Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk started Airbnb in 2007. From booking apartments to reserving private islands, Airbnb now lets people stay in unique places all over the world. Below Brian shares his thoughts on design school, pitching investors, and launching your own startup. The full interview will be published in the Designer Founders Book. Note: We’re less than a week away from our Kickstarter deadline! Help make our nonprofit book and distribute it for free to students worldwide here.
Lessons learned in design school
We got the opportunity to constantly refine our skills, to use creative solutions to solve problems—as cliché as it sounds—to think outside the box. Really, what they mean is that the first solution you come up with is the obvious solution and typically not the best. You have to keep digging to get to the more complex solution, which means peeling back layers and that’s really what AirBNB was about. It was about taking a process that was very, very complex, the process of being able to stay with another person on a short-term basis, and just removing all the complexities.
I remember some investors saying “you have a lack of a technical team” and of course we had Nate, but they were used to seeing multiple technical founders. I think investors were not seeing the whole picture: first, they were undervaluing design by saying that, but also they were not recognizing that when you build a marketplace, all the nontechnical challenges exist to build it. It’s one thing to technically build our web site—that’s the easy part. Get the marketplace going, get traction, and build a community—that’s the hard part.
Advice for students looking to launch a startup
I think what I’d recommend is just doing a startup as soon as you have a cofounder. If you don’t, I’d go work for a company that has lots of really smart and ambitious people. You’ll learn what it’s like to build a startup and you’d grow faster because you’ll know what it’s like to be in a startup. You’d also potentially meet your next cofounder doing this.
I started drawing when I was 5 years old. I’m only 29, but for 25 years I’ve practically spent every moment thinking about design. For the design undergrad: find a technical cofounder as passionate about engineering as you are about design.
I think we can become at least as big as eBay, and maybe even bigger. What I like to say is “if eBay can become a billion dollar company by monetizing stuff in their house, how big could a company be if the monetize the house?”
The full interview will be published in the Designer Founders Book. Help us demystify the path for designers to build tech startups with positive social impact by backing our Designer Founders Book on Kickstarter by January 22nd!
We’ll add to the interview gratefully adapted from Jared Tame – startupsopensourced.com