Airbnb Built Its Success With Obama Political Cereal Boxes

Airbnb funded their startup with these political cereal boxes.

The limited-edition boxes of Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain’s helped the founders pay off more than $25,000 in credit card debt.

“You know those binders where you keep baseball cards? I had one of those except there weren’t baseball cards in it, they were credit cards,” stated co-founder Joe Gebbia on an NPR podcast. “We would go through Visa after Visa, to MasterCard then finally to AmEx, just maxing out credit cards.”

Gebbia and co-founder Brian Chesky racked up the debt trying to fund their startup. At that point, the company wasn’t making enough revenue — so the two came up with a way to grow the breakfast side of the company and turned the 2008 presidential election for some inspiration.

Chesky said they made 1,000 boxes of cereal by hand, which they hot glued together and sold for $40 a piece. The boxes were marketed as “collector’s items.”

The Obama O’s sold out and the pair ended up making $30,000 off the cereal stunt. They then used the money to pay off their debt.
Today, Airbnb is in over 191 countries and was valued at $31 billion in 2017 — so the cereal ended up being a successful career move.