Airbnb’s first guest was a graduate design student from Arizona State University who booked a place through the company’s then-website Airbedandbreakfast.com.
In October 2007, Amol Surve found himself in San Francisco with no place to stay after paying nearly $1,000 for a ticket to the Industrial Design Conference. The money he had spent on the conference ticket left him broke and all the affordable hotel rooms in the area had been booked for the event.
That was when Surve, who was born in India and moved to the U.S. in 2004 as a student, came across the link for a new website called Airbedandbreakfast.com on a design blog. Surve told Tech in Asia:
“I clicked it just because I liked the logo.”
However, there wasn’t a booking link or contact information to reach his hosts, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, so he surfed the internet and found one of their numbers. After giving Gebbia a ring, Surve had booked himself a place for the night. He continued:
“I landed at the Rausch Street apartment and Joe welcomed me in an aviator hat and glasses on. He had the perfect designer traits.”
Surve was staying with the original founders of what would become known as Airbnb. At the time, Gebbia and Chesky were unable to afford the high rent for their three-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. They listed the space for $80 a night per person for guests during the conference just to try the service out.
Surve recalled that there was no real bed at the apartment and no breakfast either, contrary to what the website name suggested. He said:
“I was offered an air bed. Two other designers also slept on air bed mattresses in the living room. Joe also found time to show us San Francisco, which was the most amazing part. […] All of us being designers, we gelled really well. There was a camaraderie.”
Gebbia and Cheskys’ startup was later accepted to Y-combinator and is valued today at $25.5 billion. They’ve received funding from notable investors including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and TPG Growth.
The unicorn startup has made its founders multi-billionaires. Surve didn’t know it at the time, but he was Airbnb’s first guest of the 80 million people who have used the service since. He said:
“Being the first guest on Airbnb changed my life. I had a front row seat watching American entrepreneurship turn an idea into a startup. It is changing the way you live through travel. It was also my introduction to the tech world. Prior to that, I had not heard of many tech blogs.
“Both, Joe and Brian were new to the tech startup scene, but because of their design background, they knew how to make things that people want and need. I now consider them lifelong friends.”