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创业传奇:Zipcar创始人转战新市场

Dinah Eng 2012年12月06日

她是三个孩子的母亲,创业前完全没有汽车行业的从业经验,但却从自己的生活经历中汲取灵感,创办了全球领先的汽车共享网络。公司发展如日中天之时,她又急流勇退,再次踏上创业的征程。

    下面就是Zipcar的运作理念。客户可以在线或通过电话预定在某个时段使用某辆车。预定信息通过无线网络发送到汽车上。Zipcar会员可通过会员卡打开预定的汽车。用完之后,用户将汽车返还公司,在将其锁好后,计费便会停止。办理租车仅需要30秒钟便可完成,而且只有承租人可以使用汽车。所以,Zipcar的服务完全是一种自助且自主的服务,瞬间便可完成。

    有了这个想法之后,我们便决定成立一家公司。安特耶的工作是负责汽车技术和联系租车公司。我则负责融资、建设网站、营销、设计支付系统和其他事务。

    首先,我起草了一份商业计划书。1999年12月,我们便去拜访MIT斯隆管理学院(Sloan School)院长格兰•厄本。他曾在汽车制造业从事过营销工作。他认为Zipcar是个好主意,但他说我们需要筹措两倍的资金,将发展速度加快一倍,而且要立即行动。

    接下来三天,我一直在家里思考一个问题:我真的想干这件事吗?我12岁的女儿问我:“发生什么事了?”她曾经跟我聊过联合国儿童基金会(Unicef),我告诉她,我在犹豫是否应该把大把时间花在这家公司,因为这意味着我将不得不减少与家人在一起的时间。她问:“那这是不是意味着,你会很有钱,可以给联合国儿童基金会捐更多钱,拯救更多儿童?”我说没错。她说:“那就干吧。”

    于是,在2000年1月,我们注册成立了公司。到2000年6月,开业当天,我筹得75,000美元,并购买了四辆汽车。其中第一批50,000美元投资来自我在斯隆管理学院的同学珍•哈蒙德(信息技术公司Quarry Technologies与IT服务公司AXON Networks创始人),她是我同学中的首位百万富翁。

    我一直努力说服的一位天使投资人在最后一刻提供了剩下的25,000美元资金。离公司开业还有三天的时候,我们的银行账户只剩下67美元,只有一辆用作β测试的汽车,而购车首付款则以我的房子作为抵押。然而,租车公司突然通知我们,剩下三辆车每一辆必须支付7,000美元首付款。我当时正在公司开业典礼上,胡安•安立奎斯(目前为投资公司Excel Medical Ventures执行董事)走到我面前对我说:“我能为你做些什么?”我说:“明天上午之前,我需要搞到25,000美元。”他说:“没问题。”

    我每周在备用卧室里工作100个小时,但却乐在其中。2000年9月,我丈夫从语音及语言解决方案供应商Lernout & Hauspie辞掉了软件开发总监的工作,成为Zipcar的首席技术官。但他在Zipcar只领半薪,而且我们完全互换了角色。他成了照看孩子的主力,而且,虽然他在Zipcar做的是全职工作,但我却只能给他半薪。Zipcar成立的第一年,我自己没有工资。那年秋天,安特耶又有了一个孩子。2001年1月,回来工作后不久,她便决定离开。我们在第一年便实现了收支平衡。从公司成立伊始,Zipcar每月都以7%至12%的幅度增长。首轮融资,我们获得了130万美元投资。于是,我们产生了向其他城市扩张的想法。当时投资者们认为,Zipcar在波士顿能大获成功,并不代表其理念一定会成功。

    2001年秋,我通过兑现券融资200万美元,然后在华盛顿特区成立了分公司,因为当地许多市民都希望共用汽车。2001年9月底,整个旅游业因为911事件的影响一片惨淡,而Zipcar却继续保持增长势头。我们证明了Zipcar并非毫无节制的奢侈浪费。我们是一项公共事业.2002年2月,Zipcar进入纽约市。

    Here's how Zipcar works. You make a car reservation online or by phone for a specific car at a specific time. That information gets sent to the car wirelessly. The Zipcar member uses his card to open the car. After driving it, he returns it and locks it, and the billing is done. The rental transaction takes 30 seconds, and the car opens only to the renter. So it's self-service, autonomous, and takes only a few seconds.

    With that idea, we decided to form a company. Antje's job was to deal with vehicle technology and get hold of the car leases. I did the fundraising, building the website, marketing, designing a payment system, and everything else.

    After I wrote a business plan, we went to see Glen Urban, who was the dean at MIT's Sloan School in December 1999. He had worked in marketing with car manufacturers and said Zipcar was a brilliant idea. He told us we'd need to raise twice as much money, move twice as fast, and get right on it.

    I wandered around the house for the next three days thinking, Do I really want to do this? My 12-year-old daughter asked, "What's going on?" She and I had been talking about Unicef, and I said I needed to decide whether I want to devote time to this company on a big scale, which would mean less time with the family. She asked, "So does this mean you could become rich and could give more money to Unicef and save lots of children's lives?" I said yes. She said, "Do it."

    So in January 2000 we incorporated. I had raised $75,000 by the day we launched with four cars in June 2000. The first $50,000 came from Jean Hammond, a Sloan classmate (founder of Quarry Technologies and AXON Networks), who was the first millionaire among us.

    The remaining $25,000 came at the last minute from an angel investor I'd been working on. Three days before launch, we had $67 in the bank and one car we had bought -- with my house as a down payment -- to use as a beta-test car. Out of the blue, the leasing company wanted a $7,000 down payment for each of the three other cars in the fleet. I was at a startup launch party, and Juan Enriquez (now managing director of Excel Medical Ventures) came up to me and said, "What can I do for you?" I said, "I need $25,000 by tomorrow morning," and he said, "Done."

    I was working out of our spare bedroom doing 100-hour workweeks, but it was a joy. In September 2000, my husband quit his job as director of software development for Lernout & Hauspie, and became the company's CTO. He was on Zipcar's payroll only half-time, and we reversed roles. He became the primary child caretaker, and while I paid him half-time, he actually worked full-time. For the first year of Zipcar, I didn't pay myself. Antje had a child that fall, and after coming back to work, she decided to leave in January 2001.

    So I raised $2 million on a convertible note in the fall of 2001, and we launched next in Washington, D.C., because there was a group of citizens who wanted car sharing there. When we closed the books for September 2001, the entire travel industry had come to a halt because of 9/11, but Zipcar continued to grow month over month. We proved that we weren't a luxury, discretionary spend. We were a utility, and in February 2002 we launched in New York City.

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