Entrepreneur / San francisco


While many know him as the co-founder of Airbnb, few know him as the discerning watch and design lover that he is.

Joe, thank you for joining us today. Did you ever think growing up that you would build a business that would become a household name?

Not in my wildest dreams. Growing up my parents were self-employed. Watching them determine their own success in the world was very inspiring. It planted a seed that one day I wanted to do the same.

Did you know how you were going to do it?

I didn’t. Nor did I know what it would be. During the first dot.com while I was in high school, I experienced the rush of publishing on the internet. I loved it. I would read everything I could about companies that were starting out. One thing I noticed was that most of these companies were coming out of one place: Silicon Valley. Now, I didn’t even know where this was on the map! But it sounded futuristic and far out. I imagined myself one day being there and part of the conversation. So, I guess there were these thoughts and aspirations.

J. Gebbia

"...then came this stronger voice within that was saying "keep pushing forward" ...

Like any venture, presumably it wasn’t plain sailing- where did your resilience come from?

Oh yeah – running track and field in high school. The training was brutal. We used to have what was called “hell Tuesdays”. This was two six-minute miles back-to-back, five 800m back-to-back and in Georgia’s hot southern sun. The last place you want to be is outside – let alone running. And so there we were, running hills, training, and getting ready for the cross-country season. So many times, I wanted to quit. So many times, I wanted to give in. Every logical part of me was saying “let’s call this” – then came this stronger voice within that was saying “keep pushing forward”. Sometimes that was my voice – and sometimes that of my coach! There were some lessons there that I have carried forward with me from athletics. There is always more we can give.

Absolutely right. What does an average day look like for you right now?

I am deeply involved in www.airbnb.org right now. An average day is working to raise awareness of those opening up their homes in times of need, times of crisis. This is a platform where anytime anyone needs shelter, whether its during natural disaster or refugee resettlement – hosts can open to others – generally out of the goodness of their own heart. We have been working on this team for over 10 years now. This is timely given the millions fleeing Ukraine. In fact, we recently made a commitment to house 100,000 people fleeing on Airbnb. After all, providing shelter for somebody is a timeless act. I have been humbled to see our hosts step up and do this in Poland, Romanian, Slovakian, Austria, Switzerland and all over Europe. People have been taking others in for as long as there has been homes.

When are you most inspired?

I’m most inspired when I’m surrounded by creative people. When I see the teams we have here at the company doing their best work – pushing beyond what they thought they thought was possible. When I see people take on impossible challenges – I find that incredibly inspiring.

Did you come to Ressence for its design?

Hell yeah!

It is so well packaged – so clean and crisp as a brand and product. It really stood out to me among other watchmakers. You look at the dial and there’s a place for everything and everything has its place. Its intuitive – which great design always is. The high level of craftsmanship - the watch face itself looks impossible! 

Tell us about your watch – when did you first come across Ressence? 

I first saw one three years ago. I wear it and always get asked “what kind of watch is that? People want to touch it – see and wear it! It’s rare that a watch will make me drop everything. This Type 3 did. It showed up online somewhere and my productivity that day dropped off a cliff while I turned into Sherlock Homes to figure out what company designed it. 

J. Gebbia

"When I’m wearing it, I feel like James Bond meets Dieter Rams. "

Were you a big watch fan before? 

Yes, I love a good timepiece. I appreciate that it gives me one less reason to check my phone.

Do you have any specific memories with it on the wrist? 

So many people ask me “what is that!?” the first time they see it. Then I have to take it off to show them it’s a real watch! People are always so blown away. 

What’s next Joe?

Oh - I’m shooting one of my first documentaries with my production company about the refugee Olympic team. I’m incredibly proud of it. This was my way of sharing the important refugee story while making it entertaining. It will be coming out later this year in 2022.

Thank you, Joe!