The $20 Billion Global Juggernaut that Started with an Air Mattress

After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, 26-year-old Brian Chesky ventured to the U.S. west coast and landed a gig with a design firm in Los Angeles. It didn’t take long before he became bored out of his mind, quit his job, and found himself unemployed. His college roommate, Joe Gebbia, offered to let him crash at his San Francisco loft with the agreement that they would split the cost of rent. Brian agreed and packed his bags. But there was one small problem… Brian was a little short on funds.

Out of a job and strapped for cash, Brian got creative. An idea struck. And boy, was it big.

San Francisco happened to be hosting the Industrial Designers Society of America, and Brian quickly realized that all the hotel rooms were booked up. Brian figured, “Why not turn our loft into a bed and breakfast and charge a fee?” Joe was on board, but they had another problem… they didn’t own a bed.
But they did have an air mattress. Three of them, in fact. So the inflating began.

Brian and Joe hosted three people that first night, charging $80 a night. They cooked their guests breakfast in the mornings and became their personal guides to the city. They called their little venture Airbed and Breakfast.
Brian’s idea expanded from there, as did his business model. One year later, he launched the site. To get proper funding for his company’s incubation, Brian and his small team created a specialty cereal commemorating presidential candidates John McCain and Barrack Obama. In a couple of months, they had sold more than 800 boxes, earning $30,000.

Investors soon took notice, and millions of funding dollars started rolling in. In 2010, Brian and Joe shared their loft space with 15 employees as the business began rapidly expanding. Brian even gave up his own bedroom and started living by means of the site’s services before they were able to get their first real office space. Sticking to their roots, the site was later shortened to simply:

Since then, the company has exploded internationally and has become a worldwide phenomenon, changing the very culture of lodging needs across the globe by pioneering its “shared economy” business model. Airbnb has offices in 17 countries and has watched its database grow exponentially. As of 2016, there are over 1.5 million listings across 34,000 cities in 190 countries around the world. And the company’s valuation checks in at a staggering $20 billion. That’s billion with a B.

While Brian’s vision has skyrocketed his net worth to just over $3.3 billion, there’s simply no denying the fact that Airbnb has changed the game by embracing a worldwide system of trust and validation amongst its vast user database. People all over the world can actually supplement their incomes by renting out their homes to total strangers. The site has also been flooded with “thank you” emails describing numerous instances where Airbnb had made it possible to prevent foreclosures and evictions on families that couldn’t afford their rent or mortgage.

Needless to say, Brian Chesky had the right idea. And ideas this big can certainly change both your life and the world… not to mention your bank account.