If you ever wanted to look for a story that showcased perseverance, creativity, risk-taking and innovation, look no further. From humble beginnings, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia’s innovative idea not only helped them pay their rent in San Francisco but also changed how people travel worldwide.

The Problem

It’s late 2007 in San Francisco. Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia just moved from New York. Without employment, they were having trouble paying their rent and were looking for a way to earn extra cash. As they contemplated some ideas to raise some money, they noticed that the local Industrial Design conference was in town and always attracted many visitors from other cities. They also saw that all the hotel rooms across the city were completely booked. A few people must be trying to fly into the city at the last minute and not have a place to stay, right? Right??

The Solution

Chesky and Gebbia saw an opportunity to earn a quick buck to pay their rent quickly. They acquired several air mattresses and hastily launched a website named “Air Bed and Breakfast”. They aimed to provide guests with a comfortable sleeping arrangement and breakfast in the morning for a fee of $80 per night. The concept proved successful and marked the beginning of the first guests of Airbnb. The trio consisted of a 30-year-old male from India, a 35-year-old woman from Boston, and a 45-year-old father of four from Utah, who all slept on the air mattresses arranged on the floor.

The idea worked! After this success, Nathan Blecharczyk, a Harvard alumnus and technical architect, became the third member of the founding team. However, they were confronted with a significant hurdle: the website only had two users, one of whom was Brian Chesky himself. Despite launching the website at SXSW, the team only managed to secure two bookings at first.

The Set-back

After revamping its website, the company relaunched in August 2008, just in time for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. With over 20,000 attendees expected at the convention, all hotels in the area were fully booked. However, disaster struck; A comment on TechCrunch publication (see image below)

The Start of Innovation

Investors turned away! The founders resorted to selling cereals with election-themed branding to raise capital for their startup. The cereals, named Obama O’s and Cap’n McCains, were a huge success, allowing the Airbnb team to generate a remarkable $30,000 in revenue.

Second Set-Back and Innovation

Chesky & Co. soon realized they were not getting good listings because the pictures uploaded were terrible! Who would want to stay in a place that looked unsafe and uncomfortable on a website?

So, both the founders had to put in some hard work. They bought a camera and went door-to-door to take better pictures of the listings.


After launching Airbnb in their apartment in late Oct 2007, the founders received a meagre funding of $20,000 in January 2009 from Y Combinator. But their big break came only in November of 2010 when Airbnb raised $ 7.2 million after garnering 2500 listings and nearly 10,000 registered users.

Never stop innovating during your journey! 

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

– Alan Kay
Categories: Projects