“There’s something so gratifying about that moment, that has informed me ever since….Anytime something feels impossible, it’s probably worth taking a second look, and certainly you can see the connections to Airbnb,” Gebbia reflected. “We were faced with rejection early on in the company’s history, by really smart people—just as smart as my professor, but in the business world—who said the company would never work: It’s too weird; strangers are never going to stay in stranger’s homes. We had to navigate rejection by very powerful people.”
That was hardly the only occasion where Gebbia encountered challenging scenarios that were ripe for creative solutions. Among his many claims to fame, Gebbia revived RISD’s basketball team. During his freshman year, when he tried to join the basketball team and found there wasn’t one, he created it.
“It was like my first startup,” he explained. “I had to raise money, recruit people, operate a team and the schedule of a season, create a brand, and then market the brand and get people to show up to games.” The team, called the Balls, would play local community colleges and other art schools like Cooper Union and Pratt Institute. It’s still going strong today, thanks to a document Gebbia created that detailed how to run and coordinate the team. “I really wanted to design it in a way that it could outlast me, and not [be] dependent on my presence in order for it to work,” he explained.
He played basketball during all five years of his time at RISD, staying an additional year to complete a double major in industrial design and graphic design.