Shares of Airbnb, one of its billionaire co-founders
Joe Gebbia’s commencement speech at Brookwood High School in Georgia contained the usual flourishes about chasing your dreams and never giving up. But the co-founder of Airbnb, now worth an estimated $7.8 billion, ended his speech with a surprise: Each graduate student would receive a handful of Airbnb shares.
“I would like to give you a piece of my dream to help inspire yours and let you know it’s possible,” Gebbia said during her speech Wednesday night.
Each of the 890 seniors at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Georgia, about 30 miles from Atlanta, will receive 22 Airbnb shares, Gebbia announced. That’s about $2,400 worth of shares per graduate, based on Wednesday’s closing price of $110.40 per share. In total, it’s a gift worth almost $2.2 million.
Gebbia admitted the gift is more symbolic than anything else (22 shares for the class of 2022), but stressed that it was a “very small start-up investment” to help students achieve their goals. .
“I definitely don’t remember the advice I was given when I graduated. And I don’t expect you to either, said Gebbia. “So I thought of a way to help you remember.”
Gebbia graduated from Brookwood High School in 2000 and credits the school with helping her develop the skills to co-launch Airbnb eight years later after attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Last year, he pledged $700,000 to help strengthen the school’s arts department and cross-country team, two activities he has been involved in. Now Airbnb’s chief product officer, Gebbia runs the company’s in-house design studio, Samara, and is president of Airbnb.org, the company’s nonprofit arm. This is not his first major charitable donation. In 2020, Gebbia make a donation $25 million to two San Francisco organizations addressing homelessness. Gebbia and her two Airbnb co-founders, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk, joined the Giving Pledge in 2016, long before Airbnb went public, promising to donate at least half of their fortune to charitable causes. .
Although billionaires often donate to educational institutions, it is becoming increasingly common for the wealthy to help students directly, especially if a billionaire is chosen as a school opening speaker. Earlier this year, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel Paid student loans for graduates of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, a gift of more than $10 million, a college official told the Los Angeles Times. Telecommunications billionaire Robert Hale Jr. offered every graduate student at Quincy College in Massachusetts $1,000 each last year. The largest donation to graduate students, however, comes from private equity magnate Robert Smith, the richest black person in America. He spent $34 million in 2019 to pay off student debt for the entire class of Morehouse College. (A year later, he agreed to pay a $139 million fine for his role in a tax evasion scheme.) Smith also gave 15,000 shares of Vista Equity Partners’ portfolio companies to nearly 2,900 students, teachers and staff at Eagle Academies for Young Men, an all-boys school in New York City.
“Please invest this in your dreams. Don’t spend it all on crypto,” Gebbia joked at the end of her talk.