I just watched a video from November last, of an Airbnb founder, Brian Chesky, talking about the first 1000 days of his company. It’s one of those times when I’d had the browser tab open for about two weeks before getting to it, but I’m glad I did.
In case you don’t know Airbnb, Brian describes the company as “a community marketplace for space” – essentially it’s a way for people to rent out apartments, bedrooms, castles, private islands…
One of the most interesting things from the video was the description of Airbnb’s strategy for getting press coverage during the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver. Brian and friends spotted an opportunity, since there were an expected 80k visitors and only 28k hotel rooms. The challenge was how to get CNN to cover them.
Their story pans out something like this:
- local Denver bloggers were writing about the problems of fitting all the convention attendees into the city’s hotels
- Airbnb went to Google News and typed in “DNC Housing Crisis” to find the bloggers
- Airbnb wrote to all the bloggers saying there was a new way for people to list their bedrooms for rent – Airbnb
- Denver bloggers started to write about Airbnb
- Airbnb contacted the Denver local news to say what they were doing
- local news Googled Airbnb and saw that people were writing about them and did a story about them
- regional news (Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News) saw that local news were writing about Airbnb and did a story about them
- CNN were following keywords about the DNC and saw that everyone was writing about Airbnb and did a story about them
Incidentally, Airbnb almost became a cereal company, launching “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCain’s” when they were stuck for traffic and cash.