See if this sounds familiar: An Elon Musk-founded company strikes on an idea ahead of its time and rises to prominence by revolutionizing a basic service. But it's Musk's original small business, and it's one you may have never heard of: Zip2.
Before all the companies with which Musk has become synonymous, from The Boring Company and SpaceX to Tesla and PayPal, there was Zip2, an early online directory that helped users find nearby businesses and provide turn-by-turn directions from a set origin, and allowed small businesses to establish an online presence — all in 1995. Zip2 struck landmark deals with media companies including The New York Times — which were anxious to understand the new thing called the internet. Zip2 was acquired in 1999 by Compaq for more than $300 million.
With all Musk has ventured into since, it's hard to believe his first fortune came by creating an online Yellow Pages. But as a Musk biographer notes of the idea, "Musk often explained the concept through pizza, saying that everyone deserved the right to know the location of their closest pizza parlor and the turn-by turn directions to get there. This may seem obvious today — think Yelp meets Google Maps — but back then not even stoners had dreamed up such a service."
Zip2 provided the young, unknown entrepreneur with ways to test his big ideas and bold management style on the fly. Here are 7 lessons from Musk's first business success.