"You have to get up early when you're fighting monopolies," Mr. Hagerman said. At BigBook, an Internet-based listing of 16 million businesses (http://www.bigbook.com), that's exactly what he's trying to do.
Mr. Hagerman has taken Yellow Pages listings, added street by street maps of the entire U.S. and a customer feedback mechanism and developed a service that has customers rethinking where they let their fingers walk.
The company was founded in much the same way as many Internet start-ups. Mr. Hagerman took his idea around to a lot of big businesses and found that they weren't very interested when it came down to the bottom line.
The conversation, in Mr. Hagerman's recollection, goes like this: "Lemme get this straight: You want me to give away for free what I now charge local businesses thousands of dollars for? Then you want me to build this great new service that, if successful, will erode the usage of my cash-cow Yellow Pages? And if I do all of this, how much money do I make?"
With that route failing, Mr. Hagerman did the only other thing a man with a good idea could do: go into business himself.
"At the end of the day, the only thing we wind up being differentiated by is our focus and our commitment and in fact a head start in this arena," he said. "We have a laser-like focus on this industry."
Part of his confidence stems from the introduction of BigBook 3D, which combines recently declassified satellite data and photographs to create virtual online cities which link with the business listings.
"If you want to be successful on the Net, you have to throw ahead of where the receiver is a little bit," Mr. Hagerman said. "Because if you don't, it's moving so fast that you'll end up throwing the ball to where the receiver was 30 seconds ago where it just drops on the ground and no one cares about it."
With BigBook's big content, Mr. Hagerman's pass should hit consumers right in the numbers.
Betcha didn't know: Back when the Soviet Union was the "evil empire," Mr. Hagerman was recruited by the C.I.A. "I could have been a secret agent," he says, but he turned the job down-we think.