The Airbnb Story

How Three Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions of Dollars … and Plenty of Enemies

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Pub Date 16 Feb 2017 | Archive Date 13 Apr 2017


'An engrossing story of audacious entrepreneurism' -- Charles Duhigg

'Captures the remarkable journey of Airbnb exceedingly well' -- Reid Hoffman

'fast paced, fun dive into one of the seminal firms of our time' -- Rana Foroohar

In 2008, two broke art school graduates and their coder-whiz friend set up a platform that – in less than a decade – became one of the largest provider of accommodations in the world. Now valued at $31 billion, Airbnb is in the very top tier of Silicon Valley’s ‘unicorn’ startups.

Yet the company has not been without controversy – disrupting a $500 billion hotel industry makes you a few enemies. This is also a story of regulators who want to shut it down, hotel industry leaders who want it to disappear and neighbourhoods that struggle with private homes open for public rental. But beyond the headlines and the horror stories, Airbnb has changed the terms of travel for a whole generation – where a sense of belonging has built trust between hosts and guests seeking a more original travel experience that hotels have struggled to replicate.

This is the first, definitive book to tell the remarkable story behind Airbnb in all its forms – cultural zeitgeist, hotel disruptor, enemy to regulators – and the first in-depth character study of its leader Brian Chesky, the company’s curious co-founder and CEO. It reveals what got Airbnb where it is today, why they are nothing like Uber, and where they are going next.

'An engrossing story of audacious entrepreneurism' -- Charles Duhigg

'Captures the remarkable journey of Airbnb exceedingly well' -- Reid Hoffman

'fast paced, fun dive into one of the seminal firms of...

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ISBN 9780753545584
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Featured Reviews

I read one non fiction book for every 30 or so fiction, so I clearly have a strong preference but as a user of Airbnb I was interested to see what this was about and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writer was objective and clear, didn't drown me in business jargon and data but told a compelling story and I found a lot of it quite inspiring. A good deal of the leadership journey can be applied to any work place, or even personal goals and I would certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in travel, social issues, tech or just appealing start up stories :)

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For no clear reason, the word "rollicking" kept coming to mind as I read this - eventually, I realised why: the book rollicks every bit as much as Airbnb did in the early years, and it was hard to put it down for the first few chapters. To be honest, though, it all seemed to slow down once the early, heady years moved on to consolidation and dealing with the headaches set up by places like New York; it all, somehow, seemed to become a bit more American-business-school in tone. Never mind, the pace began to pick up as Airbnb's new ideas were floated, and as a totally non-business reader with only a passing Airbnb experience, I felt it came back to a more accessible account. As I put in my "note to the publisher", some graphics in place of the figures might have made the point about the explosive growth of Airbnb more dynamically, and some pictures (what do the magic trio look like?) might have humanised the story as much as the occasional quotes or anecdotes. That said, it ought to be required reading for Airbnb guests - if only to let them see how much work and skill lies under that seamless booking experience.

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As someone who appreciates Air B n B, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. Not dry, not dusty, but got everything across in an amusing way.

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Success stories are always appealing. What we now know as Airbnb started in 2004 with Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, two broke industrial and graphic design school graduates. Later their befriended programmer Nathan Blecharczyk joined. The three worked out an idea to rent out air beds and breakfast to make some money. This was the conception of what became Airbnb, now valued at $30 billion and on the eve of entering China.

The boys had the luck of a perfect timing to meet investors. The unique selling points of their business model, two markets where demand and supply are facing each other, a powerful payment system, starting as the Craigslist for rooms, but quickly becoming a disruptive force in hospitality services without owning any of the homes or rooms that are rented out. Leigh Gallagher tells The Airbnb Story in chronological order, and shares from an abundance of background information, memoirs, and interviews. Not only Airbnb is covered, also its main competitors (e.g.,, and the differences in market approach, products and services offered and the outlook for the near future. Will the traditional hotel chains ultimately take over? Can market entrants or competitors somehow steal and copy the business model? And can Airbnb itself evolve into a successful multiproduct firm with spread risks to survive in the long run?

If Airbnb has disrupted hotels, travel, space, and trust, it's also disrupted conventional management theory. The company's rise is lacking corporate experience with the founders at their start. No MBA, but design school as a foundation. Learn from these three founding fathers of a real game-changer still in charge of this privately owned company. Media are normally running behind the facts: "Where everyone thinks Airbnb is today, is where we were two years ago." The same will apply to this book, updated to the very end of 2016. In 2 years the Airbnb story will have different twists and outcomes.

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This sits comfortably in the business biography section. It's an interesting, not too dry, read focusing, as you would expect, on the founders backgrounds, concept and evolution.

I can't believe I never stopped to think about the rather odd name to realise that it reflects the original business concept of "air bed and breakfast"

Obviously this doesn't have the scandal of some of some of the banking crisis books, of the clout of Warren Buffett, but it earns a place on the shelf for the unique success story it tells.

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