Joe Gebbia Curated
CURATED BY :
As as AirBnb co founder,how to you view travel?
You being a designer,how much does design matter to AirBnb
How do the next 10 years look forAirBnb?
What is your single biggest advice to entrepreneurs
For how long was AirBnb just its 3 co founders?
How was your interaction with your first set of hosts?
How did you manage to create trust for consumers to shift from hotels to AirBnb?
Did you always believe that AirBnb would be as big as it is today?
When and how did you get really serious about AirBnb?
How did you think about scaling up supply for AirBnb?
How did Airbnb change processes for recruitment change with scale?
Tell us about some of your design hacks that you use for your offices and with your employees?
How did AirBnb manage to preserve it;s culture of trust while scaling?
How did AirBnb design for trust?
How did you make your initial hosts and customers fall in love with the idea of AirBnb
How did you deal with rejections from multiple investors?
How did you deal with rejections from multiple investors?
How did the idea of AirBnb develop?
How did the idea of AirBnb develop?
Tell us about your first venture after graduation
What is the one big lesson you would like to put out for students.
What role did sports play in your journey?
How did you encounter with Brian Chesky, the co founder of AirBnb
What is the most important trait for an entrepreneur to have?
What is your one trait that you feel has been the catalyst in your success
Did your parents support your endeavors and passions?
Tell us about the first time you saw a treehouse listed on AirBnb
How did you initially step in the customer's shoes and understand, rectify all their pain points?
When did you first feel that you've "figured it out"
Did initial investors buy the idea of AirBnb easily?
What is your most fond entrepreneurial memory?
What is your most fond entrepreneurial memory?
How did you plan on shaping your career back in school?
Tell us about your entrepreneurial experiences in high school and middle school
Could you share some of the bitter and sweet initial AirBnb experiences?
How did Airbnb use their design and ui to ensure that the home owners trust the customers?How
And finally Joe as one of the co-founders of Airbnb, what lessons can you give other startups on how to be successful?
One of the important lessons that we learnt early on was to go meet the people, to go talk to the customers, to achieve what I would call enlightened empathy which is getting into the shoes of the customers as close as you possibly can, to see the world through their eyes and to bring those insights back, combine them with your own point of view to create a new idea.
as chief product officer what are you in charge of?
I have the privilege of working with our in-house design studio called Samara, and our humanitarian team called Human. Samara is thinking about the future of Airbnb and Human is working on ways to leverage our platform outside the cause of day to day business. So it’s about a couple of years ago in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, tens of thousands of people were displaced overnight. We got an email from a host in Brooklyn who said, ‘I would love to volunteer my five guest rooms for free to those displaced, how do I do that?’ The problem was, on our platform, you had to have a transaction, a credit card to make a connection, and we said but why? So we reconfigured our entire platform in a couple days. We allowed that host and a thousand others to offer rooms to those displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Eventually, we partnered with the City of New York to help provide housing to those displaced and it gave us a much bigger idea. What if we were able to provide housing to those who’d been displaced, anywhere in the world where we had homes in unaffected areas. So since then we built up a platform called open homes, which allows Airbnb hosts or anyone with extra space to volunteer to those displaced, so any typhoon in Asia, any earthquake in Japan, any fire in Northern California or earthquake in Mexico City, our hosts can see these images on TV and say ‘how can I help?’
It’s really unusual for three founders to get along so well after working in the business for so long. It has been 10 years since Airbnb was founded. Do you guys really get along?
I think you know, it’s like any relationship - you have to invest in it, you have to put the time in. I think we all care about each other so much and the basis of our relationship is rooted in the friendship.Of course we have disagreements, but we also have respect for each other and we’re able to reconcile our disagreements. The best part is that we’ve got three different points of view that we can find the best answer between the three of us. So it has been such a joy working with Brian and Nate, we often say, ‘No, two of us couldn’t have done this alone’. It really took the three of us, we’re like a three-legged stool, if you took a leg out, the stool would fall over.
When Airbnb was born in 2008, it was three guys in startup mode trying to make a lot of money. At what point did you realize you needed a formal management structure?
