Along the way, we opened in a number of university towns. Zipcar is targeted at people who don't need a car to get to work, and universities are a natural fit. Early on, MIT and Harvard gave us parking spaces and helped market the company. We eliminated the need for each of them to build a parking garage on their campus because of the large number of people who shared Zipcar instead of driving and parking their own vehicles.
When I finished raising a $7 million round of financing in 2003, we were on the road to profitability. I also had a father who was dying, and a daughter who was becoming a supermodel at age 16. (Cameron Russell, now 25, models for Calvin Klein, Prada, Chanel, and many other designers.) I was a complete wreck, and decided I'd done everything I wanted to do. I stepped down as CEO in 2003, stayed on the board for two years, then left. I still hold some shares in the company.
After Zipcar, I did a Loeb fellowship at Harvard for a year and learned a lot about urban planning, transportation, and the Internet. I started a ride-sharing company called Goloco.com in 2007, but was too early with it.America's not ready for ride sharing. It will be one day, but not now.
France is a step ahead of the U.S. in transportation practice. It had been leading with shared transportation in bikes, and I'd been consulting with the city of Paris on transportation with one-way electric-car sharing on a large scale. It launched 1,800 such cars in Paris in December last year, and I wanted to be in the mix.
So in June 2011, I started Buzzcar in France, which allows you to rent your own car to friends and neighbors. The company is 15 months in now, with 12,000 members and 1,500 cars throughout France. My co-investor is a large, privately held French transportation company named Mobivia.
It's exciting to have a vision, to persuade people to invest in what you're building, and a privilege to see it play out, despite many a miserable and hard day. I joke, yet believe, that transportation is at the center of our daily lives. Our outlook is colored by what it was like to get to work and home. Transportation contributes to 18% of the household budget and 30% of the world's CO2 emissions. It's extremely rewarding to see the social benefits that have come from the companies I have founded.
Leverage other people 's excess capacity. I made a partnership with MIT in which they sent an e-mail to their 35,000 staff and students about joining Zipcar. It cost them next to nothing to do and, from a marketing standpoint, would have cost me a lot to buy.