay

 Founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar (L) and producer Jeffrey Skoll attend the 88th Annual Academy Awards
Randy Shropshire/Getty Images
Randy Shropshire/Getty Images

In 1995, eBay was launched online as AuctionWeb. It quickly gained traction, with led founder Pierre Omidyar to hire Jeffrey Skoll as the first president of the company in 1996. It was Skoll who created the business plan the company would follow as it grew into one of the top players in the online retail space.

Their partnership goes a long way in showing that your original choice of a partner is often the best. Here’s what Omidyar has to say about it. “By August of ’96 I had found somebody to help me build the company, to work with as my original partner. That was Jeff Skoll.”

William Procter And James Gamble: Procter & Gamble

Proctor-and-Gamble
Facebook/proctergamble
Facebook/proctergamble

When was the last time you used a Procter & Gamble product at home? Even if you can’t specifically remember, there’s a good chance you’ve used a brand such as Tide, Bounce, or Vicks. William Procter and James Gamble may not have understood just how big their company would eventually grow upon its founding in 1837, but it goes without saying that they’d be proud.

The partnership between Procter and Gamble is a good lesson in what can come when two entrepreneurs trust each other while putting the company’s welfare above their own.