Airbnb: Building Connections: The Journey of Airbnb from Idea to Global Platform

In the ever-evolving landscape of the sharing economy, few success stories shine as brightly as that of Airbnb. Founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb is a San Francisco-based American company that has revolutionized the way people travel and experience new destinations. Operating as a leading online marketplace for short- and long-term homestays and experiences, the platform seamlessly connects travelers with hosts worldwide, offering a diverse range of accommodations and unique experiences.


In the ever-evolving landscape of the sharing economy, few success stories shine as brightly as that of Airbnb. Founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb is a San Francisco-based American company that has revolutionized the way people travel and experience new destinations. Operating as a leading online marketplace for short- and long-term homestays and experiences, the platform seamlessly connects travelers with hosts worldwide, offering a diverse range of accommodations and unique experiences.

The company’s name, “Airbnb,” originates from its initial concept,, which emerged as a humble idea to rent air mattresses in the founders’ San Francisco apartment to conference attendees. From these modest beginnings, Airbnb has rapidly evolved into a global hospitality giant, acting as a trusted broker and earning its revenue by charging a commission from each booking. As we delve into the fascinating founding history of Airbnb, we witness the extraordinary journey of an innovative idea that has forever changed the way we explore and connect with communities around the world.

How the idea of Airbnb came along

The story of Airbnb takes us back to 2007 when Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, two design school graduates who had relocated to San Francisco, found themselves struggling to pay rent for their apartment. With a stroke of inspiration, they realized that an international design conference was coming to town, causing a scarcity of hotel rooms.

Seizing the opportunity, Gebbia wrote an email to Chesky with a groundbreaking idea: they could turn their loft into a designer’s bed and breakfast, offering guests a sleeping mat and breakfast, an inventive way to earn “a few bucks.” This seemingly modest idea has grown into an astounding success, with Airbnb now valued at USD 31 billion.

The friends decided to make the most of their limited resources and converted their living room into a makeshift bed and breakfast, providing air mattresses for guests to sleep on. To bolster their team, they brought in another friend, Nathan Blecharczyk, a computer science graduate, and together, they launched a simple website, Soon after, three designers, Michael, Kat, and Amol, became Airbnb’s first-ever guests, each paying USD 80 for their mattresses.

Although met with skepticism from others about the unconventional concept, the founders’ first guests had a remarkable experience, connecting with the city like locals and leaving a profound impact on Brian and Joe. This inspiring experience led them to realize that many others might also appreciate traveling and hosting in such a unique and personal manner, thus giving birth to the idea of Airbnb.

Early Challenges

To finance the early development of Airbnb, the founders devised a creative solution: selling limited-edition breakfast cereals. They created custom-made cereal boxes named “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCain’s,” cleverly capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the 2008 presidential election. Priced at USD 40 each, every box came with a limited-edition number and information about Airbnb. Through a combination of resourcefulness and innovative marketing, they successfully raised USD 30,000, providing the much-needed capital to fuel their visionary venture.

Rapid Growth

The creative cereal campaign not only provided capital for Airbnb but also attracted attention from investors. Venture Capitalist Paul Graham, impressed by their ingenuity, invited the founders to join Y Combinator, a prestigious startup accelerator, providing USD 20,000 in funding for a 6% stake in the company. During their three months at the accelerator, the founders honed and perfected their product, resulting in a rebranding from to the simplified

Focusing on building trust, Airbnb revamped its website to combine host and guest profiles, instant messaging, two-way reviews, and secure payment technology. The user experience was streamlined, requiring just three clicks to book a stay. The platform expanded its offerings to include various accommodations, from entire homes and apartments to castles, boats, treehouses, igloos, tents, and even private islands.

Adopting scrappy techniques, the founders personally visited hosts in New York to stay with them, write reviews, and professionally photograph their properties, forging strong relationships that enhanced the guest experience. This approach led to a significant USD 600,000 seed investment from Sequoia Capital in April 2009, accelerating the company’s growth and gaining valuable insights into its business model.

Continued success followed with a USD 7.2 million Series A round in November 2010, led by Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital, boasting 700,000 nights booked on the platform, 80% of which occurred in the previous six months.

By Feb 2011, Airbnb reached one million bookings, and in July 2011, Airbnb secured an impressive USD 112 million in financing led by Andreessen Horowitz, with investments from Digital Sky Technologies, General Catalyst Partners, and A Grade Investments, including Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary.

Airbnb’s valuation soared with a USD 450 million investment from TPG Capital in April 2014, reaching an estimated USD 10 billion. Additional funding from notable investors, such as Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, T. Rowe Price, and Sherpa Capital, cemented Airbnb’s position as a major player in the global hospitality market.

Problems Airbnb has faced

During its rapid growth, Airbnb encountered significant challenges. Instances of property damage and guests leaving accommodations in unacceptable conditions led to the implementation of a coverage policy, including a USD 1 million “Host Guarantee” by 2012.

As the platform expanded, cities started grappling with the rise of Airbnb rentals, resulting in regulatory complications and opposition from local governments. In 2014, New York City threatened to ban short-term rentals and impose fines on hosts, while numerous cities enacted laws prohibiting renting units for less than 30 days without the owner’s presence.

