⚙️ How Airbnb Built A Great First Impression

Bookings 3x after doing this one thing

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Read Time: 10.4 Minutes

Happy Sunday Operators ⚙️

While building The Bottleneck and Cornerstone, I’ve been focused on creating a great first impression for subscribers.

Greatness can come from small actions you take.

The founders of Airbnb get this.

They increased their bookings by 3x in a few months by doing one thing.

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Setting the Stage

A Sight for Sore Eyes

Let’s cut to 2007. Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were broke. Rent was due on their San Francisco apartment.

As luck would have it, there was a conference in the area and all nearby hotels were fully booked.

As any sensible duo would do, they decided to raise rent money by renting out three air mattresses in their apartment.

The plan, which was to charge the guests $80 each, surprisingly worked. They decided to turn this into something bigger, so “Air Bed and Breakfast” was born. 

Get it? From the air mattresses?

Instead of renting out their three beds, the pair invited others to list their mattresses. The idea was good on paper, but bookings weren’t just coming in at the rate they wanted.

It got to the point where they had to sell cereal on the side to make ends meet. (Shoutout Obama O’s and Captain McCains)

So, what went wrong?

They’ve figured out that the biggest problem was that the listing wasn’t “comfortable” enough for the eyes. Why would a tired traveler want to sleep in something that doesn’t even resemble a home?

Taking matters into their own hands, Brian and Joe visited EVERY bed and room listing in New York in 2009.

With a trusty camera, they asked owners if they could take photos of their place.

Every listing on their website had better photos within a matter of days.

Did it work?

Well, after a month - bookings doubled. Then it tripled.

As of 2024, there are over 7.7 million active listings on Airbnb, a far cry from the original 3 beds it once offered.

Airbnb’s net worth as of May 2024 is $92 billion. Funny to think that all of that started from three beds.

Of course, this isn’t just a story about how Brian and Joe unlocked the secret to AirBnB’s success. 

Ops Tactic: First impressions of your product matter. By working on the customer experience from day one, you’ll unlock a flywheel.

Why this Matters
First Impressions Matter

Picture yourself as a traveler. You’re traveling miles from home and want a temporary place to stay.

You see a listing for a $30-a-night room with only a single photo of a bed to give you an idea of what it looks like.

Would you book that room? 

Or would you book a pricier room but at least the listing shows you every nook and cranny of what you’re getting?

The truth is that first impressions are very important for all industries.

Research shows that it takes people between a tenth of a second and 30 seconds to form first impressions. Psychologists call this “first impression bias.”

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