August 19, 2022

DealBook: New Sun Valley Start-Ups

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — As their companies move toward public offerings, Andrew Mason of Groupon, Mark Pincus of Zynga and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook are leading a new wave of Internet billionaires.

So who will head the next generation of multibillion dollar start-ups?

The agenda for Allen Company’s Sun Valley conference could provide some clues.

This week, the program features three young guns of Silicon Valley, all under the age of 30: Brian Chesky, the co-founder of AirBnb; Drew Houston, the founder of DropBox; and Adam D’Angelo, the co-founder of question and answer site Quora.

The three are scheduled to deliver presentations on Saturday morning to an audience that will most likely include Bill Gates, Mr. Zuckerburg and the founders of Google.

“It’s humbling,” said Mr. Chesky in an interview on Wednesday. “A year ago, I was working in the living room of a three-bedroom apartment.”

The new class of promising start-ups highlights the rapid speed by which Web companies are now forming and gaining traction. AirBnB, for instance, had roughly a dozen employees last year. It now has about 150.

The company, which helps travelers connect with users who have available rooms, has made 1.9 million bookings since it began operations in late 2008.

DropBox, a data storage service, has gained more than 15 million users in the last year, according to Mr. Houston.

“What’s amazing about this time, is that companies are getting started from nothing, and becoming incredible institutions in years, rather than decades,” Mr. Houston said.

Mr. Chesky said: “Adam, Drew and I are somewhat representative of how fast technology changes. Here you have all these industry veterans and moguls who have been doing this for decades and then you have us, basically working out of an apartment a year or two ago, with virtually no business. And now we have this huge opportunity.”

At the Allen Company conference last year, a daily deal upstart named Groupon garnered significant attention. One year later, Mr. Mason’s company is on the cusp of a billion-dollar-plus initial offering. The site also shared the stage with Square, which recently closed a $100 million financing round that valued that company at $1.6 billion.

The upward momentum in technology is certainly catching people’s attention. The trio of founders have been talking to several business leaders this week, including John Donahue, the chief executive of eBay; Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook; Mr. Mason; and Henry Kravis of the private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts.

The Internet mogul Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC, sat down with Mr. Chesky on Wednesday for a nearly 40-minute discussion, according to one attendee. Although Mr. Chesky declined to comment about specific conversations this week, he said he was talking to people about how to expand a business and how to be an effective chief executive.

“When you become an entrepreneur and you get to a certain level, you can no longer turn to your left and your right, you need to reach out to people who’ve experienced what you’ve experienced,” he said. “I feel really fortunate to be in their company.”

Mr. Chesky says he really appreciates the opportunity to attend, because he remembers a time when no one wanted to invest in AirBnb. Faced with the prospect of failure in 2008, the AirBnb team started designing and selling collector edition cereal boxes for the presidential election. The team managed to sell $30,000 worth of cereal boxes, which he described as its angel round.

“In the beginning, when we launched, no one noticed,” he said. “There was a point when we couldn’t get access to anyone who had access.”

Article source:

Speak Your Mind