Everybody has had that one idea. You know, that idea — your million dollar baby. For me, it was a dumb idea I had while waiting for the school bus as a kid: a coat lined with an electric blanket, powered by a lithium ion battery pack. Probably not the safest idea, because of, you know, electrocution or battery explosions. But maybe the technology isn’t there yet.
Some ideas, however, are worth pursuing. Case and point: Airbnb, the hostel/house/apartment/room-sharing site created by Joe Gebbia. In an interview with NPR in August 2017, he admitted the idea came after he let a stranger (now a friend) crash on an air mattress, and transformed into one of the largest and most profitable travel startups in modern history.
What I took away from this interview was that not all startups are successful right away, which is probably the rule rather than the exception. Such was the case with Airbnb, where it took Gebbia two strategized re-launches to gain traction.
When Gebbia chose to target the 2008 Democratic National Convention to relaunch Airbnb, it gained widespread traction and was coverage from local, national and international media all for the company to enter financial struggles once the convention was over. His company resorted to applying for, and maxing out, dozens of credit cards.
There were little options, but Gebbia and his partners never gave up.
It’s what I admire about Gebbia, and what makes startups so alluring. Though many fizzle out because they lack the mettle or financial capital to remain self-sustaining, doing whatever it takes to stay afloat.
Mettle, grit, hustle, whatever you want to call it — if you hold yourself accountable and stay true to your idea, investors will take that as determination and commitment. With enough impressions, someone will get behind you. That was the case for Gebbia, who was funded by venture capitalist Paul Graham.
I think that determination to stick with your idea is what costs entrepreneurs in the long run. Many jump ship at the first sign of troubled waters and others take on too much debt and don’t make the business decisions to ever see the light of day again.
It’s always important to keep your business-baby alive, but startups need to seek the best financial route so it doesn’t become life-or-death. But sometimes, you always have to go all in with house money.
It’s a difficult balance. But if you’re confident enough in your idea, you’ll stick with what seems right.