Featured Profiles

Transforming The Hotel Landscape

Brian Joseph Chesky is an American Billionaire Businessman and industrial designer. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb. Chesky was named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People of 2015.” He is known for his perseverance to get things done and his exemplary leadership skills that allow everyone to be creative and showcase their ideas and talents.


Chesky’s high school yearbook quote was “I’m sure I’ll amount to nothing.” Chesky thought it was funny. He, however, had plans of the antagonistic nature. He worked hard and stumbled upon an idea with his friend that forever changed his career and revolutionized the hotel industry.


Chesky has a brilliant leadership style. He encourages his employees to put forward their ideas to take the company forward. An example of this is, When Cheski interviews new employees, he always starts by telling them this, “Everything around you was designed by people no more experienced than you. Only four and a half years ago, we were operating out of a 3 bedroom apartment, and we had fewer resources than you have now. Back then, we dreamed of being able to hire the best people in the world. We have now hired you. You are here to change things.”


So how was this great company created?


At Rhode Island School of Design, Chesky met Joe Gebbia, with whom he would eventually cofound Airbnb. Right before graduation, Gebbia pulled Chesky aside and told him: “Before you get on the plane, there’s something I need to tell you. We’re going to start a company one day, and they’re going to write a book about it.”


After completing college, Brian Chesky worked with 3DID in Los Angeles as an Industrial Designer and Strategist. He later shifted to San Francisco and started sharing an apartment with his friend Gebbia. The two unemployed graduates soon found themselves struggling with their finances.


A conference was hosted in San Francisco by The Industrial Designers Society of America, and all the hotels were fully booked. This sparked a flame in Gebbia’s mind, and he pitched Chesky the idea of renting out their apartment to those who couldn’t find a place to stay, a “designers bed and breakfast.” The duo ended up hosting three people that weekend, offering up air mattresses and floor space, as well as Pop-Tarts for breakfast.


Their engineer friend, Nathan Blecharczyk soon joined Gebbia and Chesky. The three of them together started Airbedandbreakfast.com (initially called) in August 2008. Chesky “gravitated naturally to the role of leader,” Fortune wrote in 2015.


At the start, the site failed to get traction, and the trio had officially hit a low. However, they continued their efforts to secure funding and eventually rose and built their empire. As Chesky explains, “We start with the perfect experience and then work backwards. That’s how we’re going to continue to be successful.” A brilliant example of this is when Airbnb wasn’t picking up in New York, so the two partners, Gebbia and Chesky, flew out and booked spaces with 24 hosts to figure out the problem. They eventually discovered that the users did a less than average job of presenting photos of their listings. According to Gebbia, “The photos were really bad. People were using camera phones and taking Craigslist-quality pictures. Surprise! No one was booking because you couldn’t see what you were paying for.”


Chesky’s solution to the problem was simple and effective. According to Chesky, “A web startup would say, ‘Let’s send emails, teach [users] professional photography, and test them. “We said, ‘Screw that.’ “Instead, they rented a $5,000 camera and went door to door, taking professional pictures of as many New York listings as possible. This approach led to two to three times as many bookings on New York listings, and by the end of the month, Airbnb’s revenue in the city had doubled. What was stunting growth in New York was also stunting growth in Paris, London, Vancouver, and Miami.”


This led to the introduction of Airbnb photography program, which was officially launched in 2010. This enabled the hosts to automatically schedule a professional photographer to photograph their space for a better user experience on the app.


They implemented various out of the box strategies that helped them grow their business enormously. One of the strategies adopted was Airbnb/Craigslist integration. They reached more than a thousand potential users via Craigslist. They had an added advantage that Airbnb listings were far superior to the other properties available; they had a personal touch added by the host, better descriptions and more decent photos of the property. They noticed that many Craigslist users made the switch and booked directly through Airbnb for their future vacations. Properties listed on Airbnb ended made more money on their listings as well.


The company soon spread across Europe. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, they exceeded hosting more than 120,000 people in Airbnb homes. Airbnb had a $20 billion valuation, by March 2015. In 2015, Airbnb became an official sponsor of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


In 2015, Chesky rose to fame and was named in Forbes list of America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40. He also appeared on TIME’s ‘100 Most Influential People for 2015′. In May 2015, the then President of US Barack Obama named him an Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship. In accordance with his philanthropic values, in 2016, he joined Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ ‘The Giving Pledge’ where a group of billionaires pledge to give a majority of their wealth away during their lifetime. He also made an appearance in the Youngest Forbes 400 list in 2016.


Through it all, Chesky says, “The stuff that matters in life is no longer stuff. It’s other people. It’s relationships. It’s experience.”