Joe Gebbia — Co-Founder of Airbnb (#301)

“Anything I come across that feels impossible, I probably need to take a second look.”

– Joe Gebbia

Joe Gebbia (@jgebbia) is a designer, entrepreneur, and global explorer. He is the co-founder and CPO of Airbnb, which has changed the way the world travels and how people connect in more than 190 countries.

In this wide-ranging and hilarious interview, Joe shares the decisions, hardship, failures, and successes that prepared him for Airbnb.


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Joe Gebbia -- Co-Founder of Airbnb

Want to hear another episode with a fascinating leader? Listen to my conversation with Ray Dalio. We discuss how Ray thinks about investment decisions, the three books he would give to every graduating high school or college senior, how he might assess cryptocurrency, and much, much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#264: Ray Dalio, The Steve Jobs of Investing

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Joe Gebbia:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • How did Joe’s first business venture get him into trouble? [02:09]
  • How did Joe wind up being raised in the rural deep south? [04:47]
  • What sparked Joe’s entrepreneurial curiosity? [05:30]
  • What did Joe’s parents teach him about connecting with others and going above and beyond to be of service? [07:00]
  • How Joe’s parents learned to support his interests the hard way. [11:55]
  • Joe talks about some of his other early entrepreneurial exploits. [14:07]
  • From a high school perspective, what did Joe want to be when he grew up? [16:44]
  • On getting into the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Was it the environment or the medium that helped him excel? [18:05]
  • How Joe rose to the challenge of outdoing a legendary senior prank at his high school. [20:32]
  • Why has Joe seen Michael Jordan naked? [45:19]
  • What source does Joe credit for his intuition to go beyond expectations? [1:08:29]
  • How founding a basketball team at RISD was like running a startup. [1:15:38]
  • We’ve talked about balls. Let’s talk about buns — CritBuns. [1:22:50]
  • A rejection equation: SW2 + WC = MO (Some will love it, some won’t + who cares? = move on) AKA “Keep going until you find the people who do love your idea.” [1:33:56]
  • The goal Joe set for CritBuns that would represent the pinnacle of achievement — and how he reached it. [1:38:52]
  • What happened when Joe took CritBuns to Japan? [1:47:03]
  • On pitching to Billy Mays. [1:51:35]
  • What was the turning point that made Joe pivot away from building a CritBuns empire? [1:53:20]
  • On starting a digital service during the revenue-light Web 2.0 years. [2:02:03]
  • How a rent crisis prompted the birth of Airbnb. [2:05:49]
  • Mixed reactions to the initial Airbnb concept, an unsuccessful SXSW launch, and the company’s evolution into something bigger. [2:18:27]
  • A more successful relaunch during the Obama vs. McCain campaign. [2:23:31]
  • Closing thoughts on reframing rejection into an invitation, and the small adjustments that can turn a failing idea into a successful one. [2:30:14]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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47 Replies to “Joe Gebbia — Co-Founder of Airbnb (#301)”

  1. Great insights, like always – love you books and podcasts –

    But would have loved you supporting a woman for international woman’s day today.

  2. Paraphrasing…”I did (accomplished) it. If I could do this, what else could I do?”

    I took away more from this episode than many in recent past. I enjoyed listening to story and background of how his achievements came into play.

    Looking forward to the second installment of your next interview with him.

    1. Tim, first off thanks for all the great podcasts. I love the fact that they are long form and not condensed.

      You asked for some feedback on the video, so here goes.

      I’m not sure I’m getting anything extra from seeing the video, I think a good number of your listeners probably hear you in the car or on the subway and probably won’t have time to sit in front of a screen. that said, no one is forcing them to watch so maybe it’s more of a ‘nice to have’ AND maybe best used for those episodes where the guest actually has something to show, like a good exercise, or a drawing or a demonstration.

      I’m surprised you chose to make your guest (and you) hold the mics in your hand for that long. It was even uncomfortable for me watching you both hold them for so long 🙂 Consider using small table top stands for this. Something like this:

      [Moderator: link to Hamilton Stands KB810M Nu-Era Tabletop Mic Stand with Bag and Mic Clip removed.]

      The zoom recorder is a great choice for portability and the audio quality is great so keep that up!


  3. Hey Tim,

    For the video podcasts you should check into using these microphone stands – On-Stage Stands MS7920B Bass Drum / Boom Combo Mic Stand

    You’ll get a better quality recording and it won’t be as awkward with having to hold the mics the whole time


    – Vinny

  4. Finally being a Mexican Industrial Designer pays off a little.



    avocado (fruit)


    From proto-Aztecan *pa:wa (“avocado”).

    Bonus: From āhuacatl (“avocado”) +‎ mōlli (“sauce, broth”).

  5. Hey Tim, in your search for inner peace and happiness, have you checked out the work of Byron Katie? Seems like you would find the 4 questions and turnarounds quite valuable as tools to end emotional distress in the moment. Just sayin.

