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Brian Chesky

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Brian Chesky (born August 29, 1981) is an American entrepreneur and web developer who created the well-known hospitality exchange service, Airbnb, a company that he now runs as founder and CEO.

Brian was born in Niskayuna, NY, and he attended the Rhode Island School of Design. After college, Brian began an industrial design shop in Los Angeles, CA, but his passion was always for international travel. His degree in design fueled his artistic passion, and Brian was said to be seldom seen without a pen and sketch book with him.

In 2008, Brian had an idea--why not rent out his apartment to people visiting the city for a local design conference? He and his roommates rented their home to travelers for a fee, and from that experience, Brian's idea led him to create a web service to replicate this idea for travelers across the globe.

Chesky said the inspiration came from reading a biography of Walt Disney, specifically the chapter about the production of Snow White. As the first feature-length animated film, Snow White was a big risk for Disney, but he was committed to creating characters who audience members would care about. With that in mind, Disney planned out the entire film in storyboards.

After reading about Disney's storyboard approach, Chesky said he realized, “That’s our solution.” So the Airbnb team, which included Brian and 2 brothers he met in college, set out to design a storyboard, much like Disney's, that would depict, "the perfect travel experience for a guest and the perfect travel experience for the host."[1]

Since launching in 2008, Airbnb has seen 1.8m nights of accommodation booked on its Ebay-style marketplace, to which about 1,000 properties are added for rent every day, largely by word-of-mouth recommendations.[2]

Companies and Investments

  • AirBnB
  • FlightCar
  • Balanced
  • Summly
  • SocialCam

Lessons Learned

*Most of the time, great ideas come from simple necessity

Brian started Airbnb as a money-starved recent college grad. When a local design conference sold out all of the hotels near his neighborhood, Brian and his roommates decided--Why not rent out our apartment to make some extra cash? When the idea worked and the guests happily paid him to rent out his home, he and his roommates decided to try the idea again. The roommates' need to make extra cash ultimately led him to create Airbnb, a company that grew almost entirely out of his necessity to make a little extra cash, along with a great opportunity to improve the travel experience for travelers and hosts.

*Go out and meet your real customers. Talk to them, understand them.
Airbnb's product roadmap as well as their company vision was always based on the company's customers rather than Brian or a management team's dictate. Brian realized early on that the people using the site, travelers and hosts, should guide the company's development. What's the best way to understand what your customers want? Ask them! Brian and Airbnb's leadership team spent countless hours talking to people who had used their website to travel across the world. He asked them about what frustrated them, what parts of the process were frustrating and what would make the "dream" travel experience for them. These insights, real customer gripes and suggestions, formed the company's strategy: fix the stuff that your customers dislike and add the stuff that they really want. Brian learned to ensure that his company actively listen to their customers--the people using Airbnb across the world.

Inspiring Quotes

It’s better to have 100 people love you than to have a million people kind of like you.

Paul Graham

Brian Chesky's Quotes

Build your company like you are building it just for yourself at the beginning. That way you will be convinced that it is good.

Brian Chesky

Do the things that do not scale.

Brian Chesky

Influential Books

Ruth Krauss - A Hole Is to Dig


Paul Graham, Walt Disney


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