If you read the comments on any our recent stories about the Airbnb controversies, you’ll see plenty of people saying that Airbnb needs to take a page out of the Zappos playbook. It turns out, they tried.
In the Web world, Zappos is as legendary for its US-based, expensive, top-knotch customer service as Nordstrom is for service in the retail world. Indeed, one of the reasons was a top Nordstrom executive Fred Mossler was recruited by Zappos founders Tony Hseih and Alfred Lin early on.
Well, it turns out Airbnb was close to doing something very similar. We heard from several sources close to the situation that Alfred Lin– current Sequoia partner/ former Zappos COO and CFO– seriously considered leaving the firm to join Airbnb as COO, before Sequoia’s Mike Moritz talked him into staying at the top Valley firm.
Lin downplayed the whole thing, saying he’s regularly approached by companies to take on senior operating roles and has declined all opportunities in order to focus on his career as a venture capitalist. He added that if he did try to leave, and Moritz wasn’t upset, he’d “be concerned he wasn’t doing a great job at Sequoia.”
Airbnb’s hire would have been quite a coup. As we’ve written before, Lin has the Midas Touch as an entrepreneur and operator with some $2 billion in exits under his belt so far. And given the current press surrounding Airbnb, a C-level hire from the company synonymous with great customer service would have been a clear PR win.
But Sequoia’s senior partnership– particularly uber partner Moritz– were reportedly so upset to hear the news that they aggressively lobbied Lin to stay and ultimately convinced him.
It was surprising to me that Lin joined Sequoia to begin with, given how much success he has had as an operator and how much he clearly excels at that difficult stage of pushing a good idea into a great business. Those people are always in short supply in the Valley. He said in an interview that he sees all that operating experience as a differentiator in the venture world today, and one reason he enjoys his current job so much. Airbnb’s loss will be many a Sequoia portfolio company’s gain.