World Industries was started in the late eighties by Steve Rocco. He bought the Santa Monica Airlines division of Vision skateboards for $6,000, and started to sell boards. He did alright. Then, after being an asshole to Vision, he got kicked off. So, he decided to show a little pluck and left, for good.
Rocco didn't leave the whole industry, he started his own company. This company was World Industries. They originally called it World Industries SMA, in order to claim a little bit of their former fame, but Vision was angry and made them take it off.
How did he manage to start up a company out of nothing though? It takes a large investment, and a sponsored skater in the 80's didn't have that much disposable income. He got a $20,000 loan from a bookie, that's how. He had to pay back $30,000 in a year, or else he would be broken. Fear is a great motivator, it turns out, and World managed to do alright.
When Rocco left, he made a splash. There weren't any other skater-owned companies then, other than Powell-Peralta, and this was just a small start-up, not a megabrand. Soon, others wanted to do it too. Mark Gonzales left Vision to form Blind (get it, opposite of Vision?) with Jason Lee under World. Even Rodney Mullen started up a little company called the A-Team with them.
Their advertising was completely unconventional. It consisted of exposing the skateboarding industry's secrets rather candidly. This made them seem counterculture, and still got them mainstream exposure. It worked well, but there was still something missing.
Eventually, Rocco got the idea to come up with some reliable characters to put on the bottom of the boards and merchandise. Thus, the birth of Devil Man, and his cohorts, Flameboy and Wet Willy. This helped them break out and finally become the biggest brand out there.
They ruled the scene through the early nineties, and still have a large share of the business, but now a number of skater-owned companies are out there, and World is looking a little tired. Still, they can be remembered as the first to take it away from the corporations only interested in exploiting skating.