Well, when you’re three guys working out of a living room, a management structure is the last thing on your mind. You just have to get the business working. I think it’s true for any entrepreneur, you have this idea, you have this ambition to put it in the hands of as many people as possible as quickly as you can. At a certain point, things tip and you realize that you do need a management structure. So what’s been important for us is that we continue to hire people who are better than us, and I often think that if I’m the smartest guy in the room, then I’m in the wrong room. So it’s probably around 2010, 2011 that we started to think about actually building out a management team, and since then, I’ve worked with some of the most amazing people.
what’s the next big phase of growth for the company?
The first is that we’ve taken one segment of the travel experience – accommodations, and we’ve turned it on its head. We’ve reinvented it, reimagined it. In the long term, we want to take the same values of community first - great design, global platform, and apply it to each moment of the travel journey, because accommodation is just one decision of many. So imagine the future coming to Airbnb and we help you discover a destination you didn’t even know existed, we help you figure out how to get there, we help you figure out where to stay… CT: Sounds like you want to be a travel agent? Joe Gebbia: And then figure what you do once you do arrive.
Did you ever think the company would be in such hyper growth?
I mean, in our wildest dreams. For me, one of my personal inspirations was designers in the mid-20th century named Charles and Ray Eames. Their iconic furniture is in the Museum of Modern Art and it’s still sold globally. One of the precedents of their work, one of the ethos of their work was to make the best design for the most people for the least price, and I feel like in some form or fashion, we’ve channeled a piece of the Eames thru Airbnb. By democratizing travel, by making it as accessible to as many people as we can by leveraging the power of the Internet. So for me, it’s truly a dream come true. On New Year’s Eve, we had three million people staying in Airbnbs all over the world on a single night.
How did the area of AirBnb start?
: It’s a crazy story. Imagine this, you had two guys living in an apartment and we quit our jobs to become entrepreneurs. We didn’t know what we wanted to work on but we knew each other from design school and that if we were in the same room together we could come up with a big idea. And suddenly we get a letter from our landlord who said, ‘Dear Joe your rent has gone up 25 percent’. This hit us like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, we’re on the verge of getting evicted. We had to come up with a way to save our apartment. So I’m in the living room one day and I’m on my laptop looking at the website for design conference that’s coming to San Francisco. It’s so big, the hotels are sold out. In big red letters, it says hotels sold out. I glanced over the top into the vastness of our living room and think what if I took my airbed out of the closet, blew it up on the floor and then we were to host a designer who wanted to stay for the design conference? I emailed Brian, he loved the idea, and before we knew it, we had two more airbeds, and we started to think about the experience of maybe this is more than just a place to sleep? What if we pick our guests up from the airport, what if we give them breakfast in the morning, what if we give them a map to San Francisco? So, before we knew it we had this concept called Airbed and breakfast. We were three guys, working out of our living room, to try to make this thing work.
airbnb is known for designing trust. how were you able to achieve this?
by putting the needs of our community first, and approaching the issue as a design problem. in our minds, trust is the central facet of airbnb and we’ve been designing for it since the beginning. designing for disclosure, for accountability. designing a friendly, trustworthy interface. design has helped us overcome the “stranger danger” bias in a way we never expected. the sharing economy is an economy, but we’ve discovered that we aren’t just in the business of accommodations; our most important product is trust. by putting the needs of our community first, and approaching the issue as a design problem. in our minds, trust is the central facet of airbnb and we’ve been designing for it since the beginning. designing for disclosure, for accountability. designing a friendly, trustworthy interface. design has helped us overcome the “stranger danger” bias in a way we never expected. the sharing economy is an economy, but we’ve discovered that we aren’t just in the business of accommodations; our most important product is trust. by putting the needs of our community first, and approaching the issue as a design problem. in our minds, trust is the central facet of airbnb and we’ve been designing for it since the beginning. designing for disclosure, for accountability. designing a friendly, trustworthy interface. design has helped us overcome the “stranger danger” bias in a way we never expected. the sharing economy is an economy, but we’ve discovered that we aren’t just in the business of accommodations; our most important product is trust. by putting the needs of our community first, and approaching the issue as a design problem. in our minds, trust is the central facet of airbnb and we’ve been designing for it since the beginning. designing for disclosure, for accountability. designing a friendly, trustworthy interface. design has helped us overcome the “stranger danger” bias in a way we never expected. the sharing economy is an economy, but we’ve discovered that we aren’t just in the business of accommodations; our most important product is trust.
