What major multinational business evolved from a thesis that was rejected by the founder’s school?

In 1965, Yale University undergraduate Fred Smith wrote a term paper about the passenger route systems used by most airfreight shippers, which he viewed as economically inadequate. Smith wrote of the need for shippers to have a system designed specifically for airfreight that could accommodate time-sensitive shipments such as medicines, computer parts and electronics.

The paper was rejected by his professor who said what it described was not feasible.

Nonetheless, in August of 1971 following a stint in the military, Smith bought controlling interest in Arkansas Aviation Sales, located in Little Rock, Ark. While operating his new firm, Smith identified the tremendous difficulty in getting packages and other airfreight delivered within one to two days.

This dilemma motivated him to do the necessary research for resolving the inefficient distribution system. Thus, the idea for Federal Express was born: a company that revolutionized global business practices and now defines speed and reliability.

The company incorporated in June 1971 and officially began operations on April 17, 1973, with the launch of 14 small aircraft from Memphis International Airport. On that night, Federal Express delivered 186 packages to 25 U.S. cities from Rochester, NY, to Miami, Fla.


During 2012, FedEx (the successor to Federal Express) had 300,000 employees and revenues of $42.7 billion.

Pretty good for an infeasible concept!

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