Maybe you’ve heard the story behind Airbnb, it’s a pretty great one. If not, I’m here to tell it again.
Close your eyes.
Imagine you’re in a small apartment on the west coast. You have an ever-growing pile of debt constantly weighing on the back of you mind. You wake up every morning anxious, wondering how you and your roommate are ever going to have your website hit it big.
Currently you’re in your undersized kitchen, lining a thin stream of hot glue along a cardboard box of a politically themed cereal box. The glue adds one more burn to your already red hands, littered with more cardboard cuts than you thought were possible. You’re going through all of this to fund your latest entrepreneurial endeavor, a weight that never leaves your chest.
You pause, look up at the flickering light on the ceiling and wonder how you ended up in this situation.
What you just experienced was the childhood of Airbnb.
It started off as a couple of recent graduates renting out air mattresses in their apartment for a design conference to pay the bills. For some reason EVERY. SINGLE. ARTICLE. that tells this story feels that it is important to mention that Airbnb’s first three guests were a 30-year Indian man, a 35 year-old woman from Boston, and a Utah father of four. So I had to make sure those details were included.
(How would you like to be one of them now? Tell your kids, “Hey, guess what? I was the first guest Airbnb ever had”. Talk about dinner table bragging rights!)
The bushy-tailed new hosts loved their ‘Air Bed and Breakfast’ idea so much, they decided to run with it. But, their sprint soon turned into a credit card debt filled marathon. What was a fun idea initially was having trouble gaining any traction. Hence the glueing of ‘Obama-O’s’ cereal boxes you experienced at the beginning.
At one of it’s most critical points, Airbnb sold cereal to stay in business. Persistence was the name of the game for the founders and after hitting the streets of NYC to work with their listers, they were able to gain funding and jumpstart their growth.
They rebranded from AirBedandBreakfast to simply Airbnb, and have grown exponentially since then. In about a decade they grew from a few hundred listings to over 2 million.
So, if ever you feel like hosting gets to be too much, take a page from the founders’ book and just stick with it! It will work out!
(I highly recommend this article for a more detailed history and a video of one of the founders telling the story himself. Worth the read and the watch!)