“Airbnb for X” has become one of the common pitches in the startup world. But how far will Airbnb itself expand? CEO Brian Chesky outlined some of his ambitions for the company’s future while on-stage this morning at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen.
For one thing, he says Airbnb will stay focused on travel, rather than turning into a market where people can trade and share anything. That doesn’t mean it’s thinking small, though — Chesky says tourism is a trillion-dollar industry, and he wants to see the industry grow.
Apparently a lot of Airbnb’s product roadmap came from something that the company called “Project Snow White.” 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 that chapter, Chesky said he realized, “That’s our solution.” So the Airbnb team storyboarded the perfect travel experience for a guest and the perfect travel experience for the host. The company’s eventual goal is to offer tools that improve every frame of that storyboard, whether it involves how you post a listing or how you get to the airport. One example that’s already available — the professional photography that Airbnb offers through a staff of 3,000 contractors.
The company has been growing at an almost ridiculously fast pace. It recently passed 10 million nights booked through the service, and Chesky said that tonight, 50,000 people will be staying in Airbnb-booked rooms. The company is also moving to a new 180,000-square foot office, which could accommodate a workforce of 1,000 or 1,200 people, and it has other offices around the world.
So how big can it get? Ultimately, Chesky said he thinks people from any country in the world should be able to travel anywhere else in the world and reserve rooms through Airbnb. It should be “something we grew up, something we learn to live with,” inspiring “an entire new workforce” delivering services around this type of travel. Chesky also noted that in some ways, this is just a return to an older type of travel — for example, his late grandfather thought the idea of staying at other people’s homes while traveling was totally normal.
“This is not that crazy of an idea,” Chesky said. “I think it’s coming back.”