How I Built This: Airbnb & Clif Bar

Recently, I’ve been listening to the podcast by NPR called How I Built This. Hosted by Guy Raz, prolific entrepreneurs come on to talk about the businesses that they have started, where they came from and what impact it has had on their lives. Noteable companies like Airbnb and Clifbar have been talked about, and the people behind them are arguably more amazing than the brands that they’ve created.

Airbnb was started by three friends, Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk. Only Joe Gebbia was at the interview, but he encompasses the spirit of the company in every word that he says. From the outside in, he sounds like a composed businessman and CEO, but hearing about his struggles in the beginning give him the most humble of origins. The company worked through a non-existent market, fears of stranger danger and even $20,000 in credit card debt (I know that doesn’t seem like a lot from Airbnb, but remember that he was just like you and I when he started it, so $20,000 is almost crippling) which he overcame by selling custom made Barack Obama and John McCain cereal boxes during the 2008 election. The company is already changing how the world handles housing, but I foresee Airbnb having a larger impact in a short amount of time, strictly based on management and the ambition that they have.

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Clifbar, an energy bar that came from a man named Gary Erickson who is an avid biker who created a bakery named after his grandmother, has created such an impact on the power bar industry… all because he thought the competitors product tasted like shit. He did endless research into cooking and ingredients with his mother and created a bar named after his dad, Clifford. By targeting athletes at the end of races and through other means, the bar took the industry of power bars from taste-averse to tasteful. As time progressed, his company has even created Luna bar, another snack that has entered the scene and resonated as a women’s energy bar. You can see in the company values that Gary is down to earth and looks to only leave a positive impact on the world, and scale hasn’t slowed his business or passions one bit.

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Clearly these are oversimplified stories, but if you have any interest in these very interesting people, check out the Podcast “How I Built This.” It’s worth your time. The way that Guy uses his perfect questions (and editing) the episodes are very well put together examples of normal people becoming something bigger and better, and knowing what to do with their brand once they create it.

Scott McMarketing