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Nathan Blecharczyk

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Nathan Blecharczyk's Social Links


Nathan Blecharczyk started writing code as a hobby at the ripe young age of 12. He would post much of his work on the Internet. One day someone saw what he was creating and offered to pay him $1,000 to create something similar, which seemed unbelievable at 14. Soon he was meeting more people who needed similar products and began his own business creating software. Since then he has worked as a program manager at Microsoft, engineer at OPNET Technologies, and lead developer at Batiq. Nathan graduated with a degree in Computer Science from Harvard University.

As Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were starting Airbnb, they needed a web developer to build a more robust site. It so happens that Joe's old roommate, Nathan Blecharczyk, was a very talented developer from Harvard. He had already been selling his development services for over a decade, when he joined fellow co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia in 2008. The trio sought to create a service that travelers could use to efficiently book safe and inexpensive short-term living accommodations from other users. He joined the team as CTO, and the rest is history. At Airbnb, Blecharczyk is in charge of site engineering and implementing the brand's unique design, which he says is pivotal for a gratifying user experience.

Companies and Investments

Lessons Learned

How to build critical mass

Despite their mantra of focusing on a great experience for a few people then scaling up, Airbnb's actual path to critical mass was bumpy. They first attempted to attract customers by launching it before "South by Southwest", a huge event in Austin, Texas with over 100,000 people in attendance. They launched their website about a week before the event but only got 60 rooms listed and around a dozen people actually staying with each other. This was their first bump in the road. In 2008, they attempted to leverage the Democratic National Convention to move Airbnb forward. Denver had about 18,000 hotel rooms available and there were an estimated 80,000 who were going to be in attendance. They got people to provide about 800 rooms and pitched their plans to the national media outlets. They were able to receive lots of press coverage, but it faded away and they still hadn't reached critical mass. After 12 months they were not growing much and decided to enroll in Y Combinator and give it their 100%. That's when it started taking off.

Understand people's motivations

When pitching their story to the national media outlets, they did it strategically. They didn't tell CNN to do a story about the hotel shortage, since CNN was going to do that anyways. But they also understood that CNN probably wanted to differentiate themselves and incorporate something new into the story so that its such that they’re angle wasn't the same as Fox News as everyone else who was covering this event. And so when they saw this really interesting, almost human-interest story, that played into what they were already talking about, they wanted to incorporate it. That’s how Airbnb got huge press coverage out of the DNC.

Building trust through leveraging social

Through the Social Connections feature, users can see how they are connected to other users — whether it's finding a guest who is a friend of a friend, or a host you your friend stayed with — and find people they don't know, but already trust. This dynamic will be increasingly important as our community, and businesses like ours, grow.

Be flexible and listen to the users

As Nate said in an interview, "There are always going to be events that you can't predict, and your successes might come in surprising ways." Early on, they never considered the idea of offering professional photography until their hosts in New York told them they wanted it. They were able to quickly implement it, and it's been one of their most successful programs.

Inspiring Quotes

Make something people want


Nathan Blecharczyk's Quotes

Our business is all about building critical mass of accommodations in various cities.

Nathan Blecharczyk

We leverage social to build trust.

Nathan Blecharczyk

It was extremely empowering as a teenager to create products that people wanted, and that sense of purpose still drives me today.

Nathan Blecharczyk

I think the first time, you have to try two times, three times at least before things start to click.

Nathan Blecharczyk

Influential Books

Seth Godin - Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us 1st (first) Edition by Godin, Seth published by Portfolio Hardcover (2008)