Skip to content

💡 "We Died & Were Reborn"

Masters of Scale

Photo by Oberon Copeland / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Bob Safian
Guest: Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO, Airbnb
Category: Biz & Tech | 💡 Business Lessons

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:44] “The year that's gone by has been one of the most defining years of my life. A year ago, I came back from the holidays thinking that my life was great and the company was doing well. We were preparing to go public. And then in eight weeks, we lost 80% of our revenue. […] I came back in the beginning of 2020, thinking this was going to be a defining decade, not realizing I would make a decade of decisions in a year. I'm 39 years old going on 49 right now. That's what it feels like.”

[6:46] “[Laying off a quarter of the team] was probably the most difficult moment of my life. I think most CEOs say that was the hardest, most difficult, emotional thing to do. But when you're Airbnb, our mission is centered around belonging. To confront a layoff when our whole mission was oriented around belonging, it seemed to take on grander proportions.

[8:12] “A crisis is an opportunity to do less than is expected of you, what is expected of you, or more than is expected of you. And the problem with most people managing crisis is they usually make one of two choices: to do less than expected or as much as expected. And those are almost always the wrong answers. Almost always, a crisis is a stage, is a spotlight. It's your moment to demonstrate your values. And it's easy to demonstrate your values and our culture in good times. It's super easy. Culture is what you do in the darkest of days, at your most dire moment. And so for us, that meant being really, really thoughtful about trying to take care of people. And I don't want to presume that we did everything right. It was very painful. But we laid out a series of actions based on our principles.”

[9:40] “The most novel thing we did was we created an alumni directory where we allowed anyone who was being laid off to opt in to joining a public directory where we would publish your information, your LinkedIn, and recruiters could contact you. More than 500,000 people visited our employees' profiles, and the majority of employees, as far as we know, did get rehired by other companies.”

[12:49] “[W]hat I believed was the collapse of travel and the taking away of human connection travel will lead to a greater appreciation, a rebound like we've never seen before, a shift from business travel to leisure travel, to a more meaningful kind of travel, which was central around spending time with the people you care about. A shift from going to big mass market tourism destinations to traveling, redistributing to thousands of smaller communities.”

[20:54] “My entire IPO was in sweat pants in front of an iMac in the room that I'm in right now. When you go public, the first thing you do is write an S1. Then the next thing you have to do is you have to do this thing called testing the waters. This pre-road show series of keynotes to see if there's interest. So we tested the waters, and the story we told was the story that I call the second inflection point. I said, "Airbnb was founded during the great recession. It was an inflection point in the world.” […] So the story we said is: “We are now at a second inflection point because of COVID that is going to be even creating more lasting change than the last one, and that we're riding this wave, and this is an opportunity for us.” So we sold the story of a second inflection point and they bought into that story, both spiritually and financially.”

[33:10] “During the lead up to inauguration, we noticed a lot of people gathering obviously in DC. […] All those people raiding the Capitol, where were they staying? And I thought to myself, some of them presumably were staying in Airbnbs. We started getting word that there were mass plans for protest coming up again for the inauguration. And we said, "We cannot be a party to this.” […] Initially, we created a plan to limit the number of reservations. Then we just made a game time decision. And we said, "You know what? We should just block all reservations. The risk is too high to the country. We can't be part of this." I don't know if it was a bold move, but it felt bold."

[34:12] “One of the other things I've learned in a crisis is you got to make principle decisions, not business decisions. A business decision is, "I'm going to do this thing and then people are going to applaud me for it. And the business is going to go up." The problem with that is you're trying to predict the outcome. And in a crisis, you can't predict the outcome. So I said, "We're going to make principle decisions." Meaning if all is lost, how do we want to be remembered? So let go of the outcome. Anchor on first principles.”

Rating: 🍎🍎🍎🍎

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 42 min | 🗓️ 03/16/2021
✅ Time saved: 40 min

If you enjoyed reading this PodSnacks, please feel free to share it to up to three others.