Le Web: Airy answers from Airbnb

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Brian Chesky

More than once this Le Web, I’ve heard American voices talking about how they used AirB&B to get themselves a room in Paris. The concept is allowing you to pay to borrow someone’s guest room or apartment, villa or other property. Indeed there are everything from apartments through to castles and islands – and even entire (small) countries…

The company started in 2008 on a couple of credit cards, and has grown through two rounds of funding. How much traffic do they get from appearances on TV shows like Conan O’Brien. The answer? Not much? It make have a reputation effect, but not a usage spike. Average person in New York makes $4000 a year using the service – and that’s at 4 nights a month let out.

And now Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO is falling into buzzword bingo “community” “platform” – he suggests that Airbnb is becoming a platform without really giving us any details of how. Ooh, Tourism 2.0. New buzzword. However, his point that by bringing tourists and travellers into residential neighbourhoods, they’re bringing new business to companies that never had a tourist base before.

One interesting revelation: they had to more actively manage their would-be “landlords” – people who are unresponsive or are attracting poor ratings are contacted and, if they don’t respond, removed from the site. Last year, they had a user vandalise a host’s apartment. They responded with rolling out dozens of new features for security, and instituted a 24/7 helpline. Not clear exactly how that would prevent it happening… Chesky has lived the service though – he spent a year living out of apartments he rented from the service.

They have a network of 2000 photographers worldwide who they pay to go and photograph properties at no charge to the hosts. And they found them by e-mailing people in their community.

They have $112m from their last round of funding. They intend to invest in search and discovery on the site as a priority. They hope to become, as he puts it, the Google of places and experiences, rather than info.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.