A letter from co-founder Joe Gebbia

Today, Airbnb co-founder and Chairman of Airbnb.org Joe Gebbia sent the following note to employees. The letter is also viewable on joegebbia.com/dearairbnb.

Dear Airbnb Community,

I couldn’t believe my eyes. My heart began to race. The letter—addressed from my landlord—trembled in my hands. 

I read it again to be certain. Yep, not an illusion. He was raising the rent for our walkup apartment on Rausch Street in San Francisco…by $1,050!

“Where does he expect us to find that kind of money?” was all I could muster. Nate, my roommate, nodded in similar disbelief – and soon moved out. My friend Brian optimistically moved in, and then the stress hit him too. 

On the roof of Rausch Street

At this point, we had less than four weeks to figure it out. Our dreams of becoming entrepreneurs were whittled down to a far more immediate dilemma: How were we going to change the world if we couldn’t even afford an apartment? 

The year was 2007 and we were rich on ideas but short on luck. We’d been out of work for two months and our savings accounts were dangerously low. When letters, pleas, and even charts showing standard rent increases failed to persuade our landlord, we were forced to think creatively. Eventually, we came up with one last act of desperation. 

You probably know the rest. Much to our surprise, this last-minute solution turned into a company beyond my wildest, most ambitious daydream, where you can rent everything from houseboats to islands, from treehouses to castles—and a small kernel of trust in strangers became the foundation of a community spanning 220 countries and regions.

It’s been an incredible journey I’ve joyfully traversed across my 20s, 30s, and now into my 40s. Yet, like any traveler, I often find myself wondering what else there is to explore. After great consideration, I’ve decided to step back from my full-time operating role at Airbnb. 

When traveling, we leave a piece of ourselves at every destination, whether they’re memories in the lives of people we’ve met or that one takeout container in the fridge. So I’m excited to continue serving on the Board of Directors of both Airbnb and Airbnb.org. I love and believe in our mission, and don’t want to miss out on all the fun, so I will also take on a new role as advisor, supporting Brian, Nate, and the team on the roadmap, future concepts, and our creative culture. Maybe I’m just being sentimental, but this new dynamic reminds me a lot of the early, iterative days in our living room headquarters.

The primary reason for this transition is that this is the only company I’ve ever helped build, and my brain is bursting with more ideas to bring to the world. My first new venture is a startup called parenthood, at which I’ll be taking on the role of Dad. The others involve a complementary product to Airbnb, documentary filmmaking, and various philanthropic initiatives. I’m looking forward to sharing more about these with you soon.

Additionally, we emerged from an unprecedented setback to the travel industry with the best first quarter since we incorporated Airbnb fourteen years ago. The incredible talent we’ve hired since then has made this a company full of the brightest and most creative minds on the planet—and the whole operation is in the best hands it’s ever been in. 

Before opening a new chapter, I’d like to acknowledge the visionaries who brought this once-preposterous dream to life. 

Pitch day to investors at Y-Combinator, 2009

Hardship builds friendship. And through this, I’ve made two of the closest friends in the world: my co-founders. Jet Fuel Chesky, you inspire, grow, and accelerate everything you touch. You’re one of the most thoughtful CEOs, business leaders, and creatives of our generation. Indiana Nate, you’ve saved the day for us countless times. The harder the problem, the more likely you are to solve it, and leave us wanting to clone your brain. 

They say the culture of a company is a reflection of its founders. In our case, it’s also a reflection of our connection—the kind of brotherhood that endures through dizzying success and dismal failure. We formed a glue so strong that we like to joke about filing a patent for it. These are forever bonds. This is one reason why our Sunday night founder calls will continue for years to come.

Thank you to Michael, Kat, and Amol for being open-minded and the right kind of crazy to stay on three random dudes’ airbeds. As our first guests, you met us at the breakfast table of an idea that would flourish beyond our wildest aspirations. 

There are not enough words to express my gratitude to all of you who followed—eager to live locally, feel like insiders instead of tourists, and resist the temptation to go through the bedroom drawers. This all exists because of your wanderlust, willingness to crash at the place of a friend you’ve never met, and, yes, curiosity. 

Thanks also to the four million of you who’ve chosen to host, defying convention to form the largest network of hospitality on the planet. You’ve welcomed the world into your guest bedrooms, yurts, villas, caves, barns, mansions, tugboats, Airstreams, and that one giant potato house in Idaho. You belong to a unique subset of humanity who knows arriving to fast wifi, a pyramid of extra toilet paper, and a friendly face (or at least a friendly note) make a big difference.

Since the beginning, we wanted our team members to feel like they were not joining a company but a creative mecca. From Rausch Street to 888 Brannan and beyond, I’d like to slow-clap the thousands of you who helped build Airbnb. You survived an admittedly over-the-top interview process, dedicated yourselves to our mission, and held yourselves to ridiculously high standards. You are a case study for what happens when you combine a bunch of really talented people who all care. I will be keeping my company email so you may reach out at any time. I’m grateful for each and every one of you. 

None of this would have been possible without another special class of risk-takers: our early investors. You tolerated a pretty wild pitch from three unproven founders. Most parents tell their children, “Never talk to strangers.” So you either had incredible foresight—or really bad parents—that led you to invest in a business based on giving strangers the keys to people’s homes.

Thanks to all of you mentioned above, we’ve been able to not just change the experience of traveling for millions of people but invent a new verb as well1. I never could have imagined this being possible when I grew up in a small town in Georgia, where the Golden Rule was laminated on more walls than I care to remember. I didn’t realize until writing this letter, but the idea of treating other people how you want to be treated basically became our business model. 

Incredibly, after a billion-plus guest arrivals, the data proves that the Golden Rule is actually human nature, which is perhaps why some version of it can be found in almost every culture. In other words, people are good. Sometimes with all the stories of suffering in the world, we need to be reminded of that. This knowledge of the deep and innate goodness of humanity is the most important thing I’m taking from this experience that will inform the rest of my life, my next ventures, and my upcoming experience as a father.

May all your stays be filled with happiness, belonging, and forever bonds. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Joe Gebbia

PS: If you haven’t received a thank you in this letter, here’s a chance to get one. Every dollar you donate to Airbnb.org, I’ll match so we can house twice as many people in need. Simply forward the confirmation email to DonateWithJoe@airbnb.com sometime before my birthday on August 21st. 

PPS: Forget about blocks and Legos. You know that little Gebbia will be stacking toilet paper pyramids like a SuperHost.

1Airbnb (/er bee-en-bee/), verb: To select a travel accommodation that is often more interesting, immersive, and authentic than a chain hotel. Usually a home, but sometimes a potato.