June 4, 2013Published by: Fereshta Amir

Hitting rock bottom: The power of creative thinking from Airbnb


Today we heard Joe Gebbla, co-founder of Airbnb, speak at the FT-Telefonica Millenials Summit: The Interactive Generation. Airbnb is a social website that connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay. On this platform you can find a place to stay by renting from people in 34,000 cities and 192 countries and it has been very successful to date.

Joe Gebbia said that it wasn’t easy as a startup, as after the 3-month seed funding program the pair were collectively $40,000 in credit card debt. Gebbla said that all startups go through this phase and it’s the perfect time to let creativity flow. This is exactly what they did, as what started as a joke led the pair creating created fictitious cereals called ‘Obama O’s, the Cereal of Change,’ and ‘Cap’n McCain’s, a Maverick in Every Box’ around the elections. Together they designed the box artwork themselves and convinced a UC Berkeley student to print 500 of each, which they then sent to influential tech bloggers. They then started selling the political cereal at $40 per box.

The story was huge in the media and got picked up by national TV and they ended up making $30,000 almost covering all their debts. Soon after Paul Graham the investor said: “If you can convince people to pay $40 for a box of cereal, you can probably convince them to pay to sleep on each other’s air mattresses. You guys are in.” Joe just gave us a good reminder today of the power of creativity!

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