AirBnB co-founder talks in Sydney

Posted on May 7, 2013 | Comments Off on AirBnB co-founder talks in Sydney

AirB&B's Nathan Blecharczyk IMG_1361


Tonight in SydneyAirBnB co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk gave an informal talk about the beginnings of AirBnB, a real internet disruption success story. iTravelTree was there but arrived late and missed the start (Sydney peak hour). We gather that it began with a dispute among friends about whether friends staying were contributing cash or not. So AirBnB was born to give some certainty. That was in 2007 but a year later it was still only  making $200 a week and the team were all still sharing a house. They decided to give it 100 percent for a few weeks and see what happened. Most of the scattered listings were in New York so they flew there from California. Some listing had no photographs and some had very bad ones so they hired a professional camera (cheaper on the weekend) and visited “their” properties. That produced about 20 properties with good images and good, reworked text and some realistic asking nightly rates.

At the end of 13 weeks AirBnB had 20 good listings so business picked up. And guests became hosts and the snowball developed momentum. By then AirBnB was making $4000 a month, a venture capitalist came onboard and business has been developing ever since. Nathan says that VCs want big $1B-plus ideas.

AirBnB is more than five years old: “the first two and a half years my parents had no idea what I did but my friends were progressing in regular jobs”, Nathan says.

In question time he was asked: “hotels see you as threat. Should they?” He replied that some hotels are on AirBnB and he sees that as a problem. Overall, hotels are growing at four per cent per annum so they shouldn’t feel threatened. In fact he feels its a shared arena – surveys show that AirBnB clients more likely to return to that city because of their AirBnB experience. So AirBnB is creating new behaviour.
From the days of renting a camera cheaply, AirBnB employs 3000 contract photographers now.
A question was asked about how the company dealt with conflict between guests and hosts and what did it do about damage? He said that this is fortunately rare because each case creates a lot of work. And AirBnB can’t hide behind the excuse that it’s only platform provider. It has a trained team so that both sides feel heard. It was a long time before they could get insurance so they provided it out of pocket as they considered it important to establish trust. He revealed that there’s a lot behind the scenes in terms of scrutiny and providing a safety net.


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