Paul Graham, the co-Founder of Y Combinator, advised Brian Chesky and Gebbia, the initial two founders of Airbnb, to focus on the customer. The advice led to Chesky undertaking frequent visits with Airbnb’s early hosts, mostly based in New York. Remember Chesky and Gebbia were based out of San Francisco that is on the West Coast.
The advice, interaction, and feedback from those early Airbnb customers resulted in major changes to the fledgling Airbnb platform. The listing photos were pretty bad and were replaced with professional pictures. The listing requirement of an air mattress and obligatory free breakfast was made away with. It enabled hosts to provide their properties for rent without being physically present on location. Not just that, it introduced a user-friendly payment system.
Chesky, in the course of his entrepreneurial journey, sought mentors. Some of the famous individuals who mentored the Airbnb founders are John Donahoe of eBay and Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn, Bob Iger of Disney, and many others.
Mentors played an important role in the journey of Airbnb. Mentors act as a sounding board to ideas, give useful tips, offer alternative ways of looking at things. They can play a critical role in the business.
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