Even Airbnb’s hometown, San Francisco, posed challenges. In 2015, the company spent over USD 8 million to counteract a citizen-led initiative aiming to limit Airbnb rentals through a ballot measure.

Despite these regulatory headaches, Airbnb aimed to fulfill its “belong anywhere” promise. It took steps to comply with local regulations by collecting and remitting hotel taxes to certain cities. Additionally, Airbnb pledged to share data with cities as part of a “community compact” initiative.

The impact of Airbnb on local housing markets also drew attention. In July 2016, Senator Elizabeth Warren urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how short-term rental websites, including Airbnb, contributed to housing shortages.

These challenges prompted Airbnb to navigate a complex regulatory landscape while striving to uphold its core mission.

Recent Years

In April 2015, Airbnb made headlines as one of the first U.S. companies to expand into Cuba, following the easing of restrictions on American businesses operating in the country. This move came shortly after the Obama administration reduced the ban on U.S. companies entering Cuba.

On December 10, 2020, Airbnb went public with its initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq, raising an impressive USD 3.5 billion. As part of the IPO, Airbnb offered shares valued at USD 238 million to its hosts on the platform, priced at USD 68 per share.

However, in May 2022, Airbnb made the decision to shut down its operations in mainland China. The primary reasons behind this move were the strict COVID-19 restrictions in China and the complex and costly laws and regulations that required Airbnb to provide detailed guest information to the Chinese government, which raised concerns about privacy and tracking. In 2019, an Airbnb executive, who was a former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, resigned after just six months due to allegations that the company was too willing to provide guest information.

These significant milestones in Airbnb’s history reflect the company’s global expansion, its successful IPO, and the challenges it faced in operating within complex regulatory environments. Despite the closure of its operations in China, Airbnb continues to thrive as a leading player in the global hospitality industry, connecting hosts and guests from around the world.

Business Model

Airbnb operates on a two-sided marketplace business model, connecting hosts who offer accommodations and experiences with guests seeking unique lodging and local experiences. The platform allows hosts to list their properties or experiences, while guests can search and book these listings. Airbnb acts as an intermediary, facilitating the transaction and providing various services to both hosts and guests.

Revenue Model: Airbnb generates revenue through various sources:

  1. Commission from Hosts: Airbnb charges hosts a percentage-based commission on each booking. The exact commission rate may vary depending on the type of accommodation and the host’s location. Generally, hosts are charged a commission ranging from 3% to 5% of the booking subtotal. This fee is deducted from the total payout the host receives for each reservation.
  2. Service Fees from Guests: In addition to the host’s commission, Airbnb also charges guests a service fee for each booking. The service fee is typically a percentage of the booking subtotal (around 14% for each transaction) and covers Airbnb’s operational costs and services provided to guests during the booking process.
  3. Experience Fees: Apart from accommodations, Airbnb offers various local experiences hosted by individuals or organizations. For these experiences, Airbnb charges hosts a fee similar to the commission on accommodations.
  4. Professional Hosting: Airbnb also offers services to professional property managers or hosts who manage multiple listings. These hosts may be charged different fees and may have access to additional tools and services to manage their properties efficiently.
  5. Host Tools and Services: Airbnb provides hosts with optional services, such as professional photography, cleaning services, and property management tools, which hosts can pay for to enhance their listings and improve the guest experience.
  6. Airbnb Plus and Luxury Stays: Airbnb offers premium services like Airbnb Plus and Luxury Stays, which involve a more rigorous review process and higher-quality standards. Hosts who wish to be part of these exclusive categories may be subject to additional fees.

As of Q1 2023, Airbnb has brought in a revenue of USD 1.8 billion, and a net income of USD 117 million. Ac record number of 121 million nights and experience has been booked within Q1, making it one of the world’s largest travel and accommodation companies.


Over the years, Airbnb has grown into a global powerhouse, connecting millions of hosts and travelers across 220+ countries and regions worldwide. From its humble beginnings, the company’s vision and determination have propelled it to unprecedented heights. Today, Airbnb offers an extensive range of accommodation options, from private homes and apartments to unique experiences like treehouses and castles. It has served 1.4 billion guests since its launch and currently boasts over 6.6 million active listings in more than 100,000 cities and towns. The platform has brought in a staggering USD 180 billion for its hosts.

What was once seen as a crazy idea has now become a symbol of extraordinary travel experiences. Airbnb’s 4 million hosts now provide diverse offerings, from sharing a private room to renting luxury villas, for a single night or even months at a time. The concept of hosting has expanded beyond homes to include immersive experiences in cities worldwide and online. With over 825 million guest arrivals, Airbnb has created a global reputation synonymous with unique travel opportunities.

Beyond its success in the travel industry, Airbnb has fulfilled a profound human need for connection. Over the past years, it has helped millions of people experience a sense of belonging through meaningful connections with others. This fundamental aspect attracted people to Airbnb initially and continues to be a driving force behind its popularity.

The founding history of Airbnb stands as a testament to the power of innovation and the resilience of its founders, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk. From their modest air mattress venture to their prominent position today, their entrepreneurial journey is an inspiring tale. As Airbnb continues to shape the way we travel, it serves as a reminder that even the simplest of beginnings can give rise to transformative ideas.