Airbnb invited us and some other members of the press to meet CEO Brian Chesky, CTO Nate Blecharczyk, and chief product officer Joe Gebbia in a private home in San Francisco.In fact, it was one of the 3,000-plus places in the city that are listed on Airbnb, a service which allows pretty much anyone anywhere to offer a couch, an air mattress, a bedroom, a yurt, or an entire house for rent.
Airbnb held the event to mark a major milestone: It has booked 10 million nights around the world, and it’s rapidly expanding into new countries.
We had a really lovely time. Chesky, Blecharczyk, and Gebbia are all disarmingly handsome and effusive in person—no wonder Details wrote last fall, “Forget geek chic—these guys are just chic.” We concur.
So when you stay in an Airbnb place, the practice is to give a friendly but “straightforward” review, PR rep Emily Joffrion said at the dinner. Here’s ours.
Chesky and Gebbia are both graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, so everything about Airbnb has a refined look—even the invitation to this event.
The founders got dolled up for Details, but their look for the evening was more casual chic. Left to right: Blecharczyk, Gebbia, and Chesky.
We started out on the back porch. A bartender made fresh basil-blueberry gimlets. The scent alone was intoxicating.
Airbnb actually paid more than the going rate, because house rules don't normally allow for parties.
It got a bit windy, so we moved inside. There were reporters from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, AllThingsD, and TechCrunch.
On the menu: endive with goat cheese, flank steak with polenta and bok choy, and panna cotta with berries.
The conversation got spirited. Chesky faced a lot of tough questions about the way his company deals with local taxes and regulations.
The consensus at dinner: The laws need to be updated. But right now, the laws simply don't allow for what Airbnb does in a lot of jurisdictions. In theory, regulators could choose to enforce it. In practice, it seems unlikely.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has an impressive physique, we couldn't help noticing. Turns out he competed as a teen bodybuilder in 2001. He's going to need to muscle a lot of local regulators to adapt their laws.
The conversation slowed down as Chesky and Gebbia traded seats. Gebbia talked about how his industrial-design background influenced Airbnb.
Next in the hot seat: Nate Blecharczyk, the CTO. He talked about how the company tries to automate processes—for example, assigning freelance photographers to take glossy photos of Airbnb listings, which measurably lifts booking rates.
The evening ended too quickly.Chesky struck us as justifiably proud of what he'd built. Gebbia was enthused about the power of design. Blecharczyk impressed with his technical depth about everything from payments to cloud infrastructure.
What's the future for Airbnb? As it grows, it will have to grapple with the issue of regulation head-on, and mobilize guests and hosts to update the laws. That's not an easy task. But the company's cofounders struck us as deeply committed.
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