By Gabriella Hoffman
We stand with the company at the federal and state level whenever they face regulatory roadblocks to operation. However, do we truly understand the importance of companies like Airbnb and what they do to bolster free enterprise? Not nearly enough. Hence why Resurgent readers should pick up a copy of The Airbnb Story by Fortune Magazine editor Leigh Gallagher.
I randomly stumbled upon the book on Twitter from a retweet by Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO. It piqued my interest because very few in politics have positively and objectively examined Airbnb for its contributions as a creative disruptor—given omnipresent opposition the company still faces from politicians, the hotel lobby, and so-called housing rights advocates. Here in Virginia, Airbnb faces an uphill battle — but not as daunting as the roadblocks placed on the company in New York City. I’ve used the service before for a May 2015 NYC trip and found it to be a cheaper alternative. Millions of others have used Airbnb during vacations and business trips to get a more affordable, cozy, and comfortable experience in the city they traverse.
Airbnb has achieved a lot of success since its inception in 2008. What I appreciated about Gallagher’s book was how fair and unbiased her take on the company was. Citing personal experience using the platform, interviews/interactions with company higher-ups, and seeking out stories of Airbnb users—both good and bad—she carefully but tactfully documents Airbnb from its bumpy start to its all-star status now.
Gallagher indirectly hints at a painful truth about most successful companies today: you must start from the bottom and work your way to the top. Like other profitable companies out there, Airbnb is the product of determination, hard work, and trial-and-error. Success isn’t attained overnight, Airbnb’s three founders realized. None of them had a hospitality background or formal management skills. Taking risks, Gallagher noted, comprised most of their strategy — and it paid off. Airbnb’s ascent in the world should serve as an inspiration to other start-ups and young entrepreneurs.
Moreover, Airbnb’s success can be attributed to personalizing and tailoring accommodations for people of all backgrounds, ages, and travel demands. Compared to overpriced hotels, Airbnb offers an array of choices for travelers to stay at. As Chapter 3 “Airbnb Nation” notes, “Today the scope of Airbnb’s inventory reflect the diversity in the world’s housing market. Its three million listings are all unique, and the range of properties and experiences available is hard to imagine,” (59).
Here’s another important section that struck me about the company’s mission statement people tend to gloss over:
“The opportunity to show some humanity or to receive some expression of humanity from others, even if you never experience that person outside of a few messages, some fluffed towels, and a welcome note, has become rare in our disconnected world, (79).”
It is true. We live in a disconnected world, and yes, a very disconnected country where human connections are seriously—but not entirely—lacking. Gallagher notes how positive this facet is, however ambitious or unsuccessful Airbnb is at attaining this goal.
Gallagher went on to write that one Airbnb investor observed that, “Uber is transactional; Airbnb is humanity.” While you can have great chats with Uber drivers, Airbnb deviates from its ride-sharing compatriots by aspiring to be personal. I think both companies are unique and shouldn’t be pitted against one another. But Airbnb definitely aspires to bring something more to the table than Uber does. In fact, because of Airbnb’s success, the company is branching out to cater more to travel needs—with hosts offering personalized tours, trips, or classes in cities to offer guests more enjoyable experiences. That’s pretty neat, if you ask me.
Airbnb has brought more than a service or product to the forefront. It’s brought about a movement to “Belong Anywhere” as Gallagher notes in her book. How many services produce a movement these days? Very few. In spite of some of their overt social justice overtones, Airbnb is onto something—creating a culture and movement that empowers both consumers and home owners to make money, service others, and contribute positively back to the economy. I’ll admit, like the author notes, Airbnb is not for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t list my home there — but I plan to use them for some upcoming trips (especially those abroad). Many others will choose to be hosts or guests, and that’s a beautiful thing!
As Gallagher notes, Airbnb fits perfectly well into the ever-changing economy that’s trending more towards ride-sharing. Consumers are craving more choices—choices that should be afforded in a free market society like ours. If you want to familiarize yourself more with Airbnb, not only use the service—read Leah Gallagher’s book.