What drives startup founders to barrel through the free market with such Randian ruthlessness? Money, duh. But there's another possibility. Perhaps the will to succeed is so consuming because they know it might be the best idea they will ever have.
For example, take Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia. In a recent New York magazine profile, Gebbia describes the eureka moment that came just before Airbedandbreakfast.com. It was butt pads. Butt pads marketed only to art school students. He named them CritBuns.
After school ended, Gebbia moved to San Francisco and launched his first business, inspired by the lengthy critiques, or "crits," in which art students sit in a studio discussing one another's work. "Everything's covered in charcoal dust and paint," he says at the restaurant. "So at the end of the day, you stand up and there's literally a bun print on the seat of your pants. And I thought, What if there was a better way?" He came up with a prototype for a butt-shaped cushion he called CritBuns, which he manufactured and began selling to art students. Meanwhile, Chesky had gotten a job as an industrial designer in Los Angeles, where he was miserable. "It wasn't what they told me at RISD," he says. "I was living in someone else's world, and it just felt very uninspiring."
When Gebbia sent him a pair of CritBuns, Chesky had a revelation. "I was like, Wow," he says. " 'He did it. He's doing it!' " When a spot opened up in Gebbia's loft, he decided to move there. "It felt like San Francisco was where it was all happening," he says. "Like, if you were a painter in the 1400s, you wanted to be in Italy."
"Picasso said that, like, creativity comes from constraints," says Chesky. He has developed the start-up founder's tic of sprinkling one's speech with quotes and anecdotes from great men that subtly imply belonging in the same class of genius. (In fact, Picasso said no such thing. While the website startupquote.com attributes the line to Twitter founder Biz Stone, it's most likely from a psychology book called Creativity From Constraint, which discusses how Picasso and Braque created Cubism by imposing restrictions on their painting. But hey, the man is designing the world around him.)
You know who would have loved a pair of CritBuns? Chesky's main man Pablo.
To contact the author of this post, please email email@example.com.
[Image via Getty]