It may seem irresponsible to start a business during a recession or even worse, a depression. History has shown that it can actually work for you. The reasons vary, but the fact is there is less competition during tough times and there are many new unforeseen opportunities that arise from changing needs and desires. Here are some household names that got their start during an economic downturn. Netflix – was founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings as a DVD rent by mail business.