being a creative yourself, why do you think the arts and art education are so important?
creativity has played such a huge role in my development both personally and professionally, and the idea that some kids wouldn’t have access to that part of themselves due to lack of funding for arts or creative programs is hard to stomach. my design training has informed so much of my life and was key in the development and growth of airbnb, so I would love to find a way to ensure everyone has access to some type of creative outlet. because both brian and I are trained designers, creativity has been at the core of airbnb since the beginning; we have created a company and service that puts our users and community at the center. design is a natural extension of who we are as a company. people who work in film, visual arts and architecture, entertainment, photography, music, and fashion are also the soul of airbnb. the economic benefits of hosting on airbnb have resonated for creatives around the world. as cities become increasingly expensive places to live, airbnb gives creatives and artist communities a way to remain in the homes and neighborhoods they love. hosting provides creatives with a reliable, stable source of income that can help them afford to pursue their professions and passions. globally, 60 percent of creative home hosts say airbnb has helped them afford to stay in their homes. also, the average annual earnings for a creative experience host who hosts twice a week is $9,000, while the average annual earnings for creative experience hosts who host more frequently, at 15 times per month, is upwards of $25,000.
what are the future plans for airbnb? any ideas to collaborate with other companies, creative events…?
well, we’re here at design miami/ with this installation belong.here.now and its really just a continuation of the thread we’ve been on. at london design festival last september, we hosted four studies in trafalgar square who put their best foot forward around the idea of what ‘home’ meant to them. and that was us supporting two up-and-coming studios and two established studios. then, this past april at salone del mobile in milan, we partnered with fabrica, the design school, to help promote their emerging talent and next class of creatives.
what has surprised you about the success of the company? did you always expect airbnb to become what it has today?
airbnb has been a total dream come true. it has exceeded our wildest expectations. its just so enjoyable to see that the effort that goes into crafting good design and caring for all the details was worth it. it is worth it, to put in all that effort, to do what designers are responsible for doing, to be the best designers in the world they possibly can, and it doesn’t matter if that’s a product, it doesn’t matter if its a service, an app, a website, an installation, a chair — that’s our job as designers, to put the best design and best aesthetic out in the world that we possibly can.
how has your personal life changed since we met you at the designboom mart before founding airbnb?
designboom has had a very special place in my role as a designer since graduating. you could say I got my start growing with designboom with one of my very first products. and so, what’s changed since then? being able to see how design can affect and change millions and millions of people. the way that you can put an idea into the world, and it can have an impact on people’s lives in parts of the world you never could have dreamed ofwe have hosts in cuba now that see an incredible benefit of having airbnb in their lives. the average income for people in cuba is about $40 a month, whereas the average income through airbnb is about $250. so for people there, making a few months worth of income with just a few reservations of hosting guests in your home is really incredible. what’s changed is that I can really see the power of design as it cascades around the world and the way it touches people’s lives in almost every country.
in the world that tends to be dominated by big businesses, companies like airbnb, uber and kickstarter have created space for newcomers, small studios and individual business people. how does airbnb give confidence to those people?
at airbnb, we feel like we have a responsibility to be the stewards for a community of hosts and guests around the world. there has now been 60 million people that have stayed with us worldwide and there’s hosts in 191 countries and over 2 million homes listed on airbnb. so we feel a great deal of responsibility to be the right stewards to our global community. in many ways, the reason we’re here in miami is to be the stewards of a global group of artists and creatives. with airbnb, we created the platform for guests globally, and now we’re here at design miami/ to make that same platform for emerging creatives and help amplify their voices so that they can be heard and be a part of it.
how important is design culture at airbnb? how has it evolved from since the company’s inception?
I think design culture has been one of the key parts of airbnb’s growth and global expansion. there have been existing websites before where a person could go and rent rooms, but I think one of the things that really differentiated us was that we designed a more intuitive visitors interface to reach those groups that are seeking accommodations. we lowered the bar for entry for people to try a new way to travel, and we made it easier for people to book rooms and stay at places around the world. but I really think it was because of design that people felt more comfortable to say ‘well, I think I’ll try this new way of accommodation, I’ll stay with someone I haven’t met yet.’ design was the tool for us to communicate the levels of trust people need to make that decision.