Overnight Success: The Story of Joe Gebbia and Airbnb

It takes a lot more than a good idea to make millions. Every step forward involves vast planning and preparation, and needs a true leader at the helm. This is the story of Joe Gebbia, the founder of airbnb who approached accommodation with a brilliant, fresh new concept. It didn’t happen overnight, but Gebbia’s innovative thought process and innovation has resulted in one of the fastest growing companies in the world.

Joe Gebbia was a fresh graduate out of Design School holding a yard sale when a man about his age came and bought one of his paintings. Gebbia found out that this man was on a cross-country road trip before he was heading to the Peace Corps. Also, this man, this total stranger, had no place to stay for the night. Gebbia reluctantly accommodated this man, letting him stay on air mattress in his home, which resulted in a pleasant experience for both. To this day, Gebbia and this man stay in touch.

Two years later in San Francisco, Gebbia was having financial burden being unemployed, down a roommate, and living in apartment with rising rent. There was a design conference in town, and all the hotels were booked. Still having the air mattress from his previous experience, Gebbia decided to open up his apartment for people looking for a place to sleep. Gebbia had another enriching experience and his company was born. When Gebbia was looking for investing, the main idea of his pitch was to have people profit off opening up their home for total strangers to stay in. Investors didn’t see the practicality or profit in the idea, but Gebbia kept moving forward, taking things one day at a time.

Gebbia’s mission for airbnb was to implement trust into the design of the company. Naturally, it can be hard for someone to trust a stranger, but Gebbia hoped that when the stranger became immersed in another stranger’s living space, they would feel an added responsibility to take care of the space for the time they’re staying there. While some may think Gebbia was naive to assume such a thing, his hope in people has payed off millions of times over. Gebbia reports that negative experiences reflect less than a percentage point of customer feedback at airbnb.

Turning fear into fun is the gift of creativity,

said Gebbia at a TED conference. Gebbia’s hopes of people overcoming their fears by both staying and hosting people in one another’s living space has paid off incredibly. According to Business Insider, an estimated 47,000 people used airbnb during the summer of 2010. In the summer of 2015, that number grew to 17 million. Today, airbnb reaches over 30,000 cities and 191 countries. As of June 2015, PrivCo, a financial intelligence company estimated airbnb’s value to be 25.5 billion dollars.

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