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Airbnb's Joe Gebbia: Forget About Scale, Go Talk to Your Customers

Joe Gebbia is a co-founder of Airbnb, which matches travelers with a variety of rooms for rent worldwide (think everything from a spare pullout sofa to a castle). The company has listings in 184 countries and has booked more than a million nights. TechCrunch recently reported that the company was in the process of closing a $100 million round of venture capital funding.

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Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia Airbnb

"One of the biggest lessons in startups is scaling - you have to plan for that magical day when you have millions upon millions of users. For the first six months of Airbnb, we attempted to solve the problems we were facing from behind computer screens. We wanted our solutions to be 'scalable' so we could grow up and out of being a startup. But the result of this early stage 'solve for scale' left us with sub-par growth, minimal traction, and a non-functional marketplace. We were lucky to have 1,000 users.

Rather than closing up shop, we chose to disregard the status quo and started doing unconventional, unscalable things. So we did the least scalable thing an entrepreneur could do: we went to meet each of our users in person. We flew around the country to talk face-to-face with the hosts renting rooms on our site. LA. New York City. Miami. Chicago. Atlanta. We met hundreds of users, listened to hundreds of stories, and learned exactly what was wrong with our site. We collected enough data points to know what real world issues to solve. These human insights helped us uncover a product that people not only wanted, but also needed.

Today we have a flourishing marketplace with listings in 15,000 cities and 184 countries, a team of over 100 people, and hearty growth. The answers on how to jump start our business were out there, we just had to get out of chairs to go find them."

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