  6. You asked about whether or not the video was worth it…. Although I clearly don’t speak for all, in my humble opinion, probably not. With a few exceptions – Coach Somers and Jason Nemer, for example. But in general, my preferred means of listening to your podcasts is during otherwise dead time, such as driving. Video is not an option. Of course, I’m not bothered if it is there. Just doesn’t add much value most of the time. And it strikes me as a lot of extra work to produce.

    Really appreciate your work. Thank you.

  7. Dammit. I listened to this whole podcast via iPhone app without realizing there was a video – more video content Tim! After 3 years of consuming your content, I have just now only realized that solving problems > pursuing money. The penny has dropped. Often times brilliant business titans (in all industries) are very rarely chasing money, in the beginning. Anyway, stoked for part deux!

  8. As someone who is also currently in the process of bringing an idea/prototype to a mass manufacturing scale, this has been very insightful and uplifting! Just what I needed 🙂

  9. Hi Tim,

    This felt from start to finish as a conversation more than anything else, and although this is the first time I’ve listened to Joe, it’s clear that someone has done his homework and knew how good he is at telling stories.

    Not sure when exactly, but I think it was clear at one point that this wasn’t going to be enough for only one episode. Looking over the show notes, it seems like the high school story really took a good portion of this podcast, which to be honest, is the one that stuck most.

    Just to give some of my thoughts on what many would probably enjoy for a part 2, in case this comment has any type of weight, I’d be curious to know how the present looks like, of course, with some tactics or routines that could be extracted, and just as much, curious about the future.


  10. Hi Tim

    I have been following your podcasts regularly for the past 2 years. Love your work, valuable content for life is what I get out of your podcasts.

    Is it possible to get Gilbert Enoka on your podcast?

    Best Regards


  11. I commented above when I was only halfway through…..

    That was the best podcast I’ve ever heard. Thank you.

    The stories reveal far more about what is needed to find your way to success than any analysis or conceptualizing of the ideas that drive the stories could ever hope to do. The viewpoint is revealed instead of the idea and it’s the viewpoint that is necessary to get the end result.

    Can’t wait for part two.

  12. Hey Tim,

    I’m a longtime fan, thanks for doing what you do.

    If I’m being honest, I didn’t love this episode as much as others. .. The last one I listened to was with Dr. Gabor Mate. Joe’s story about his high school prank kind of pale’s in comparison to Dr Mate’s deep insights on human behaviour and childhood.

  13. 2 1/2 hrs…I fast forward the podcast only to backtrack and listen to the hilarious stories in full……SW2 + WC = MO

    thanks for taking us through the Journey……

  14. “What evidence do you have that suggests that?” – a simple non-confrontational way (depending on tone) to call BS… or otherwise make it clear that you require something more than a confidently-stated conclusory statement to influence you or your decisions. Well done.

  15. I love pranks, my family has a tradition of pranks. I laugh a lot, it was very ingenious. Interesting guy.

  16. I loved this episode, and found that Joe’s fascinating storytelling was reminiscent of Cal Fussman. One critique: is it just me, or does there seem to be a big difference in volume between Joe’s voice and Tim’s voice (Joe seems much softer, and Tim much louder)? There were many times that I had to jack my stereo volume way up to hear Joe, and then Tim’s response would come blaring out. If possible, I think it would be good to remix the sound; bumping up Joe by about 10-15%, and taking Tim’s volume down by about the same amount.

  17. Joe is a great story teller and was very open but positive about his setbacks.

    Loved the SW2 + WC = MO (Some will love it, some won’t + who cares? = move mn). Made me want to go to design school lol

  18. Hello!

    This podcast did a lot of good to me… came in a perfect time, thank you.

    Thank you for the video also, I did listen to it on audio twice, and I was wondering about Joe’s body language and it was a pleasant surprise to find the video here! I also think this format works better to share content in the living with friends and family.

    For me this episode encompasses a lot of teachings in the form of stories:

    – The quality of the questions he asks to himself to achieve.

    – The positive emotions on the questions and the meaning he puts on the challenges he sets ups for himself

    – How he arrives to big solutions at the last moments of the stories

    – The power of story telling

    – The benefits of training getting out of the comfort zone.

    I know there is more here… to me it feels like a combination of Tim Ferris, Seth Godin and Tony Robbins teachings in a format of fun stories.

    Ernesto Butto

  19. Good Afternoon Tim and Team,

    This podcast ranks as my all time favorite episode thus far. I have already listened to it for a second time. I have consumed most if not all of your podcasts beginning with Jocko’s podcast in October of 2015. Your podcast is part of my daily commute. Thank you for the tremendous value that you bring to your listeners and to myself.

    I found this particular episode so fascinating because I am always looking for additional role models for my children. I want my children to be able to understand and see how hard work, curiosity, passion, goal setting, resourcefulness and serendipity can lead to something magical. I think this podcast does just that.

    I was also reminded to lift my head up and think bigger there are opportunities on the horizon. I know this intellectually but this episode stirred the fire in my belly.

    Now please, please, please, please hurry up and broadcast Part II.


    Jamie Presser

  20. I’ve listed to so many of the podcasts and have taken away more than I can ever explain. This one is one of my all time favorites. Listening to this took me places. Thanks to both of you.

