How Three Broke College Graduates Created A Billion Dollar Company
Unless you've lived under a rock the last couple of years, you know all about Airbnb (AirBed and Breakfast). Now valued at $30 billion and with over 150 million users, the company is a paragon of success.
Many of my friends have made the switch to Airbnb, as we have over the years. It has proven to be a great way to travel. Airbnb, for those who are unfamiliar, is a platform to help people rent out rooms or whole apartments to tourists or other people living in a city.
But do you know how it all got started?
Recently I read the book The Airbnb Story, by Leigh Gallagher and wanted to share this magnificent and inspiring story.
It all began in 2007, when Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, two broke friends who’d recently graduated with degrees in design, thought up a novel way to raise money for their sky-high San Francisco rent and inadvertently developed what has become the most popular vacation accommodation platform in history.
Realizing that there’d be a shortage of hotel rooms in the city during an upcoming conference of the Industrial Designers Society of America, the pair decided to rent out space in their apartment. People could sleep on air mattresses and grab breakfast the next morning. They called their service AirBed and Breakfast.
“AirBnB was never meant to be the big idea. It was meant to be the thing that paid the rent so we could think of the big idea.” - Brian Chesky.
They advertised their space on small design blogs, three people made bookings and amazingly this move resulted in the quirky little service attracting press attention, with excellent results. These results included an article from the New York Times, where over 800 people signed up as hosts, resulting in 80 successful bookings. Thinking that their simple idea was a potential winner, the pair hired an engineer, Nathan Blecharczyk, and began encouraging other people to share their homes for rent.
The trio experienced what looked like success as a result of the press coverage, but they still required traffic for their website. Becoming desperate the team put thinking caps on. It was 2008, and everyone was talking about Obama. The Democratic National Convention with Obama was coming up, but due to Obama's popularity, the convention was moved from the 20,000-seat Pepsi Center to the 80,000-seat football stadium, but there was a lack of hotel rooms available.
Since they were technically offering a bed and breakfast service, the guys came up with the quirky idea to serve Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain cereals . They reboxed the cheap cereal to advertise their company, and Airbnb received news coverage for its alternative solution to the accommodation crisis. This fantastic marketing campaign also earned the company nearly $30,000 selling their new products as collector’s items.
Before long, AirBed and Breakfast had generated both press coverage and funding. Finally, to make their service even more appealing, the company dropped the commitment to provide breakfast and became Airbnb.
Airbnb currently has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries.
The rest is history.
Carolyn Rowland is a qualified NLP Master Therapist, Advanced Practitioner of Matrix Therapies, Time Line Therapist, Practitioner of Hypnotherapy, has a Diploma for Business and Life Coaching and A Professional Image Stylist. Carolyn is happily married to her husband Simon, and raised four beautiful children, who are now young adults and a teenager.
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