To help fund the site, the founders created special edition breakfast cereals, with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain as the inspiration for "Obama O's" and "Cap'n McCains".[25] In two months, 800 boxes of cereal were sold at $40 each, which generated more than $30,000 for the company's incubation.[26][27] It also got the company noticed by computer programmer Paul Graham, who invited the founders to the January 2009 winter training session of his startup incubator, Y Combinator, which provided them with training and $20,000 in funding in exchange for a small interest in the company.[18][28][29] With the website already built, they used the $20,000 Y-Combinator investment to fly to New York City to meet users and promote the site.[30] They returned to San Francisco with a profitable business model to present to West Coast investors. By March 2009, the site had 10,000 users and 2,500 listings.[29]
Guests can search for lodging using filters such as lodging type, dates, location, and price. Before booking, users must provide personal and payment information. Some hosts also require a scan of a government-issued identification before accepting a reservation.[4] The company also provides travel guides, entitled "Neighborhoods", which provide details about staying in specific neighborhoods in various major cities.[5][6]