“Don’t let any “no” take you out the game… Use them to lift you up to the next level” inspiring words from Matthieu Jost of misterb&b
If everyone would think of just one unconscious bias that they have about another group that they are not part of, and push that into their consciousness, and then try to rid their mind of this bias, the world would be a better place, little by little.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthieu Jost, CEO and Co-Founder of misterb&b, the world’s largest short-term rental marketplace dedicated to the LGBT community. He’s been featured on CNN, Forbes, Forbes Travel, New York Business Journal, USA Today, and Logo.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I experienced LGBTQ discrimination while traveling, which led me directly to founding this company. Several years ago, my partner and I booked a private room in Barcelona. After we arrived, the host made it perfectly clear they were not comfortable hosting a gay couple, even going so far as to ask if we were going to share a bed. We were truly stunned, and hurt, which turned the trip into a terrible experience.
I started misterb&b so no one from the gay community would ever have to face the same thing.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
It was very challenging to launch in France. The local ecosystem wasn’t too keen on investing in an LGBTQ concept. At the time the idea didn’t even exist in the US, and so investors there — who wanted a time-tested concept — were very wary. This really deflated me and the team, but we knew we weren’t going to give up. We also knew what we had to do: relocate to Silicon Valley. It was a difficult and a bold choice, but it worked. We found people and investors more open to our community and concept in Silicon Valley. We joined the 500 Startups incubator, and the rest is history.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Knowing that the solution we were providing was critically needed by our community: the ability to travel safely, without fearing violence — or fearing for your life — just because of who you love. This is an unfortunate reality that heterosexual folks don’t have to even think about when they are planning an upcoming vacation to a beautiful place.
Also, my community does not feel welcome in many places. Certain restaurants, bars, etc. Knowing that misterb&b can help us feel welcome when and where we travel encourages me to work even harder.
I also want the next LGBTQ generation — those coming of age after us — to never know what it was like to be afraid to travel or to live your life. This idea was always on my mind, and helped me get through the early difficult years.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
misterb&b is a response to strong demand for collaborative tourism in the booming niche of global gay tourism, a $100B market. The gay market is also a premium segment, traveling twice as much as other travelers.
We’ve got strong growth and revenue. We started off our Silicon Valley history as a graduate of 500 Startups and have raised US$13.5M from institutional investors like Project A and Ventech, and from angels like Joel Simkhai (founder of Grindr, sold for $300M USD). Right now we have over 310,000 hosts in over 135 countries.
What’s more, we’ve just raised over $800,000+ from our community and from LGBTQ allies to launch gay and gay-friendly hotel rooms on our platform (link: https://wefunder.com/misterbandb).
We also just hit a milestone — we’ve launched 30,000 gay and gay-friendly hotels on our platform (link: https://www.misterbandb.com/s?destination=world&hotel=true)
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As I mentioned before, we moved to Silicon Valley from Paris because we were accepted into 500 Startups “Batch 12”, about 30 startups in a 3 month intensive working together in a shared office space. The funniest moment, for my co-founders perhaps not me, was at one of the first beer keg parties after work at 500. I heard chanting. Then they lifted someone upside down on top of the keg. When they came up I asked “where’s the frosting?”. You see, I heard “cake stand, cake stand, cake stand” and not “keg stand”.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We foster the only community that helps people to travel safely and feel welcome in 135+ countries while gay.
The feedback we get from our hosts and guests is often very touching. For example, one of our hosts let us know that he was a newlywed, and had married his partner of 25 years, in America’s heartland. They had loved being a guest so much that they decided to become a host. Others also tell us of the harrowing experiences with discrimination while traveling, until they found us.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t ever forget the moment when you decided to “startup” — and never lose sight of the critical problem that you wanted to solve early on. For me, it always goes back to making sure my community as well as future generations in our community can travel the world and feel welcome without fearing for their lives, just for being LGBTQ.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I reached out to Startout, the largest LGBTQ non profit that empowers LGBTQ entrepreneurs to succeed and unite with a community of like-minded professionals. I had the chance to meet with a true trailblazer in the tech world — Chris Sinton. Chris helped us connect with business angels for misterb&b. I believe that thanks to Chris’ contacts, we were accepted into 500 StartUps, one of the top accelerator programs in Silicon Valley. Since then, Chris has become an incredible and trusted mentor.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We want to create a future where LGBTQ generations no longer have to fear traveling the world and in fact can feel welcome. What’s more, through our “Mister For Good” campaigns, we pay it forward by partnering with incredible organizations helping LGBTQ communities. For example, we partner with Rainbold Society in Paris to help them support LGBTQ elders in the community. Rainbow society envisions a future where the seniors can live their gay golden years without feeling alone.
Based on your experience, can you share 4 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
- Don’t let any “no” take you out of the game; there will be many no’s during your journey. Use them to lift you up to the next level.
- Hear people’s advice, but don’t let it divert you from your main path
- Keep your eye on the prize
- If you fail, or if something bad happens, you always have one thing left: the ability to lift yourself up and try again.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If everyone would think of just one unconscious bias that they have about another group that they are not part of, and push that into their consciousness, and then try to rid their mind of this bias, the world would be a better place, little by little. We cannot survive if we have hatred in our hearts and discriminate against people who don’t look like us or don’t love the way you think they should love.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!