Airbnb CEO Has Tips for Handling Rejection

Like pitches, most startups go ignored.

Here’s a very interesting post shared yesterday on Medium by Brian Chesky, now quite well-known as co-founder and CEO of Airbnb.

Chesky simply cut and pasted the rejection emails he received from various VC firms in the summer/fall of 2008, before his company had completely overturned the existing travel market.

Some snippets:

  • “…while this sounds interesting it is not something we would do here…not our focus…”
  • “The potential market opportunity did not seem large enough…”
  • “…it’s not in one of our prime 5 target markets…”
  • “…for some reason, we’ve not been able to get excited about travel related businesses.”

Chesky concludes by advising others in his situation to “think of these emails” next time their big ideas get shot down.

The implication is that anyone can be Airbnb, but we’d like to take a slightly different lesson from this post: NO ONE is Airbnb. No matter how amazing a given startup’s concept seems or what problem it aims to solve, statistics tell us that it will not be anywhere near as big or well-funded as Chesky’s company.

So, rather than read these emails and imagine that yourself or your client might one day be laughing at those who passed on what you knew to be a great business opportunity, maybe we can draw a more realistic conclusion.

This is just the way things work. Like mediocre pitches for unexciting products, most startup companies will be ignored…for good reason.

Chesky doesn’t have to deal with much rejection anymore. But there is only one Brian Chesky on Earth.

A Twitter thread started by Mike Isaac of The New York Times to discuss the post today is also worth a read for different takes.