The Airbnb Story — a company which almost became a cereal startup

Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were in San Francisco, unemployed & cash strapped having just moved from New York.

They were having trouble paying their rent and were looking for a way to earn some extra cash. They noticed that all hotel rooms in the city were booked, as the local Industrial Design conference attracted a lot of visitors.

The youngsters saw an opportunity, they bought a few airbeds and quickly put up a site called “Air Bed and Breakfast” in 2008 and the idea was to offer visitors a place to sleep and breakfast in the morning. Nathan Blecharczyk had joined as a third co-founder but the model had a big problem — the site only had two users, one being Chesky.

A while later, with 40,000 Dollars in debt the three co founders came up with the idea to re brand & re sell BRANDED CEREALS — Obama O’s — the cereal of change & Cap’n McCain’s — a maverick in every box to coincide with the elections.

After giving it free to bloggers to make them write about and making sales worth 30,000 Dollars separately they were still clueless about Airbnb’s future as it wasn’t picking up.

They met Paul Graham of Ycombinator and after a not so great meeting while leaving, they hesitantly told him about the cereal story.

“You guys are cockroaches” said Paul Graham — “you just won’t die” and took them under his program subsequently giving them the golden advise — “Find 100 customers who love your product” rather than trying to impress the world.

Another big change came after realizing that their site wasn’t attractive enough, Brian & Joe took DSLR cameras and visited the listed properties themselves to click professional grade photographs.

After 2 failed press launches & 7 rejection letters from Investors in the past, Airbnb finally took off and is present in more than 191 countries today after raising several round of funding from institutional investors.

It has approximately 150 million users and is valued at 26 billion Dollars (lowered because of COVID 19).

Lesson learnt — Be a cockroach, don’t die and don’t give up on your dream.

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Originally published at on April 29, 2020.