Every great business begins with finding a solution to a common problem and visionaries that can propel the idea into mainstream prolificacy.
Airbnb is a classic case example. In 2008, a few roommates in San Francisco were experiencing a rent spike and needed a way to quickly make up for extra expenses. Being web designers and developers, they set out to design their own website and rent out space in their apartment, promising airbeds and a warm breakfast in return. Three people ended up staying with them and they earned approximately $1000 in the process. These roommates, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Brian Chesky, ended up being the founders of the explosively popular website Airbnb.
It wasn’t long after the first listing was posted that users from around the world began emailing them about when the website would become available in their countries. The founders generated the first round of funding through personal efforts and family loans and soon secured seed money from Y Combinator’s accelerator program. Airbnb was able to build its user base largely through appealing to people listing through Craiglist’s Vacation Rentals feature. The team behind Airbnb emailed people with a recommendation to try posting on their website as well. The emails read as below:
I am emailing you because you have one of the nicest listings in Craigslist in the Tahoe area, and I want to recommend you feature it to one of the largest vacation rental marketplaces on the web, Airbnb. The site already has 3,000,000 page views a month! Check it out here: http://www.airbnb.com
One of the other main drivers to Airbnb’s enormous growth was the visual factor. Upon reviewing a series of New York apartment listings, they noticed that the common theme was poorly-photographed homes. They rented a $5000 camera and flew out to New York to take detailed and professional photos of the apartment listings. In 2009, this doubled weekly profits from $200 to $400. Within the next years, Airbnb became a vigilant competitor to local hotel chains, offering lower rates and greater booking flexibility. Other investors soon joined the Airbnb board including Andreessen Horowitz, Digital Sky Technologies, General Catalyst Partners, Jeff Bezos, Ashton Kutcher and CrunchFund. Airbnb has rolled out a photography program, a powerful mobile app, enhanced security measures for apartment renters and apartment cleaning services in select cities. Airbnb is currently valued at a whopping $25 billion and is showing no signs of letting up speed.