Starred: The Email That Launched Airbnb

Starred is our series that gives you a glimpse inside the inboxes of our favorite entrepreneurs. In this installment, Joe Gebbia, cofounder and chief product officer of Airbnb, digs up a historic missive.


Welcome to another edition of
Starred, where we take you deep inside the inboxes of our favorite CEOs, entrepreneurs, and VCs. Think that first message Jack Dorsey ever sent to Biz Stone describing his crazy idea for a 140-character blogging platform–the emails you’ve had starred in your inbox for years, saved almost solely for nostalgia. Joining us today, Joe Gebbia, cofounder and chief product officer of Airbnb:

This email is one I’ve saved in my inbox for years, as it shows the origins of Airbnb. One of my cofounders, Brian Chesky, and I were friends from college at the Rhode Island School of Design, where we were known as two entrepreneurs on campus–Brian ran the hockey team and I founded the basketball team. I moved to San Francisco after graduation but Brian went to Los Angeles.

For years, I tried convincing him to move up to the Bay Area so we could start a company together, like I always had a feeling we would. It finally happened in September 2007.
He became my roommate and we both quit our jobs to start something together. Unfortunately, the very same week, we found ourselves with a big problem: Our landlord raised our rent by 20% and, as two broke entrepreneurs, we realized we could no longer afford the apartment.


With a matter of days to figure out a solution, we noticed a major design conference was coming to San Francisco, and the hotels were sold out. Why not rent out the extra space in our apartment to a designer who needs a place to stay? We inflated an airbed in the living room and imagined cooking breakfast for a lucky guest. By the end of the night, we came up with the name Airbed & Breakfast.
We created a simple site and promoted it by emailing a few top design blogs. After they wrote about it, we received so much interest that we had to buy two more air mattresses. It sounded like a long shot, but we got three bookings, built relationships with three great people from different backgrounds, and earned enough money to save the apartment.

What started as a weekend experiment–a small bet to save our apartment–has become a global movement. We didn’t know what this would lead to. We were just a couple of guys who used creativity to solve a problem. By the time our third cofounder, Nathan Blecharczyk, joined us, we realized the solution applied to many others in a tough economy: a glimmer of hope and the birth of a new way for people to find liquidity in their greatest asset–their home.

From: Joe Gebbia
Date: September 26, 2007
To: Brian Chesky
Subject: conference


i came up with a name for turning the house into a place to stay…

airbed & breakfast

ha! will be a simple 4 page site or so.

then it occurred to me that it could be a place for other designer people in san francisco to list a room (or airbed) in their own houses specifically for the conference. and if we hurry we could ping the idsa to put some of their ubiquitous Connecting ’07 ads on it…for a fee, of course.

the ideas never end.


Join us next Monday for another edition of Starred, or check out past editions:
Starred: When Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian First Pitched His Brotastic Startup
Starred: LinkedIn Cofounder Allen Blue Reveals First Ever LinkedIn Invite
Starred: How Box Cofounder Aaron Levie Enticed VCs Like Mark Cuban To Battle Microsoft, Google


[Image: thenextweb]


About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.