How Airbnb Started and Became A Billion Dollar Company

How 3 Guys Went from Renting Mattresses to a $10 Billion Dollar Company

Airbnb started in 2007 when Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, then both 27, who had met five years earlier at Rhode Island School of Design, were struggling to pay their rent. There was a design conference coming to San Francisco and the city’s hotels were fully booked, so they came up with the idea of renting out three airbeds on their living-room floor and cooking their guests breakfast.

The next day they created a website, airbedandbreakfast.com; six days later they had a 30-year-old Indian man, a 35-year-old woman from Boston and a 45-year-old father of four from Utah sleeping on their floor. They charged $80 each a night. ‘As we were waving these people goodbye Joe and I looked at each other and thought, there’s got to be a bigger idea here,’ Chesky told me, sitting on the edge of the sofa, still excited by their idea. Gebbia had already dabbled in entrepreneurship – designing a cushion for back sufferers and building a website for product designers to find eco-friendly resources – ‘sort of Amazon for sustainable materials’. Chesky had recently left his job as a designer on the Simon Cowell show American Inventor in LA – ‘the last straw came when I designed a new kind of toilet seat’ – and moved to San Francisco. Both wanted to be entrepreneurs, but neither wanted to ‘create more stuff that ends up in landfill’.

Infigraph: How Airbnb Started
Infigraph: How Airbnb Started

The idea of creating a website based on renting something that was already in existence was perfect. They decided to target conferences and festivals across America, getting local people to list their rooms and travelers to book them.

Watch: How Airbnb Started

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