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Short on Rent? Found a Startup

As co-founder and CPO of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia might have a hand in planning the lodging for your next business trip or vacation, but he wouldn’t be where he is today without coming up short on his rent.

In 2007, Gebbia made a very important phone call to longtime friend Brian Chesky. He told Chesky, who was living in Los Angeles at the time, that he needed a roommate. After quitting his job on a whim, Chesky joined Gebbia in a newly rented loft in high-priced San Francisco. But without jobs, the pair realized they were in over their heads.

Years earlier, Gebbia had promised Chesky that the two would one day start a business, and as luck would have it, his promise was finally realized. With cash being so short, Gebbia’s master plan seemed a bit offthewall: The pair would rent out their living room to travelers looking for a place to stay during an industrial design conference behind held in the city. Three air beds later, Airbnb was born.

The beginnings were as modest as could be: Visitors staying at Gebbia’s loft were given an air mattress for the night and breakfast consisting of Pop-Tarts and other low-cost treats. But what sounded like a ridiculous idea to make a few bucks netted the pair over $1,000 in just the first weekend.

A short time later, the pair founded Airbnb, and the original makeshift bed-and-breakfast in Gebbia’s loft became the headquarters of the growing company, with a booming website connecting travelers with property owners or renters willing to provide lodging on short notice.

To say that Airbnb caught on would be a massive understatement. Today, you can rent accommodations from Airbnb in over 34,000 cities in 192 countries. The service has greatly expanded its reach, providing a platform for people to rent homes, boats, castles, and even entire islands, and the company that started in a loft in San Francisco is now valued at as much as $10 billion.

E*TRADE and Airbnb are separate and unaffiliated companies and this article does not represent a recommendation by E*TRADE to buy any specific security.