TV was in its infancy when 20th Century Fox branched out into the medium in 1949. Over the years, the company, which is a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, has produced some of America's most popular and enduring shows, from The Simpsons and M*A*S*H to The X-Files, Glee and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The world's second-largest pizza chain traces its history back to 1960, when brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought the DomiNick's pizza parlour in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The siblings changed the chain's name to Domino's in 1965 and oversaw the company's global expansion, pioneering home pizza delivery. Today Domino's has 16,500 outlets in more than 85 countries.
Retailer Sam Walton opened his first Walmart Discount Store in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas, and the rest is history. The world's largest company by revenue, Walmart turned over a staggering $514.4 billion (£393.8bn) in 2019. The company is the planet's biggest private employer, with a total of 2.2 million staff around the world.
The company that revolutionised cinema sound and consumer audio devices was founded in London in May 1965 by American engineer Ray Dolby. The firm decamped to the States and set up in San Francisco in 1967, and began selling its audio technologies to the movie industry. In 2019, Dolby Laboratories reported revenues of $1.24 billion (£949m).
Eager to steal a chunk of the market dominated by the BankAmericard, which would later become Visa, a consortium of California banks teamed up in 1966 to create the precursor to MasterCard, which was called 'Master Charge: The Interbank Card'. MasterCard is now the second most-popular credit card company in the world after Visa, with a total of 231 million cardholders worldwide.
The world's biggest low-cost airline was founded in 1967 by entrepreneurs Rollin King and Herb Kelleher, who restricted the airline's operations within the state of Texas to avoid adhering to federal price controls and undercut the competitors. This cost-cutting ethos has enabled Southwest to expand considerably over the years. By 2014, it carried the most domestic passengers of any American airline, a title it holds today.
Husband and wife entrepreneurial team Donald and Doris Fisher opened the first Gap store in 1969 on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. The store began by selling Levi's jeans and vinyl records, and started producing its own clothing line in 1974. By the 1990s, The Gap was one of the most popular clothing brands in the world. The company turned over $16.3 billion (£12.5bn) in 2019.
Starbucks coffeehouses are ubiquitous these days, but the firm had very humble beginnings. The first Starbucks was opened by University of San Francisco grads Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl in 1971 in Seattle, and just sold coffee beans. This all changed when Howard Schultz came on board who, inspired by Italian coffee culture, turned Starbucks' coffee shops into the social meeting places we know today when he bought the chain in 1987. Fast forward to 2019 and Starbucks has 31,256 outlets worldwide generating an annual turnover of $26.51 billion (£20.3bn).
Now read about Howard Schultz, the Starbucks billionaire
The trailblazing gaming firm that brought the world the classic Pong game and Atari 2600 console was founded in California in 1972 by Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushell, who went on to establish the Chuck E. Cheese's chain of restaurants. The company, which was split following the video game crash of 1983, was bought by Hasbro Interactive in 1998 and later sold on to French software company Infogrames Entertainment in 2000. While the business filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013, with the help of former CEO Frédéric Chesnais's holding company Ker Ventures, Atari managed to exit bankruptcy in the same year.
One of the first companies to market sustainable clothing, outdoor apparel firm Patagonia was established in 1973 by American rock climber and environmentalist Yvon Chouinard. The business, which is reported to have made $1 billion (£768m) in revenue in 2017 according to Inc Magazine, is fiercely proud of its eco credentials and considers itself an 'activist company'. In fact, in 2002 Chouinard launched 1% for the Planet, an initiative where businesses (including Patagonia) pledge to give 1% of their sales back to the environment.
Retailer Amancio Ortega opened the first Zara store in 1974 in A Coruña in northwest Spain, calling it Zorba after 'Zorba the Greek', before changing the name to Zara. The company, which is renowned for producing fast-fashion lookalikes of designer clothing, has a total of 7,486 (as of October 2019) stores worldwide and annual revenues of $21.5 billion (£16.5bn).
The world's leading software company was founded by childhood buddies Bill Gates and Paul Allen back in April 1974 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. By the mid-1980s, Microsoft was the major player in the PC operating system market. Today the firm is reporting record-breaking results, seeing more than $125 billion (£96bn) in revenue in 2019. In April of the same year the business became the third American company to hit a $1 trillion (£768bn) market cap.
Almost a year to the day after Microsoft was founded, Apple was established by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. The company was a success from the get-go, going public as early as 1980, and its product range, which includes the iPhone, Mac and Apple Watch, has helped make Apple the world's most moneyed enterprise. Apple was the first American company to be valued at $1 trillion (£768bn) in 2018.
America's premier lingerie company, which is famous for its extravagant fashion shows and Angel supermodels, came into being in June 1977 when founders Roy and Gaye Raymond opened their first store in a shopping mall in Palo Alto, California. The company now has thousands of stores worldwide and turns over billions of dollars a year. However, it cancelled its annual televised fashion show in 2019 and in February this year there have been reports that L Brands is about to close a deal on selling the bra business to private equity firm Sycamore Partners.
Italy's flashiest fashion house was established in 1978 when company founder Gianni Versace opened his first store on Milan's Via della Spiga. The brand exploded in the mid-1990s after actress Elizabeth Hurley was photographed wearing the label's iconic safety pin dress. The brand was bought by Capri Holdings Ltd. at the end of 2018 for $2.2 billion (£1.7bn), and an expansion plan is in place as it aims to double Versace's annual sales figures. At that time 188 Versace stores existed, but Capri hopes to see 300 of the designer stores open by 2022.
Organic food was the preserve of die-hard hippies when Whole Foods opened its first store in 1980 in Austin, Texas. During the 1980s, the firm established itself as America's largest retailer of organic food, and can be credited with bringing natural, organic foods into the mainstream. Whole Foods Market was acquired by Amazon for $13.4 billion (£10.3bn) in 2017, and has more than 500 stores worldwide.
