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Joel started Browserless in 2017. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: 
Q: How did you get started on Browserless?
It’s a bit of a curvy road in how we got here. Like a lot of businesses out there, browserless was something I stumbled upon while building other things. Kind of like how alchemy was back in the Medieval ages: I was trying to make gold but instead discovered plutonium, if you follow my metaphor.
> Being pushed outside of your comfort zone is when the biggest changes can come about, but getting there is incredibly challenging, so get used to not always being in control!
More specifically I was building a wishlist app for my family to use to create birthdays, weddings and holiday lists. The core idea was to gather items from across the internet into one place, as opposed to the way it works now where a single site pretty much “owns” your list. Anyways, while working on this I ran into frequent issues where certain sites didn’t have any product details available via programmatic means. Most of the time this is pretty easy to work around: you simply “get” the site’s contents and parse out the parts you care about. However, certain sites explicitly don’t have this information in their site’s content. You have to have a web browser actually load the page, execute all the code before the data you care about is even there!
This sounds like a problem most folks will think isn’t really a problem. But, as a developer, I can tell you with pretty good certainty that it still is a problem, and the solutions at the time were extremely costly, don’t work well, and use pretty unsophisticated technology that’s brittle. They were also hard to use for certain cases like pages that required you to login or are only available via your corporate intranet. What I really wanted was a way to control what the browser was doing with high-fidelity, and on-demand (another pitfall with other solutions).
After taking a tough look at what I was building, and the clear lack in the market for a tool I already needed, I decided it was time to pivot into this new business.