The Airbnb Story – Leigh Gallagher

This book is an engrossing story of audacious entrepreneurism and big-industry disruption. It is an investigative look into a beloved, disruptive, notorious start-up – a remarkable behind-the-scenes story of the creation and growth of Airbnb, the online lodging platform that is now the largest provider of accommodations in the world.

At first just the wacky idea of ​​cofounders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb has disrupted the $500 billion hotel industry. Airbnb is beloved by the millions of members in its “host” community and the travelers they shelter every night. And yet, even as the company has blazed such an unexpected path, this is the first book solely dedicated to the phenomenon of Airbnb.

“Almost any problem in the world could be solved by creative design; if you could conceive of something, you could design it; and it was possible to design the very world you wanted to live in. As a designer, you could change the world.”

Airbnb has disrupted hotels, travel, and the conventional management theory. This book is well worth the read as you’ll get an inside look at the creativity that drives Airbnb and how it became the organization it is today.


  1. One of the signature elements of the sharing economy is that the ideas themselves are not new.
  2. Many people suggest that Airbnb is not a technology company, since it traffics in homes and spaces, but it has one of the most sophisticated back-end engineering infrastructures in Silicon Valley.
  3. If you can convince people to pay forty dollars for a four-dollar box of cereal, you can probably convince people to sleep in other people’s airbeds.
  4. Make something people want.
  5. The biggest enemy of a start-up is your own confidence and your own resolve. We were told for a long time that this was terrible. Then we were told we were exciting.
  6. We weren’t visionaries. We’re ordinary guys. We thought. There have to be other ordinary people like us with a little extra space that want to make a little money.
  7. You have to understand the number of people you talk to about doing a business versus the number of people who actually did it. When they didn’t understand something, they went and learned it. They launched.
  8. We focused too much on what they were doing at the time and not enough on what they could do, would do, and did do.
  9. Product/market fit: A proof-of-life milestone that a start-up hits when its concept has both found a good market – one with lots of real, potential customers – and demonstrated that it has created a product that can satisfy that market .
  10. “Product” is a vague and all-encompassing term in the tech world for everything after the idea: it’s the actual website or app; the way it looks; the way it works, the things it can do, the engineering that powers it, and the way you use it and interact with it (the “user experience”).
  11. It’s about how something works – from the product to the interface to the experience.
  12. Airbnb had become a legitimate option for the pickiest, most sophisticated of travelers, and second, that it had become so large a platform that it basically had something for everyone.
  13. If I’m waking up in Cairo, I want to know I’m in Cairo. I don’t want to wake up in a room that looks like I’m in Cleveland.
  14. Millennial travelers want the same kind of imperfect authenticity from their travel experiences.
  15. It’s making travel excessively personal when it had become impersonal. It’s anti-commodity. It’s uniqueness. It’s humanization.
  16. Experiencing a place like a local rather than as a tourist.
  17. The reasonable man adapts himself to the environment. The unreasonable man adapts the environment to him. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
  18. You cannot kill an idea whose time has come.
  19. At the end of the day, do people like using Airbnb? Do millions and millions and millions of people want Airbnb? Yes. Everything else is a solvable problem. It’s solvable with the application of smart people, time, and money. What you can’t solve is if you built something nobody wants.
  20. Success does not consist in never making mistakes, but in never making the same one a second time.
  21. Elephants, dead fish, and vomit: A set of tools designed to encourage difficult conversations. An “elephant” is a big truth everyone knows but doesn’t talk about. A “dead fish” is a personal grievance that needs to be aired out, usually with an apology, or it risks getting worse. “Vomit” sessions were time put aside for people to get things off their chest without interruption and without risk of judgment.
  22. Disciplined thinker: Who takes all the inputs from all different people and he can pull all those things together and read it back out to the group so that we can make decisions.
  23. Corporate culture: I can be the full-fat version of myself here, not the skim-milk version.
  24. Openness leads people to aspire to do more.
  25. If you’re a technology company, you can’t presume your original invention is the thing that you’re selling many years from now.
  26. For Airbnb, the new thing it was about to start selling was the rest of the trip.
  27. Administration era: A phase of 10 or 20 percent growth that a company settles into after the “creation era” and then the “building era” and signals a mature business. “Airbnb will never be in an administration era.” It will always be in a building era.
  28. You choose, at the end of the day, who you listen to and the kind of courage you’re going to have.
  29. The surge of millennials and their dramatically different value system represented a fertile consumer base, with their preference for authentic experiences over things, their anticorporate and anti-establishment leanings, their hunger for anything that claimed to have a purpose or mission, and their desire to seek out community wherever they could find it.
  30. Everything that we do, and everything that we will do, will be powered by people.
I want to be a creator of a safe space for the invention of ideas.
*I take no credit for any of these points.

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