Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb was just on stage at the Fortune Brainshare show in Aspen, Colo.Airbnb recently passed a major milestone. It has booked 10 million nights around the world, and it’s rapidly expanding into new countries.
Airbnb seemed like a crazy idea at best. It’s a service that lets people rent out couches, rooms, or houses to strangers by the night. It’s now booking a night every two seconds.
Earlier this month, three-year-old raised $112 million on a $1.3 billion.
Chesky had a lot of awesome things to say:
- His biggest mistake was when, for six months, he marketed to property managers instead of only home owners (see more below).
- Airbnb was born out of his own desperation of needing an affordable place to stay.
- His mum thought Airbnb was the worst idea ever. He has now convinced her to take her dream rip to Paris using Airbnb.
- He lived full-time for for nine months couch surfing through Airbnb.
- The early days were bankrolled on “binders” of credit cards and he thought he would never get out of debt.
- His dream is to take Airbnb global, to every country in the world.
Here are our notes from his talk:
Airbnb started when he moved to San Francisco with about $1,000 in his pocket and no place to stay. He moved there during a weekend when a conference had all the hotel space booked out. His co-funder had three air mattresses in his closet and he rented them out to strangers — air bed mattress B&B — much to the alarm of his mother.
Joe and I the only people in the world who thought this was a good ideas. We wanted to solve our own problem. We weren’t visionaries. We experienced the problem (of not having an affordable place to stay).
We’re going to be focused on travel. But it turns out that travel is a huge industry, one of the top five in the world.
A year ago, thinking about what else to go into — cars? event space? I was reading about Walt Disney and how he created a story board. We called the project Snow White. What if we story board out the perfect experience for guest and for a host, frame by frame. How to get at airport? What would you do after the airport? Design an end-to-end experience.
We employ photographers. They’ve taken 1 million photos to date.
Taxes: “We want to come up with something that works for everybody. We want to work with the cities.” But “we don’t believe people’s houses are hotels. They are already paying taxes.”
“We are the physical manifestation of what people do on Facebook.”
One of people I looked to for advice is Ron Johnson from Apple. Internally Ron was the huge evangelist of the brand. He had ideas: monthly videos to a distributed workforce.
I moved the Valley as an industrial designer. I never heard of TechCrunch. When someone said angels, I thought, “I don’t believe in angels these people are crazy.” But I learned quickly.
Just got back from Sundance and asked Jeff Bezos, “what’s best advice Warren Buffet ever gave you?” His philosophy is simple but no one copies it, no one wants to get rich slow.
It’s been fast for us, four years, but first three years were not fast. We literally had binders of credit cards. I used to wake up from sleep, heart pounding, thinking I don’t know if we’ll ever get out of debt. We were so broke at one point we started selling collectible cereal. My mum thought we were running a cereal company.
We went door to door to get users and I met with and stayed with each of our users. When you buy an iPad, Steve Jobs didn’t come to your door.
My biggest mistake: We viewed marketing as this: if you put your money into user experience then users will market for you. But I found a guy renting hundreds of apartments. We thought we should market to property managers. I spent six months focusing on the wrong people. I went to Paris, stayed at property management’s hotel, it was a sparse experience. Then I stayed with people in Paris, took us around it was best.
I made this mistake because I was listening to a lot of people that I thought were smarter than myself. At the end of the day, you should fall back to your own purpose and make decisions based on that.
Two years ago we were working out of a three bedroom apartment. I lived on Airbnb for nine months, staying with people in San Francisco.
We’re moving into 180,000 square feet office. We opened 12 offices in three months around the world.
How big will this be? I think one day every person in every country can stay with someone on Airbnb.
This is not that crazy of an idea. I told my grandfather and he said that’s the way he used to travel. It’s an idea coming back.
In early days, I had a personal relationship with first users. I met with 300 and 400 hosts that I know we saved their homes from foreclosure. I don’t have data on it, but through meeting and e-mails I heard from them and think we saved thousands.
We’ve done 10 million nights that’s a lot of data. 10 million anything things will go wrong. Tonight we’ll have 50,000 people sleep Airbnb. High profile in S.F. a woman woke up and found her house trashed. We now have $1 million guarantee.
Compare us to Craig’s List or VRBO, we offer a huge gap in what we offer to people. Will be working closer to Facebook. My mum and dad are social workers thought this was the worst idea ever. She always dreamed of going to Paris. Next year she’s going on Airbnb, so she’s a convert.
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