The Airbnb Story

By Leigh Gallagher

(Download .pdf synopsis.)


Behind-the-scenes story of the creation and growth of Airbnb, now the largest provider of accommodations in the world.

Key Takeaway(s):

Personalities —

Brian Chesky - Extreme level of curiosity and an obsession to absorb new information. “Infinite learner.” Visionary. “You take a picture of Brian’s mind, and he is in 2030 or 2040 already.” Possesses a devotion to a higher purpose.

Joe Gebbia - Perfectionist that could bottleneck his own company. Had to learn that it was OK to let products go out the door that were not at 100%. New mantra: "80 percent equals done.”

Nathan Blecharczyk - Tech/engineer with a business-oriented mind. Methodical and disciplined thinker who is good at thinking through complex issues and simplifying the ideas. A calm/steadying force.


Don’t make tough decisions by consensus. “A consensus decision in a moment of crisis is very often going to be the middle of the road, and they’re usually the worst decisions.” —Chesky. (Chapter 2)

Airbnb’s success was a culmination of forces, including: an epic recession that left people wanting to travel cheaply or to monetize their home, fatigue in the hospitality industry, new millennial “values” and attitudes, and a search among people for some sort of economic empowerment. (Chapter 5)

What I got out of it:

In addition to the known variables like a worthwhile idea, hard work, etc., entrepreneurism and big-industry disruption takes a blend of personality traits as well as luck, timing and a culmination of myriad forces outside one’s control.


“Success does not consist in never making mistakes, but in never making the same one a second time.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Pessimists are usually right, but it’s the optimists who change the world.” — Tom Friedman