The Business On: Brian Chesky, Founder and chief executive, Airbnb
Tuesday 26 July 2011
Airbnb? Silly name, so it must be a dot.com, right?
A dot.com worth $1.3bn. Which is hardly bad, considering 28-year-old Mr Chesky set it up with his San Francisco flatmate, Joe Gebbia, less than four years ago.
What's the idea?
An idea born of necessity. Messrs Chesky and Gebbia were struggling designers looking for a way to make their next rent payment, when they alighted on renting airbeds ('n' breakfast) in their loft apartment to visitors from out of town. Scroll forward to today, and airbnb.com matches 10,000 travellers with 10,000 spare rooms – every night.
An overnight multi-millionaire.
Yes, it's all been rather surprising for the chiselled Mr Chesky. His previous best work was as a jobbing designer on a Simon Cowell-produced reality television show for entrepreneurs, where he turned their ideas into working prototypes. His proudest achievement on that was a toilet seat for the seriously ill. Seriously.
How does he compare to the rest of the twentysomething chief executive set?
He has all the compulsory playful quirks of his peers at Groupon and the rest. In fact, cast in the image of Mr Chesky's personality, Airbnb may be the funnest place to work in San Francisco. The office includes a giant treehouse and half a decommissioned airliner, and staff are requested to observe Moustache Mondays every week, by wearing fake ones.
They get work done, too?
Yes, they do, and they have been expanding fast. It has just raised $112m to fund a big recruitment drive and new offices around the world. It is that fundraising, led by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, that has yielded the $1.3bn valuation. Ashton Kutcher, the heartthrob actor, has also put in money.
So what we have here is the next big thing?
Mr Chesky is talking a big game. "We need to be all over the world," he says. Users of the site come from all over, so "we have to hire citizens of the world".
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