Above is the three-minute highlight version of the Airbnb interview. If you like this, and we think you will, you’ll want to watch the full-length version posted just below.
What does it take to create a community that sustains itself, that builds itself through word of mouth and the pleasure of a good experience? The founders of Airbnb know that it takes a lot of work. Airbnb is a community marketplace where you can list or book anything from a private apartment to a private island in over 9,000 cities in 170 countries. Founders always have big dreams for their startups, but Airbnb found that growing a marketplace doesn’t happen quickly.
“What no one ever tells you is how hard it is to start a marketplace,” says Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb. “We were a two-sided marketplace, and people on one side didn’t want to do something if people on the other side didn’t want to do something. A chicken-egg problem, and the problem was, it wasn’t just a chicken and egg problem: it was in a thousand cities all over the world. So you had to get all these people, travelers and hosts, in all these thousands of cities, before you were a viable community. It makes perfect sense, looking back, why it would take a thousand days.”
The founders had a breakthrough they finally decided to not worry about scaling for the moment. They started “traveling to cities, holding meetups, going into your users’ homes, demoing the site to them, spending hours with them sometimes, like having a coffee and just talking about, ‘what are the problems you face as a host?’” explains Joe Gebbia, co-founder and chief product officer. “Then just listening to them and actually incorporating that feedback back into the site.”
They’ve kept up that kind of immersive research—and maybe it scales better than they originally thought. Chesky gave up his apartment and only stayed in Airbnb listings for a time, Gebbia is a frequent Airbnb host, and employees are given a travel stipend to stay in Airbnb listings around the world.
“We got 700,000 nights booked just in 2010,” says Chesky. “On any given night, we oftentimes have more people in New York or San Francisco or Paris than the largest hotel in that city.”
Airbnb web site: http://www.airbnb.com/
Airbnb blog: http://blog.airbnb.com/
Airbnb profile on CrunchBase: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/airbnb-2
Airbnb on Twitter: http://twitter.com/airbnb
Watch the full interview with Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia: