How Uber and Airbnb Broke the Startup Mold

How Uber and Airbnb Broke the Startup Mold
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What was similar about Uber and Airbnb in their early days? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world..

Answer by Brad Stone, Senior Executive Editor at Bloomberg and author of The Upstarts, on Quora:

Although they are in much different businesses, I'll point out a few similarities. First, early on, many seasoned investors dismissed both of these ideas and their founders. About 150 of 165 people who got an AngelList email about Uber didn't even respond. The famous Ron Conway, who invests in everything, passed on Uber saying it would be a fight in every city. (He was right!) Airbnb's early investor challenges are legendary. One investor (I'm still curious about who this is) walked out on Brian Chesky mid-pitch at a Palo Alto coffee shop. Investors worried about what could go wrong in an Airbnb and how the company might recover from it. Andreessen Horowitz actually passed on the startup before investing in the next round.

Another major similarity is that both sets of companies hit regulatory and political barriers far before other tech startups ever had. Uber got a cease and desist in its hometown about six months after it launched. Airbnb was illegal in New York from the get-go (thanks to an anti-illegal hotel law passed in 2010). So both startups had to hire lobbyists and policy-advisers very early on. It probably took a decade before Google or Amazon had to do this.

Final similarity: both companies rode underlying technology advancements and would not have been possible had they launched even five years before. For Uber, it was the iPhone, GPS and the improvement of wireless connectivity (remember that first year of horrible AT&T coverage on the iPhone?) Airbnb grew in large part because Facebook established people's identities online, and gave people a measure of trust on the Internet.

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