Noirbnb: A New Beginning

Stefan Grant — Founder & CEO of Noirbnb

Everything in life happens for a reason. I’d built my career around being a traveling musician. My creativity and approach to the music business were both rooted in the idea that I wanted to provide something new and different to the market.

My entrepreneurial beginnings were inspired by solving problems and turning negatives into positives out of sheer necessity. I utilized what I’d learned as a telecommunications major, freelance photographer, social media marketer and musician and transitioned that into starting my record label and distribution company DOPE SINCE ’88 (the “DOPE” stands for Driven On Positive Energy). We’d found success throwing cool events, releasing great music and immersive video content, hosting concerts in D.C., and partnering with brands like Red Bull and others.

On October 9th, 2015, little did I know that my life would change forever. While in Atlanta for the A3c Music Festival, I was renting an Airbnb. I’d used Airbnb for trips 2–3 times before while traveling to Austin for SXSW and other places. While renting the Airbnb, our neighbors saw a bunch of Black people in a home and assumed we were robbing the place. This series of events lead to us conceptualizing an idea that would make the home-sharing experience not only better, but safer for the Black traveler. My experience as a Black entrepreneur that travels often for work gave me the wealth of experience and knowledge of the various issues that may arise.

After my experience with discrimination while using Airbnb, friends of mine told me about their own experiences and realized that what happened to us in Atlanta wasn’t an isolated case. In fact, it was common. Realizing that many travel companies tend to ignore the Black travel consumer, I understood that we needed to provide an alternative solution. Upon recognizing an opportunity to solve a crucial problem, I immediately got in contact with Airbnb to propose an idea. After a few back-and-forth emails and a brief phone conversation I was able to secure a meeting with Airbnb at their headquarters.

A little over a month later, I was on a flight to San Francisco to present my ideas for Noirbnb. We presented the statistics regarding discrimination on Airbnb, provided various solutions, and discussed the importance of focusing attention on the growing Black travel community, a powerful demographic that has been underrepresented on Airbnb. They told us that they liked the idea but essentially that it wasn’t something they’d be able to pursue. We maintained communication for months but at that meeting, I knew we had to venture out and provide the solution ourselves.

After realizing that Noirbnb was truly a viable idea, I put out an APB on Twitter and said that I was looking to build “the future of Blackness”. That stream of tweets, as well as some key people in my network connected me to our co-founder and COO Jide Ehimika. Jide was an entrepreneur himself, he founded a technology consulting business and started an app before we connected. The insight he provided me on our first conversation was enough to let me know he was someone I wanted to build this company with. The talented group of people we’ve put together are assisting us everyday to build something truly incredible.

Our goal at Noirbnb is to create a true travel community and provide a premium member experience. As we enter an era where diversity and representation are key, we strive to be the change we wish to see in the world. We are setting ourselves apart from other home-sharing platforms by building our product around providing a truly great and much needed service, telling our stories and being a voice for our community, as well as providing real value to our members at every turn.