As one of the three founders of Airbnb, Nate Blecharczyk was a guest at this year’s Bits and Pretzels. Our editor-in-chief Alex Hofmann was able to meet him for an exclusive interview.
“When the money was there, it was always easier to say yes.” Nate Blecharczyk (center) said this in an interview with Alex Hofmann – in the podcast he talks to Nina Anika Klotz about meeting the Airbnb founder. picture alliance / ANP | “Sander Koning” / Lisa Kempke/ start-up scene
They were bad times – and yet they couldn’t have been better: In 2008, a former roommate approached Nate Blecharczyk. He and a friend had a startup idea, but they needed someone who could program. Blecharczyk had completed his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Harvard three years earlier and also gained professional experience at Microsoft – wouldn’t he perhaps like to join? And so the American became co-founder and CTO of Airbnb, the world‘s largest booking platform for privately rented accommodation, one of the most successful startups of all time.
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From zero to global success in 15 years
Seven million accommodations are now listed on Airbnb. According to the company, one and a half billion people have booked their overnight stays anywhere in the world through Airbnb. And: Airbnb hosts have earned more than $180 billion since the platform was founded. But Airbnb started in 2008 at the time of the global financial crisis. When the general mood was depressed and one had to assume that the good years were over. But that was actually an advantage, says the Airbnb founder.
How Airbnb became a billion-dollar success despite crises
Founder tip: The trick is to say no more often
At the end of September, Blecharczyk was a guest at Bits & Pretzels in Munich, where he met Gründerszene editor-in-chief Alex Hofmann for an exclusive interview. He talked about the beginnings of his company and why, in his opinion, there is really something to the theory that successful companies are founded in times of crisis.
Because: A lot of money can cause a lot of problems, says the founder. This is what he learned in his 15 years at Airbnb, during which he and his co-founders sometimes had an extremely large amount of capital at their disposal from investors: “When the money was there, it was always easier to say yes.” Yes to more people, Yes to new products and features, yes to acquisitions. But were those always the right decisions? Many startups that have experienced similar hypergrowth have to ask themselves this, says Blecharczyk: “Some tech companies have become too big too quickly in recent years, in terms of the number of employees or in terms of the company roadmap.” And that takes its toll now. As a result, one of his biggest learnings at the helm of a successful startup is how important it is to say no.
Thoughtful guy and Oktoberfest fan
In this episode of our podcast “How Startup works,” Gründerszene editor-in-chief Alex Hofmann reports on how he experienced 39-year-old Blecharczyk in the backstage area of the Munich Digital Conference. Blecharczyk is a “calm and thoughtful person” who always takes a moment to think before answering a question. This impression doesn’t necessarily fit with the fact that the American also told him that he was a big Oktoberfest fan, who was at the Oktoberfest for the fifth time this year and also his family, i.e. his wife and daughter I brought California with me.
We will also hear excerpts from the exclusive interview together and also find out how the Airbnb founder experienced the massive impact that the Corona pandemic had on Airbnb’s business and, as a result, of course also on its corporate development, and how he generally did assesses the mood in Silicon Valley.
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Can Airbnb still be saved?