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26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs: Craig Newmark

for putting the emfree/em in free markets

From: Inc. Magazine, April 2005 | By: null


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Craig Newmark Craigslist

for putting the free in free markets

At Craigslist, the network of Internet bulletin boards that Craig Newmark has set up in more than 100 cities on five continents, the only people really selling stuff are the ones who post (mostly) free ads. "I act as the glamorous spokesmodel," Newmark says.

The 52-year-old can joke, but his successful enterprise reflects something truly rare: It really helps people. In this age of test-marketing and spin, here is a business that does not treat the customer as a credulous cash dispenser. The result is what Douglas Atkin had in mind in The Culting of Brands when he wrote, "Cult brands are beliefs. They have morals -- embody values. Cult brands stand up for things."

The best way to make a cult brand may well be to not try to. And so Newmark's spartan webpages do not sing or sport banner ads. They simply work, and they are free. The only people required to pay are employers posting help-wanted ads for San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles.

Despite the narrow revenue base, Craigslist doesn't dispute estimates that it grosses $10 million a year. A former employee given 25% of the company in 1999 sold it to eBay for an estimated $12 million to $15 million, implying an overall value of $60 million -- a princely sum for a 14-person outfit. "There's no genius behind it," Newmark says. "It's persistence and listening to people." So sure, we love him. We love Craig Newmark because, in a sense, he loves us.

Daniel Akst

26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs

  1. Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Omnimedia
    because she took one for the team
  2. Richard Branson, Virgin Group
    because he's game for anything. In fact, everything.
  3. Michael Dell, Dell Computer
    for being brilliantly straightforward
  4. Jim Sinegal, Costco
    because who knew a big-box chain could have a generous soul?
  5. Diane von Furstenberg, Diane von Furstenberg Studio
    for staging an elegant comeback
  6. Julie Azuma, Different Roads to Learning
    for offering hope and help to the parents of autistic children
  7. Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing
    for setting limits
  8. Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies and other companies
    because he is Edison's rightful heir
  9. Craig Newmark, Craigslist
    for putting the free in free markets
  10. Jack Mitchell, Mitchells/Richards
    because his family business makes an art of customer service
  11. Frank Robinson, Robinson Helicopter
    for whipping an entire industry into shape
  12. Mark Melton, Melton Franchise Systems
    for giving immigrants their shot at the American Dream
  13. Michelle Cardinal & Tim O'Leary, Cmedia and Respond2
    for rewriting the rules for husband-and-wife teams
  14. Mike Lazaridis, Research in Motion
    because someone had to stand up for all those frustrated engineers
  15. Trip Hawkins, Electronics Arts and Digital Chocolate
    for still scrapping
  16. Warren Brown, Cake Love and Love Cafe
    because only in America will someone quit a secure job as a lawyer to start a bakery
  17. Muriel Siebert, Muriel Siebert & Co.
    for being a notable first with a worthy second act
  18. Chuck Porter, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky
    for verging on reckless
  19. Katrina Markoff, Vosges Haut
    for setting a completely unreasonable goal for her business
  20. Barry Steinberg & Craig Sumerel, Direct Tire and Auto Service
    for showing the power of the peer group
  21. Victoria Parham, Virtual Support Services
    for serving as a mentor to military spouses
  22. Tom LaTour, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
    for staying at fleabag hotels so that we don't have to
  23. Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, Mitchell Gold
    for creating a true comfort zone
  24. Izzy & Coco Tihanyi, Surf Diva
    for kicking sand in the face of conventional wisdom
  25. Tony Lee, Ring Masters
    for saving 16 jobs, including his own
  26. Rueben Martinez, Libreria Martinez Books and Art Galleries
    for simultaneously building a business and nurturing Latino culture

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