Why it matters
In 1999, when a friend (and co-founder) Antje Danielson saw a shared car in Germany, she mentioned the idea to Robin Chase, who immediately saw the concept’s potential. As the matriarch of a family of five living in the city with one car, Chase knew that if a car sharing service appealed to her own convenience and practicality, it would appeal to others. And she was right. Her husband developed the technology, which was “consumer product number 2” to use wireless (number 1 was mobile phones). Zipcar launched a beta car in May 2000 and had 22 people wanting it. Since its formal launch in June 2000, Zipcar transformed the car rental industry, making renting a car as convenient as having your own.
Chase had raised funds from small venture funds, angel investors and friends. But the firm’s first large VC round took place about 4 years after Zipcar’s founding. Bill Helman of Greylock Partners eventually invested in the company for three reasons: “The idea was so simple and elegant, we were intoxicated with it.” Greylock also believed Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith was the right leader to scale the business. And although the VC firm had never been in the automotive industry, they had experience in web enabled services, and believed they could be value added partners. “We look for a unique and unfair competitive advantage – and Zipcar offered both.”