what can you learn from Airbnb?

How did one mentor’s advice completely change the trajectory for Airbnb? It’s all about taking small steps to make giant leaps.

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👇 Today’s Briefing

  • Story: From Air Mattresses to Billions 🛏️

  • Insight: Do Things That Don’t Scale 🧮 

  • Action: The “First Five Customers” Challenge 🔎


Airbnb: From Air Mattresses to Billions 🛏️

In 2009, Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia had the shittiest business of all-time. They were renting out dirty ass air mattresses on stranger’s floors and the only thing they had to show for it was a binder full of credit card debt.

They were in desperate need of mentorship, and luckily for them, they found Paul Graham. As a co-founder of the renowned start-up accelerator Y Combinator, Paul was known for Mr. Miyagi-style questions that left entrepreneurs completely f**king stumped.

It went something like this:

👨‍🏫: (Paul / Teacher): "Hey Brian, where's your business? Where's your traction?"

🧑‍🎓: (Brian / student): "What do you mean? We don't have a lot of traction."

👨‍🏫: "People must be using it."

🧑‍🎓: "There are only a few people in New York using Airbnb ☹️ ”

👨‍🏫: "So your users are in New York, and you're still in Mountain View?"

🧑‍🎓: "Yes."

👨‍🏫: "What are you still doing here?"

🧑‍🎓: "What do you mean?"

👨‍🏫: "Go to your users. Get to know them. Get your customers one by one."

🧑‍🎓: "But that won't scale. If we're huge and we have millions of customers, we can't meet every customer."

👨‍🏫: "That's exactly why you should do it now because this is the only time you'll ever be small enough that you can meet all your customers, get to know them, and make something directly for them. Once you scale, you'll never be able to do it again."

Unfortunately, this animated logo still looks like a set of balls…

Realizing they'd been acting like dumbasses, the founders decided to take Paul's advice and embark on a f**king epic journey to meet every single Airbnb host in New York City.

They grabbed their cameras, put on their best "we're not serial killers" smiles, and set out to take some kickass photos of the listings while talking to the hosts and learning about all the crazy shit they'd experienced.

This personal touch helped them understand what people really wanted from Airbnb. They took that juicy feedback and used it to unf**k their product faster than a virgin on prom night.

Fast forward a few years, and boom! Airbnb became a household name, valued at over $100 billion, all because Brian and Joe had the balls to go out there and talk to their customers like actual human beings.

Key takeaway: To build a successful business, you need to do things that don't scale — things like meeting customers, recruiting them personally, hiring the staff and vendors, and running campaigns.


Do Things That Don’t Scale 🧮

👉 INSIGHT: Get personal to get profitable.

Paul Graham's advice is simple: In the early days of your startup, don't be afraid to get your hands dirty and do things that won't scale, even if it means living off ramen noodles for a few months.

Here’s a few ways this has paid off for other start-ups:

  1. Get close to your customers: Zappos focuses heavily on customer service, even having their engineers spend time on the phones, helping them build a loyal customer base and earn over $2 billion.

  2. Gather real-time feedback: Dropbox's founders participated in online forums and communities where their target users congregated, helping them refine their product and grow their user base to 600 million.

  3. Seize the opportunity: Stripe’s “collision installation” meant if you said “yes” to using their beta version, they installed it right there on the spot — which helped them grow to a valuation of $65 billion.

  4. Personal touch: At Amazon, Jeff Bezos would often write personalized thank-you notes to early customers, a small step that led to the company reaching net sales of $386 billion in 2020.

By doing the unscalable, you'll create a product that truly resonates with your target audience and sets you up for long-term success. Plus, you'll have some great stories to tell at your eventual IPO party.


The “First Five Customers” Challenge 🔎

Alex Hormozi, a successful entrepreneur and business coach, recommends several strategies for acquiring your first five customers. Here are some of his key suggestions:

  1. Leverage your personal network: Reach out to 5+ friends, family, and acquaintances who might be interested in your product or service.

  2. Offer your product or service for free: Provide your service to a select group at no cost in exchange for feedback or testimonials.

  3. Offer a low-risk trial or guarantee: Provide a low-risk way for potential customers to try your product or service, such as a free trial, money-back guarantee, or a low-cost introductory offer.

Offer them a deal they can't refuse, treat them like royalty, and keep fine-tuning your approach like a mad scientist.

Reply to this email with your 3-step business game plan for a chance to receive custom feedback from the Wolf himself!

Memes of the Week 🤣 

Bite-Sized Reads 📚

[Watch] This short video from Alex Hormozi will show you exactly how to get your first five customers.

[Read] Paul's advice was simple yet powerful: to build a successful business, we need to do things that don't scale.

[Read] PG: “Startups take off because the founders make them take off.”

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Publisher: Jordan Belfort

Editors in Chief: Brock Swinson and Davis Richardson

DISCLAIMER: None of this is financial advice. This newsletter is strictly for educational purposes and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. Please be careful and do your own research. 

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