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Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, Entrepreneur, Brian Chesky Biography,
Entrepreneur Founder Stories

Brian Chesky: The Visionary Behind Airbnb’s Meteoric Rise

In 2015, Time Magazine recognized Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky as one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People.” This accolade came five years before Airbnb’s triumphant public debut in December 2020, when its share price surged to over $144, more than doubling at the IPO. By May 2023, Airbnb’s market capitalization stood at $74.9 billion, with Chesky, now 42, holding a real-time net worth of approximately $9.3 billion.

Brian Chesky

Early Life and Inspirations

Born on August 29, 1981, in Niskayuna, New York, Brian Chesky grew up with a passion for art and design. The son of Robert and Deborah Chesky, Brian inherited a blend of Polish and Italian heritage. His childhood was marked by creative pursuits, including drawing art replicas and redesigning shoes and toys. His high school yearbook quote, “I’m sure I’ll amount to nothing,” humorously contrasted with his father’s sentiments.

Path to Design and Meeting a Co-Founder

Chesky enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1999, where he led the hockey team and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in industrial design in 2004. At RISD, he befriended Joe Gebbia, who would later become a crucial partner in founding Airbnb. During his early twenties, Chesky also pursued competitive bodybuilding, maintaining 16-inch biceps as noted in a 2014 profile.

The Genesis of Airbnb

After graduation, Chesky moved to Los Angeles for an industrial design job earning $40,000 annually. He later relocated to San Francisco to live with Gebbia. Struggling to pay rent, the duo saw an opportunity during a design conference in October 2007, when hotel demand exceeded supply. They decided to rent out their space to attendees, leading to the creation of airbedandbreakfast.com. They bought three air mattresses and set them up in their loft, sparking a business idea.

Realizing the potential, Chesky and Gebbia enlisted former roommate Nathan Blecharczyk to transform their concept into a viable enterprise. Initially attempting a roommate-matching service, they pivoted back to the Air Bed and Breakfast idea, despite initial setbacks. Their persistence paid off at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, leveraging the shortage of hotel accommodations.

Securing Investment

Facing repeated rejections from investors, the trio’s breakthrough came with an invitation from venture capitalist Paul Graham to join Y Combinator, a prestigious startup accelerator. Despite continued investor skepticism, they improved their concept during the program’s first quarter in 2009. In March 2009, Air Bed & Breakfast rebranded to “Airbnb,” and a month later, Sequoia Capital invested $600,000, marking a turning point for the fledgling company.

Rapid Growth and Success

Airbnb’s growth accelerated rapidly. By 2010, Chesky chose to live exclusively in Airbnb rentals due to limited space in his apartment. By 2011, Airbnb had expanded to 89 countries with 1 million nights booked, earning recognition with a mobile app award at SXSW and a $112 million investment that elevated its valuation to over $1 billion.

Recognition and Philanthropy

In May 2015, then-President Obama appointed Chesky as an “Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship.” Forbes listed him among “America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40,” and Apple’s former design chief, Jony Ive, praised his audacity. In 2016, Chesky joined Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ “The Giving Pledge,” committing to donate most of his wealth to charity. In May 2022, he made a $100 million donation to the Obama Foundation.

The Future of Airbnb and Chesky’s Vision

Airbnb continues to thrive, overcoming challenges such as customer relations and regulatory hurdles. The platform now includes over 4 million hosts and has welcomed more than 1.4 billion guests across 220+ countries and regions. Chesky remains at the helm as CEO, focusing on refining Airbnb’s services. He recently spent six months living in Airbnb rentals to identify core issues, and actively engages with users on Twitter, a practice praised by Elon Musk. Given his history of resilience and innovation, Chesky is well-equipped to navigate future challenges.


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