  21. This might be my favorite Tim podcast ever. Joe has so many awesome stories of hijinks, ballsiness, perseverance, inventiveness…and of course, the equation: SW (2) + WC = MO. Great stuff, gentlemen!

  22. TIM,

    You and Joe brought feelings of frustration that I thought were well behind me! I cut off live television series many moons ago due to cliffhangers (Lost, Nip/Tuck). First I felt like I was violating privacy with this opportunity to eavesdrop on such intimate chatter. Well, 2 hours and 33 minutes in, you cut off for an unannounced round two! Well played sir!

    As we are midway through March and you just published #4 episode of the month (Frank Blake), I hope that of the remaining 2 shows in your quota we enjoy the conclusion of Joe’s journey.

    Thank you for what you do and pre-register me for any monthly subscription service you cook up will you?

  23. Tim, Joe is one of the best storytellers you’ve had on your show. I would love for you to explore how he became such a great storyteller in episode 2. Keep up the great work!

  24. Fascinating interview. It was great to hear so much of the backstory to the story we usually get. Can’t wait for part two!

  25. Tim, for part 2 with Joe I’d love to learn your and Joe’s POV on when you decide, if ever, to transition from being a “scrappy startup” to being a “professional, adult company.” How do you keep what makes you special while unloading sometimes destructive startup behaviors? When should a hands on CEO begin to delegate? When should a group of employees who can do it all learn to stay in their swim lanes? How do you bring in professional, experienced newcomers such as CFOs or strategists or HR without destroying your startup culture? Thanks.

  26. Hopefully someone can help me find a Tim podcast. He recently did a podcast where they talked about scientist falling in love with their hypothesis. And even after being proved otherwise, they wouldn’t change their theory. Does anyone recall this podcast?

  27. Amazing interview! Each story topped the one before. Joe is an excellent story teller and you can see why him and his co-founders have been able to create something so great.

    This really motivated me to get out of my comfort zone more within my own business. If I reflect over the last 8m I haven’t done a great deal that has made me that uncomfortable, and that changed today!

    On a similar note, I’ve been plunging in the cold sea of Salthill, Galway, on occasion (Tim – I know you spent a short stint in Galway), and I’ve noticed that cold showers ain’t got nuttin on me now! Expand your comfort zone by getting uncomfortable! 😀

  28. Dear Mr. Ferriss,

    I desired to note that I listened to this 3-hour long interview with undivided attention. Mr. Gebbia is one of the most gifted storytellers of our time. Additionally, he possesses soft vocal texture that allowed me to tune in for a long period of time because I easily get a headsche from a highly caffeinated vocal texture.

    I try hard to be patient for the part 2.

    All the best,


  29. Absolutely loved this podcast episode. Actually many of the recent ones have been brilliant, but Joe was such a consummate story teller that I listened on 1x speed and not 1.5 like usual – a massive honor from me! Reminded me of the Cal Fussman podcasts and he did not disappoint with his part two, so looking forward to the next episode. Not just the stories but the overall themes – I got a LOT out of this one. Thank you to you both. (And PS, I am still looking forward to DWD, even with your new acronym for it!)

  30. Really enjoyed listening to You and Joe it actually felt like I was sitting at the table with you listening to good friends! Great work! Love the podcasts!

  31. Tim,

    Awesome podcast as usual, thanks. Question for Joe Gebbia Part 2, whenever that may be: Would you be willing to go over some of your entrepreneurial failures (if they exist) and talk a little about the lessons they taught you?

  32. I wonder what the increase in order volume was for Crit Buns between now and the next interview? I really appreciated this interview showing the full path of an “overnight” success.

  33. Hi Tim,

    This was a great episode. Part 2 can’t come soon enough!

    I’ve been a silent listener for the past.. 4 or so years and recently have been taking a break from your podcast. It’s great, however, the content was getting heavy and although I appreciate the thought and carefulness with which you pay your questions, it was starting to feel a bit dry.

    And then you brought Joe on. It was such a great light hearted conversation and back to what I love about your podcast. Listening to you be in a relaxed environment, having fun conversations with people who do great things. I barely noticed that 3 hours went by.

    P.s. is another random show on the table?

  34. Tim,

    Great interview with Joe (reminded me of Cal story telling). I have listened to it 2 times already and its fresh every time. Feel jealous you could hangout with people like Joe. thank you for this episode ..

  35. Hey Tim,

    Ever consider time markers for podcasts?

    Although no doubt greater enjoyment comes from listening to natural flow of podcasts’ conversations, it’d be great to be able to skip forward or back using time makers. You can put each just before a new question.

    Loved #301. Accompanied a drive from Italy to France, crossing all of Switzerland. Mega-long podcast, every bit worthwhile, masterful for the stories in the history of Joe as well as your ability to extract it.

    Where is Part 2 please?

    Anyway, time markers would improve podcast listening experience and use as reference. They would allow recall of bits and pieces avoiding frustration and wasting of time looking.

    Greetings from Strasbourg,


  36. Its getting close to 2 years since this episode was released. When is part 2! I’m dying to know the rest of the story!