The individual thirteen colonies were founded for many different reasons; however, chief among these reasons were commercial interests (money) and religious freedom. The thirteen colonies (collectively called the “New World”) were a major source of natural resources such as timber and tobacco. Virginia (the first colony, founded in 1607), Georgia, and the Carolinas (which only later split into two states) especially were founded with profit in mind.
Other specific colonies were founded for purposes relating to religious freedom. In England, all residents had to pay a small contribution to the Church of England (established in the sixteenth century by Henry VIII). Massachusetts, for example, was founded by Protestant sects (though they themselves became intolerant). Rhode Island became a haven for Baptists and Quakers, Maryland for Catholics, and Pennsylvania for Quakers.
Finally, indentured servitude is another reason why some individuals came to the colonies. Thus another purpose the colonies themselves served was as quasi-penal colonies, though this is a comparatively minor cause.