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Startup insights from Brian Chesky, Apoorva Mehta, Ben Silbermann, Reed Hastings, and Elon Musk

Every Sunday, we send out 1 free insight + 4 new bonus insights for premium subscribers (upgrade to Premium for $5/mo here).

Today’s insights:

  1. Airbnb founder Brian Chesky on “living your product” and why slow growth can be invaluable

  2. Startup ideas Apoorva Mehta explored after leaving Instacart

  3. Ben Silbermann explains the two lessons he learned in the early days of Pinterest

  4. Netflix founder Reed Hasting’s #1 piece of advice for young CEOs

  5. Elon Musk on the critical things to get right when building a company

Airbnb founder Brian Chesky on “living your product” and why slow growth can be invaluable

“When you’re starting a company, it never goes at the pace you want… You start it and you imagine everything’s going to be linear… and you think everyone’s going to care. And no one cares. Our first hundred users, I was related to. Or Joe [Gebbia] was related to.”

However, as Brian explains, this slow growth in the beginning made Airbnb a better company:

“It actually turned out to be really good that we were so unpopular in the very beginning because I had the opportunity to meet every one of our early customers. I actually think it made us a better company. If we took off in the early days, I would have never known all of them.”

LinkedIn cofounder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman adds that Brian’s obsessive focus on the customer was one of the core reasons he invested in Airbnb.

Brian recounts how he actually lived on Airbnb in San Francisco for almost a year—staying at a different house every 3-5 nights:

“I learned all the issues about our website… Your customers aren’t going to email you the things that are truly important. You almost have to be with them and get that really subtle signal. It’s all about living your product. If you work at Facebook, it’s pretty easy to use your product every day. If you are using a site that allows you to go somewhere else in the world, you’ve got to be creative.”

Startup ideas Apoorva Mehta explored after leaving Instacart

When the Instacart founder stepped down as CEO in 2021, he began exploring new ideas for his next startup almost immediately.

As he describes in the video below, the first idea he explored was in carbon removal. Carbon removal is one of the most promising approaches to climate change today, and to Apoorva, it seemed like “an area where technical and product innovation could really change the trajectory.”

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