I’m excited to announce that Brian Chesky is returning to speak at Disrupt SF.
For the first several years of Airbnb‘s existence, most people didn’t know what to make of it. Fred Wilson famously passed on an investment in the company, despite Paul Graham’s insistence that the idea was much bigger than just renting out your couch to a stranger. One investor walked out of a pitch meeting in a cafe when one of the founders went to the bathroom. And then there’s the story of how the founders were, for a time, living off the breakfast cereal they had taken to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
Yet here we are, several years later, and Airbnb is valued at $10 billion. Behind it all is Brian Chesky, who along with co-founders Joe Gebbia and Nate Blecharczyk, has transformed the company from focusing on cheap airbed rentals to building what is now a global hospitality brand.
Chesky and team grew the business through what Paul Graham has called, “Doing things that don’t scale.” The founders traveled to New York to take photographs of some of its first listings to put them in the best light possible. Along the way, the also spoke with hosts about what they could be doing better and how they could improve the product. For a time, Chesky even lived solely in various Airbnbs as a way of dogfooding his own product.
Airbnb now offers a wide range of lodging experiences — from treehouses to houseboats to entire villas — and over time it’s added more tools to help guests get the most out of their stays while providing hosts with guidelines for making the overall experience better. It’s also built-in trust and safety checks into its platform as a way to get both sides more comfortable with the idea of staying at a stranger’s place.
In doing so, Airbnb has flipped the hospitality market on its head, giving travelers more options and new experiences as they explore new cities and neighborhoods. But not everyone is happy about that — increasingly Airbnb has faced opposition from the hotel lobby and various regulators around the world who have sought to crack down on what they see as a platform for unlicensed hotel operators.
At TechCrunch Disrupt SF, Chesky will join us to talk about what it means to grow a startup into a global powerhouse, how Airbnb is dealing with an increasingly difficult regulatory environment, and what we can expect from the company as it works to offer more services to both hosts and guests in the future. Chesky previously spoke at Disrupt NY 2011.