It feels like Airbnb has been in our collective vocabulary forever—but cofounders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky didn’t launch the home-sharing app until 2008. The hospitality platform took off within a few years, which resulted in Gebbia and Chesky going from not being able to make rent to achieving billionaire status before they turned 40.
Gebbia comes from a humble upbringing in Atlanta and never anticipated starting a billion-dollar hospitality brand. And although he recently stepped away from his full-time position at Airbnb, he continues to be one of the most influential people in the hospitality industry.
Gebbia changed the way hundreds of thousands of people travel and seek out accommodations around the world, yet his day-to-day spans far beyond the realms of room-sharing and hospitality.
How did Joe Gebbia come up with the idea for Airbnb?
Gebbia never thought the idea for Airbnb would take off the way it did. In fact, the idea was born organically out of a last-minute need for overnight accommodations and a way to help ensure he made his own rent for the month.
He and Chesky, his Airbnb cofounder, made the decision to open their San Francisco apartment in 2007 when a design conference came to town and there weren’t enough hotels for the number of conference-goers. The roommates ended up hosting strangers on their apartment floor on air mattresses—and it went so well that they decided the idea could go further than the one-off experience.
The “shared economy” concept was still new at the time, but Gebbia and Chesky forged ahead, and in August 2008 launched what was then known as Airbedandbreakfast.com. The idea was simple: to help connect homeowners and renters with extra space to travelers in need of no-frills and affordable accommodations.
Gebbia and Chesky financed their startup with dozens of personal credit cards and raised money selling politically themed cereal boxes until they caught the attention of Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham, who accepted them into his startup accelerator.
Did Joe Gebbia sell Airbnb?
Although Gebbia announced in July 2022 that he will be stepping down from his full-time role at Airbnb to pursue other ventures and spend more time with his family, the Airbnb cofounder did not, in fact, sell his shares of the vacation rental platform.
He also isn’t stepping away from Airbnb entirely. Gebbia will continue to serve on the board of the company and will take on a new role as an adviser to the brand.
Gebbia will also continue to be heavily involved with Airbnb.org—the company’s nonprofit organization, which partners with other nonprofit organizations to provide emergency housing during times of crisis. The 40-year-old internet entrepreneur will also continue to act as the chairman of Samara, Airbnb’s design studio.
Despite stepping down from his full-time role, Gebbia is still involved in all aspects of the brand. According to Forbes.com, Gebbia and his founding business partners, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharcyzk, have nearly 44% voting control of the Airbnb brand. Gebbia still owns a 14.2% stake in Airbnb Class B shares.
What is Joe Gebbia’s net worth?
The Bloomberg Billionaires Index lists Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia as the 291st richest person in the United States. Although Gebbia recently stepped down from his full-time role at the apartment-sharing platform, the internet mogul’s net worth is still estimated to be approximately $7.3 billion.
The internet entrepreneur and philanthropist is listed as one of the youngest members to join the Giving Pledge—a concept created by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates with Warren Buffett that urges ultra-high-net-worth individuals to pledge more than half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Aside from Airbnb.org, his own nonprofit organization, Gebbia has donated a significant portion of his wealth to various causes, including Educate Girls, Salk Institute Harnessing Plants Initiative, Thorn, and more.
Gebbia also sits on the board of trustees at his alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design, where he pledged $300,000 to help create an endowed fund to make tuition accessible for students in need of financial assistance. He recently donated 22 shares of Airbnb stock to the entire class of 2022 at Brookwood High School, his Atlanta-area alma mater, and is known to regularly donate to grade schools in the U.S.