Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and eBay’s John Donahoe often collaborate, according to both CEO’s at Fortune’s Brainstorm TECH Conference. On a panel discussion, both men described the lessons they have taught each other about building a great company. Airbnb (YC W09) must continue to learn, and learn fast. The popular share economy service that lets people stay in unique spaces in 192 countries keeps rapidly growing. Airbnb’s most recent effort is expansion as a major international player in the $4 trillion dollar travel industry.
Brian Chesky said during the panel discussion his goal is for Airbnb “to be one of the next great marketplaces, like eBay.” To achieve that goal, the “company needs to be both nimble and robust.” Mr. Chesky defines “nimble” as innovative, one of Airbnb’s core strengths. “Robust” for Airbnb comes in the form of scalability, which isn’t so easy when you have customers in over 33,000 cities across 192 countries. That’s where Mr. Chesky says eBay’s John Donahoe has been the most helpful. The eBay CEO routinely advises Airbnb on challenges associated with quickly managing expansion while simultaneously providing customers with the same amazing experience.
Airbnb has done a superb job so far of responding to challenges. The company began offering a $1 million dollar host guarantee program after concerns about host safety and security. Airbnb Neighborhoods and Local Lounges were created to make guests feel more at-home when they travel. And perhaps most importantly to its core business, Airbnb has become increasingly proactive in fighting for hosts’ right to rent. One major victory in such matters was in Germany, where the city of Hamburg changed its housing laws making it legal to rent a private room.
Airbnb helps real people live richer lives. The company effectively conveys that value proposition in describing what it does, communicating with potential new hosts, and even interacting with developers. I recently re-read The Perfect Store, which is a very good book I personally recommend about eBay’s rise from an online garage sale with a devoted community of users into a global online marketplace. Airbnb has that same potential. Becoming a great business success story won’t get any easier as the company grows, though. Brian Chesky and Airbnb must stay focused on executing their strategy of staying nimble and robust. If they do that, I agree with eBay’s CEO that “Airbnb will be the next eBay.”