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Airbnb: Do-it-yourself real estate rentals

Startup connects homeowners, guests online

It all started with the need to make rent, three air mattresses, and some extra space.It was the fall of 2007. Roommates and fellow Rhode Island School of Design grads Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky had just quit their jobs and the rent was coming due on their San Francisco apartment. A design conference was in town and hotel rooms were scarce. "We started looking around our apartment and had all this extra space in our living room and our bedrooms," Gebbia said. They also had three air mattresses. Gebbia and Chesky decided to offer their extra space to conference attendees who had yet to find a place to stay, and they threw in a free breakfast. "We had this concept ... of an 'air' bed and breakfast," said Gebbia, now Airbnb's chief product officer. He will be speaking at the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco next week. Gebbia and Chesky set up a website and spread the word through design blogs. Emails from conference attendees needing lodging poured ...

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