AOL traces it roots back to 1983 when entrepreneur William von Meister (pictured) founded Control Video Corporation, an online service for Atari. In 1989, the firm changed its name to America Online and went on to pioneer the use of the internet in American homes during the 1990s, before it lost the bulk of its market share as result of the switch from dial-up to broadband. AOL was bought by Time Warner in 2000 for $165 billion, but after a difficult run the businesses parted ways in 2009. In 2015 AOL was acquired by Verizon Communications for $4.4 billion (£3.4bn).
In February 1984, Michael Dell, who was just 19 at the time, founded his eponymous computer hardware company in Austin, Texas, using a $1,000 investment courtesy of his parents. The firm produced its first PC in 1985 and hasn't looked back. Today, Dell has a total of 157,000 employees and turned over $90.6 billion (£69.5bn) in 2019.
The largest alternative investment company on the planet, Blackstone was set up in 1985 by parters Stephen A. Schwarzman and Peter G. Peterson, along with Richard Bennett, using $400,000 in seed capital. The New York-based firm was one of the first private equity companies to go public and has total assets exceeding $554 billion (£425bn) as of October 2019.
Chinese networking and telecoms giant Huawei was founded in 1987 in the city of Shenzhen by Ren Zhengfei (pictured), who cut his teeth as an engineer in the People's Liberation Army. The company expanded internationally in the late 1990s, and today Huawei is the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. However, it is not without controversy due to its founder’s political past and accusations of breaching US sanctions against Iran. Despite this the firm reported record revenues of $122 billion (£93.8bn) in 2019.
Read more about Huawei, the controversial Chinese company behind 5G
SanDisk was founded in California in 1988 by Jack Yuan, Eli Harari and Sanjay Mehrotra. The company, which was bought in 2016 by competitor Western Digital for a cool $19 billion (£14.6bn), pioneered the use of semiconductor-based data storage and is one of the world's leading manufacturers of flash memory, which retains data without a power supply.
The GPS company was established in 1989 by engineers Gary Burrell and Min Kao in Lenexa, Kansas, and started out supplying GPS devices to the US military, eventually cornering the consumer market in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, Garmin has more than 10,000 employees and turned over $3.3 billion (£2.5bn) in 2018.
The world's third-largest entertainment company was created in January 1990 following the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications. The firm, which owns HBO, Warner Bros. and more, was acquired by AT&T in 2019, for a whopping $100 billion (£76.8bn).
Storage and data management company NetApp was established in 1992 by James Lau, David Hitz and Michael Malcolm. The firm managed to survive the dot.com bubble of the late 1990s and early 2000s and has flourished ever since. Today, NetApp turned over $6.15 billion (£4.7bn) in 2019, and has 10,500 employees.
The tech company, which is renowned for manufacturing top-quality graphic processing units, was founded in April 1993 by microprocessor designer Jensen Huang, and engineers Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem, with funding provided by Sequoia Capital. These days, Nvidia, which is branching out into artificial intelligence, had revenues of $11.72 billion (£9bn) in 2019.
Desperate to get involved in the internet business boom of the 1990s, Jeff Bezos set up online retailer Cadabra in 1994, changing its name to Amazon.com not long after. The retailer, which started out just selling books, is now the world's largest internet company and turned over a mind-boggling $232.9 billion (£178.8bn) in 2019. It was also the second American business to reach a $1 trillion (£768bn) valuation in 2018. The business has made its founder Bezos the richest man in the world, with a current net worth of $130.7 billion (£100.3bn).
Now read the strange facts you didn't know about Amazon
The world's leading online marketplace was founded in 1995 as the AuctionWeb by California-based entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar (pictured). The business experienced phenomenal growth during the 1990s and became known as eBay from 1997. In 2019, eBay turned over $2.8 billion (£2bn) and has 13,300 staff in its employ.
Alexa is the best-known web traffic and analytics company in the world. The firm was established in San Francisco in April 1996 by entrepreneurs Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat, who named their business after the Library of Alexandria in Ancient Egypt, and lucked out big-time in 1999 when Amazon bought their business for $250 million in stock. The online archive now shares its name with the company's home voice assistant Alexa that it launched in 2014, but the two are otherwise unrelated.
Back in 1997, most people were still renting movies from Blockbuster and similar video and DVD rental stores when Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded Netflix in the August of that year. Netflix pioneered DVD rental by mail before it moved into streaming media. Nowadays, the company dominates the ever-growing streaming sector and has expanded into movie and TV production. It reported revenues of $20.16 billion (£15.5bn) in 2019.
Read more about Netflix's journey to global domination
The search engine colossus was established in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were PhD students at California's Stanford University, with funding provided by several investors including Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Stanford University professor David Cheriton. The firm, which didn't waste any time dominating the search engine market, became the fourth American company to reach a market cap of $1 trillion (£768bn) in January 2020.
China's answer to eBay and Amazon, Alibaba was founded by Jack Ma (pictured standing) in 1999 in his apartment in Hangzhou as a business-to-business portal hooking up Chinese manufacturers with buyers in the west. Now the world's third-largest retailer, Alibaba enjoyed spectacular growth in the 2000s and 2010s, and reported its best results yet in 2019 when it generated revenues of $56.2 billion (£43.1bn). However, 2019 also saw founder Jack Ma step down from the role of CEO.
Google may dominate the search engine market in the western world, but Baidu is number one in China. The firm, which was launched in a Beijing hotel room in 2000 by internet entrepreneurs Robin Li and Eric Xu, is now the second-largest search engine on the planet with a turnover of $14.9 billion (£11.4bn) in 2018.