Summer of 1995

During the summer of 1995, in between the time he finished his degree at Penn, and starting the PhD program at Stanford, Elon worked on writing internet software and business plans.

 He got a CD Rom yellow pages and integrated it with mapping software to create an online 'city listings' website.

Much like his pal Adeo Ressi, who had launched his own city media website in 1994 in NYC called Total New York (sold to AOL in 1995, and one of the first advertiser-supported web media companies).

(so....maybe Elon isn't as innovative as he seems I guess...this theme of minor improvements/catching early trends is present in his other work too).

Presumably, Elon started getting a little money from some local newspaper companies to build out their online presence, and thus got started. He also saw the growth of Netscape, and tried to get a job there (but no one would talk to him - or as he put it, he was "too nervous to talk to anyone")

To put it into perspective, this is what the internet looked like in 1995:

And keep in mind that was on PBS, so probably not cutting edge.

Bill Gates on the Letterman Show talking about the internet

So, while impressive, starting an internet company in summer of 1995 wasn't as early or innovative as Elon claims in most interviews, especially when others were already doing something very similar...though it was definitely the early part of the bubble. For example, Amazon was started in 1994 (and that itself was a copy of another online bookseller).

The first version of the first browser, Mosaic (precuror to Netscape) was released in Jan 1993, Netscape went public in August 1995 (which is probably what catalyzed Elon's decision to drop out of Stanford soon thereafter).

And for historical context for this time period...check out some sites from the early internet in this article


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