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What is Airbnb?
Shortly after moving to San Francisco in October 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia created the initial concept for AirBed & Breakfast during the Industrial Design Conference held by Industrial Designers Society of America. The original site offered short-term living quarters, breakfast and a unique business networking opportunity for attendees who were unable to book a hotel in the saturated market. At the time, roommates Chesky and Gebbia could not afford the rent for their loft in San Francisco. They made their living room into a bed and breakfast, accommodating three guests on air mattresses and providing homemade breakfast.
In February 2008, Harvard graduate and technical architect Nathan Blecharczyk joined as the third co-founder of AirBed & Breakfast. During the company’s initial stages, the founders focused on high-profile events where alternative lodging was scarce. The site Airbedandbreakfast.com officially launched on August 11, 2008.
To help fund the site, the founders created special edition breakfast cereals, with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain as the inspiration for “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCains”. In two months, 800 boxes of cereal were sold at $40 each, which generated more than $30,000 for the company’s incubation and attracted Y Combinator’s Paul Graham.
After its inauguration, the site expanded to include properties in the market between hotels and CouchSurfing. In January 2009, Y Combinator invited Chesky, Gebbia and Blecharczyk to join the incubator’s winter session for three months of training. With the website already built, they used the $20,000 Y-Combinator investment to fly to New York to meet users and promote the site. They returned to San Francisco with a profitable business model to present to West Coast investors.
In March 2009, the name Airbedandbreakfast.com was shortened to Airbnb.com, and the site’s content had expanded from air beds and shared spaces to a variety of properties including entire homes and apartments, private rooms, castles, boats, manors, tree houses, tipis, igloos, private islands and other properties.
One year later, there were 15 people working from Chesky and Gebbia’s loft apartment on Rausch Street in San Francisco. To make room for employees, Brian Chesky gave up his bedroom and lived through the Airbnb service until the company moved into its first office space.
The company continued to experience rapid growth through the year and in November 2010 raised $7.2 million in Series A funding from Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital, and announced that out of 700,000 nights booked, 80% had occurred in the past six months.
On May 25, 2011, actor and partner at A-Grade Investments, Ashton Kutcher, announced a significant investment in the company and his role as a strategic brand advisor for the company.
In July 2014, Airbnb revealed design revisions to their site and mobile app, and introduced a new logo. Some considered the new icon to be visually similar to genitalia, but a consumer survey by Survata showed only a minority of respondents thought this was the case.