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Both Uber and Airbnb were born around 2007-08, just as the iPhone was making its way into the world. The iPhone had an accelerometer so it actually works like a taximeter. One of Uber’s USPs was thus built upon the iPhone’s existing capabilities.
Similarly, the internet’s growing reach convinced Airbnb’s founders they could use the world wide web to match accommodation-seeking individuals with willing hosts willing to sub let their apartments.
But the simplicity of the idea and how it started is equally critical to understanding what lies behind great technology startups.
Subject : subletter
I thought of a way to make a few bucks – turning our place into a designer’s bed and breakfast – offering young designers who come into town a place to crash during the 4-day event, complete with wireless internet, a small desk space, sleeping mat, and breakfast each morning. Ha! – Joe.
It took Chesky and Gebbia three days to put together the first Airbedandbreakfast.com website (precursor to Airbnb) using the free tools on Wordpress.
For those not in the know, both companies did not take off like rocket. For some time, all the founders were not sure whether they could even dedicate the time and attention required for this idea. They were unsure whether to give up their previous jobs and finally whether this had the opportunity for scale.
The beauty of a great idea is its ability to challenge regulatory status quo in a manner that no one could ever expect.
Airbnb and Uber have spouted many copycats in the countries they originated as well as all over the world. In some cases the copycats have been successful, particularly if the markets were protected, like China. Elsewhere they have not.
There is a reason why the founders of these two companies have succeeded so far.
It is because of a heady mixture of blinding belief, razor sharp focus, superior skills, talent, arrogance and of course some luck as well.
Could we see more such companies come up ? Yes and no. Some great companies are a product of a certain age…in this case the 2007-10 period. As were Microsoft and Apple once upon a time.
But the hard lessons of entrepreneurial determination, the ability to deal with failure and build on success quickly don’t change.