Nathan Blecharczyk — Founder, Airbnb
Built the sophisticated software infrastructure behind Airbnb.
Thinking back, there a lot of things that Nathan has done that have helped him to be successful now. Every experience on your journey should be additive — building up to the moment where you go to the Olympics. You need to have confidence to persevere — Nathan got it by doing programming through high school/college.
Became roommates with Joe, noticed he also worked late on side projects, had a tremendous work ethic as well. The worst thing is to have a partner that doesn't work as hard as you. Choosing your partners is the most important decision you'll ever make — personally and in business. You can change your idea/pivot your company, but you can't change your partners without starting over. Don't rush into these relationships; give it a lot of thought — hopefully it'll last years.
Started Airbnb to rent out an extra room + airbeds for a design conference; noticed the people who crashed there weren't just random young people like them, but very unique, different people — and they built real relationships. Ended up building a simple site with events in their database, had classifieds surrounding these events. Built features based on what people actually wanted — started accepting payments upfront not to make money, but for the service — to ensure that there was no awkwardness.
After the initial attention wears off, you have the trough of sorrow — you work very hard, no one takes notice, nothing seems to matter. When Airbnb hit that point, they realized that before they quit, they needed to give 100%. Submitted an app to YC, convinced PG that they were determined, persevered through a lot, knew how to create things — were like cockroaches. Gave 100% focus 6-7 days a week, set a goal for ramen profitability, printed out a graph week by week.
Pieces of advice that made a world of difference:
- Paul Buchheit — It's better to have a few users that love you than a thousand that like you. Find those few evangelists and build for them.
- PG: Do things that don't scale. Go to New York, meet your users.
They went to New York, visited their 40 users, talked to them, took them out for beer, etc — this rapport allowed them to fully curate their properties, change the descriptions/titles, lower the price, etc.
They met Greg McAdoo (Sequoia) at a YC dinner who really understood it, raised $600k a few weeks later, then everything took off from there.
From the graphs, it looks really easy — but the journey is a really tough one. What you should take away is that this is a long journey, and perseverance is what matters the most. Every event is a building block to the final competition. Pace yourself so you don't quit too early, and you can do amazing things.
Sometimes your partnership isn't all high fives.
Investors don't want M's, they want B's.