Airbnb is a site that allows people to rent out their rooms, apartments or homes to travelers looking for an affordable place to stay.
The site has proven to be a success ever since it was founded by Brian Chesky, and Chesky believes in his site so much that he has been homeless for nearly three years.
“In June 2010, I moved out of my apartment and I have been mostly homeless ever since, off and on,” Chesky said.
Instead of renting his own place, he lives in Airbnb places.
“I just live in Airbnb apartments and I check in every week in different homes in San Francisco,” he said. “It’s the best way to take the pulse...the key is to always use your product.”
Chesky spoke at the South by Southwest interactive film and music festival, along with other entrepreneurs. Hundreds listened to his speech as he discussed lessons he learned when opening up the business with Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk.
One of the most creative things he added to the site was drawings. Inspired by cartoons, he hired a storyboard artist to conceptualize Airbnb step by step to users.
Users can register and rent out their privately-owned room, apartment, house, or any other type of housing (there’s even igloos and tipis in some areas) from one night to a few weeks.
Properties are professionally photographed and guests post online reviews after their stay. Hosts also don’t need to fret too much about allowing strangers into their home, as they are protected by a $1 million guarantee from the company in case of damage.
It works by making money from user fees and the hosts make money from their visitors.
Often, the rates on the site are much less than local hotels and provide a more comfortable stay.
The founders were inspired to name it Airbnb after Chesky and Gebbia used to rent air beds out in the mid-2000s to help pay their rent.
“What we want you to do is live locally, in a world where, post-mass production, the economy is powered by people,” Chesky said. “The shared economy, for me, is an economy powered by people.”
He also announced plans to expand the company even further. As of now, Airbnb is in 30,000 cities in 192 countries, but this year they’re making it a priority to expand in East and Southeast Asia where they have recently opened an office.
“We’re bigger in Europe than we are in the United States, which is like our second biggest market,” he said. “Latin America is third. Asia is still pretty new, except for Australia. We are focused on Tokyo and Seoul and Southeast Asia. It’s one of our fastest-growing markets.”