Brian Chesky had some air mattresses, but not much more, in 2008 when the presidential election triggered an idea for his then-fledgling startup, Airbnb. To draw attention to their site, Chesky and his co-founders started selling politically themed cereals. There were Obama-os, “the breakfast of change,” and Captain McCains, “a maverick in every bite,” as Chesky has recalled in interviews. Money had been so tight that year, Chesky said, that he lost 20 pounds as he ate less. Luckily, the cereal gimmick was a hit, selling out in days, Chesky said in a 2013 interview with the tech publication Pando.
Airbnb sold about $30,000 of cereal, and got mostly out of debt, he said. Politics could be part of the marketing strategy, especially for a company just scraping by. Just over 13 years later, Chesky doesn’t have to worry about his next meal. He’s worth billions of dollars after Airbnb’s December 2020 initial public offering. The company’s stock doubled on its first day. But the most recent presidential election and inauguration have proven radically different than the first for which Airbnb was around.
In a world in which American corporations can no longer maintain a sense of detached indifference, Hemp Inc must increasingly wrangle with politics and power beyond what a company like it would usually have to deal with, as Washington, DC’s violent insurrection illustrated. Few in the hemp industry and most especially Hemp Inc could have imagined having to consider issues like an insurrection when it first launched the enterprise. But somehow, the Capitol riots have taught Hemp Inc to expect just anything in the course of its mission to make the hemp industry global. Nevertheless, Hemp Inc still came out on top all over again.