9 Small inventions that made a big fortune

Small inventions that made millions

Most of us, at some point in our lives, have dreamed of inventing something – an invention that would change the world. But every time they come up with something incredibly clever, they find that it actually already exists. Does this sound familiar?

However, there are some inventions that break this barrier and change the lives of people around the world. And these world-changing inventions are not just big things we often talk about, like the computer, the car or the train. It can also be the very small things that they use every day without thinking about it – or about the inventor behind it.


This invention takes us back to 1844. Although matches probably evoke images of American cowboys and the Wild West, their story takes us to the Swedish mountains.

So, who is this Swede who invented the matchstick? It's a tricky question: the idea man behind the match, Gustav Pasch, didn't make as much as you'd think because he didn't have the resources to develop them himself.

Instead, the brothers Carl Frans and Johan Edvard Lundstrøm stole the invention. And it meant that Gustav Pasch didn't make a dime, while the brothers took the whole cake for themselves. Today the company is called Swedish Match and is the largest match manufacturer in the world with annual sales of more than 1 billion USD.

So Gustav really missed out on a good chunk of money.

So if they can't invent a revolutionary idea themselves, you can always do what these brothers did – steal, steal, steal.

The BIC pen

Oh, surely this is the pen we all love. This is not an invention we take for granted today! And the Hungarian inventor Lazlo Biro thought so too. In the 1940s, the very delicate but prestigious fountain pen was at the height of its popularity, and Biro couldn't keep his idea of making a cheap ballpoint pen that was disposable to himself for long. The invention made most people in Europe bounce off the walls with excitement!

The cheaper ballpoint pen made Laszlo Biro one of the richest men in Europe. After more than a century, the company achieved an annual turnover of 1 billion USD.

There is nothing more to say about the disposable ballpoint pen than that sales are growing exponentially and in 2005 over 100 billion pens were sold!

Plastic and ink will get you pretty far!

Paper clips

The small paper clip has immense potential: despite its size, it can hold a thick stack of paper together, and no office can be found today without a collection of paper clips. However, the paper clip existed long before modern office buildings and we can trace it back to the 1890s in England.

Whether it had the same purpose at that time is not known. But one thing is certain: with annual profits of more than $75 million, the paper clip can certainly do unique things!

Ice cube bag

No party without ice cubes – this should be the first entry in the party rulebook. Ice cube trays are just too impractical, unless you have a huge freezer where they can be placed at the right angle, without vegetable bags, meat or other frozen products in the trays.

The solution: The ice cube bag.

You'd think this invention was made in sunny Mediterranean countries where ice cubes are as important as sunscreen. But in fact we have to go north to locate the inventor.

Dane Erling Nielsen is the man behind the idea of ice cube bags, which originated in 1976. The first bags were sold in 1978 and only 10 years later the success was not to be missed. In 1989, a company called Schur acquired all the rights to the handy pouches, and today more than 4 million of the kind have been sold.

We're not sure how much the Dane was able to make from the ice cube bags, but a zero in the check probably isn't enough!


The little pill with big powers. We can assure them that they have heard of this type of drug – even though today on the calendar is 2019 and the chemical was first produced back in 1853. When Frenchman Charles Gerhart discovered acetylsalicylic acid, he didn't realize how great an invention he was looking at!

It wasn't until 1989 that Bayer, a major pharmaceutical company, discovered that the chemical was pain-relieving. So this happened many years after Gerhard was long gone from us.

There is no doubt that this pill would have been just the right invention if you wanted to make some money – and pain-free at the same time!

The tiny chocolate balls must be one of the most delicious things in the world, and they have managed to make a tidy sum of money.

These tiny, colorful bandits are among the best-selling candies – and for the company Mars Inc., that invented the M&Ms, they brought great success.

And that's saying a lot when the competitors are treats like Snickers, Twix and Milky Way.

American inventor Forrest Mars is no longer with us, but each of his three children is worth about $14 billion, and they still own the company, which generates annual profits of $22 billion. Their bank accounts come very close to what we might call bottomless.

Tetra Pak

We're not sure if Tetra Pak is familiar to your ears, but if you've ever drunk milk from a carton, you can thank Tetra Pak.

We travel back to the Swedish countryside once again to track down an inventor. In 1944, Erik Wallenberg of Sweden had a great idea. Unfortunately, he was just a small cog in a big machine, namely the Åkerlund & Rausing company, which later changed its name to Tetra Laval.

So it wasn't Erik Wallenberg who made billions with the smart milk storage product. The Rausings deposit the money into their account.

We don't know if Swedes like to be scammed or if they are just sneaky, but we can see a pattern with the blue and yellow Swedes.


If you are reading this on your work PC, you may find yourself staring at a yellow Post-It. In fact, it's work computers that have these little yellow notes hanging on them, reminding us of things we haven't done yet.

Sticky notes were developed in 1974 and were mainly a coincidence.

While trying to invent superglue, Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver discovered the sticky piece of paper.

Silver invented the glue and Fry squirted it onto a piece of paper: voila, the Post-It became a reality.

We don't know exactly how much money it made sticky note, but the company behind it makes a profit of $21 billion a year – and although it also owns Scotch Tape, they have proclaimed that they made most of their income through the little piece of paper with the weak adhesive.

It's as simple as that – something that seems completely silly can be life-changing for both them and the rest of the world!

LEGO bricks

Hard to believe, but we saved the best for last.

The next invention is indeed one of the most famous brands in the world – and we absolutely understand that!

The block that changed gaming forever: the LEGO block. The tiny plastic block that can be stacked to make large monuments, giant ships, etc. to build, is today the sixth most famous brand in the world and is surpassed only by gigantic brands such as Coca Cola and Disney.

The Danish family behind the toy has today a fortune of more than 7 billion USD.

Even if the blocks date back to the 1950s, their popularity is increasing every year and there aren't many homes these days where you don't have to worry about stepping on the little toy pieces.

And that was it! 9 small inventions that take up more of daily life than expected and have managed to bring in large amounts of banknotes.

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