We live in an era of disruption, innovation and ruthless corporate excellence.
Silicon Valley tech companies certainly epitomize this phenomenon of disruptive models and none more so than Airbnb. It has certainly disrupted the market, it has innovated the whole concept of the sharing economy, but however one sterling quality is that it has eschewed from falling into the trap of ruthless corporate excellence. Instead Airbnb has prioritized people over profits at its core value.
This was epitomized to me when I saw Joe Gebbia’s TED talk a few years ago.
The disruption and innovation has not eroded its people centric business. Let me elucidate!
For two centuries or so the hotel industry has existed, thrived and has remained free from any external threats. Motels were for the fleeting one-night sojourns on dusty roads while hostels were for backpackers. The hotel industry saw itself immune to any existential threats; in fact, it only competed within its own sector between luxury hotels to budget hotels and boutique hotels and then the brands fought their own turf wars.
Airbnb has disrupted the entire industry by epitomizing what the sharing economy and collaborative consumption is all about.
Airbnb has innovated the peer-to-peer economy by allowing the intrepid traveler to go as fancy as an exotic castle to as penurious as an air mattress on rickety floors, based on an eclectic mix of price points, aesthetics, grandiosity, location and host preference. All this while allowing home owners to leverage their property ( which may otherwise lie in a dormant state) and earn additional income on the side.
But these are just business plans that affect the bottomline. For me Airbnb really thrives is keeping people at its heart. As co-founder Joe Gebbia so eloquently said in his TED talk that the idea of Airbnb came to him when he realized that strangers don’t always equal danger (an old adage that universally percolates across all cultures). But instead, strangers were just new friends waiting to be discovered.
I believe that the reason why Airbnb thrives and was able to successfully disrupt the hotel business was its ability to seamlessly prioritize a people focused experience over the luxury and the convenience. Hotels, despite the luxury and the amenities do not have the warmth of homes. The concierge, the bellhop, the housekeeping and room service staff smile and exchange pleasantries, but with no individual disrespect, it’s not the same warmth that a host at a home would normally exude.
I have been fortunate to visit Airbnb’s headquarters in San Francisco and its regional offices in Singapore and I saw the people focused methods not just for its users (such as yours truly) but also for its employees.
Silicon Valley tech giants all compete to draw in the talent with the perks and amenities of free food, other gastronomic treats, recliners, game rooms and quirky work setups. But a unique aspect of the Airbnb office for me was how various parts of the office and conference rooms were remodeled to resemble and replicate actual homes (with identical furniture) that people have stayed in and given glowing reviews. This for me showed that Airbnb even thought about its clientele. People honored in ways that they may never get to witness an Airbnb office.
Airbnb epitomizes experiences in getting to know people and bringing people closer in a dystopic world of mistrust. As someone who is convivial, gregarious and people-oriented, I am naturally attracted to an environment such as Airbnb that fosters such a collaborative environment.
In my three visits (twice to the San Francisco headquarters and once to the Singapore office), I can safely say that I checked into Airbnb, but I didn’t spend the night.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.