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Brian Chesky

‘If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life’

Napoleon once described England as a nation of shopkeepers. Thanks to Airbnb, we’ve all become a nation of hoteliers as well.

By the start of 2020, there were over 250,000 properties in Britain advertised on Airbnb, with some parts of the country having one listing for every four properties.

It’s a commonplace in venture capital that your start-up has to solve a problem, and in Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky’s case it was that he couldn’t afford his rent in San Francisco. Brian Chesky and his roommate Joe Gebbia had the bright idea of buying some air mattresses and renting out their loft for a night. They knew that a big design conference was taking place in San Francisco and hotels were booked out.

>See also: UK, French and German companies spend millions on Airbnb

So three young designers paid the enterprising roommates $80 apiece for the right to sleep on their floor and Airbnb was born.

Realising its potential as a business, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia encouraged their old roommate to join them in building the business, and the three of them approached 15 angel investors in summer 2008. The response was flat-out rejection: eight gave them an outright no, while others failed to even respond.

However, undeterred, the trio did find venture capital which understood their vision and by 2011 Airbnb had already booked 1m stays and had spread to 89 countries. By December 2020, Airbnb was worth $70bn having gone public.

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

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