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Few founders think about culture as early or intensely as Brian, Joe, and Nate. Before they had a building, an employee, or even much of a business, Airbnb’s culture was already front and center.

Brian begins the story there.

Brian Chesky
Co-Founder, Airbnb

Here's the thing about culture: No one talks about it, and no one ever tells you about the need to have strong culture. There are tons of articles about building a great product, about growth and adoption, but culture is this mystical thing that often gets discounted.

Alfred Lin
Sequoia

Culture is like motherhood or apple pie, right? Every company will say they want a great culture. But what they fail to do is to make it a daily habit. If you want culture or anything else to be a core competency, you have to make it a daily focus.

Brian Chesky

We wanted a company that would endure. And as we looked around at companies that last for a long time, we noticed they have something in common: They have a clear mission, a clear sense of values, a shared way of doing things that’s unique to them and really special.

Alfred Lin

Culture matters because it becomes the first principles you go back to when you make difficult decisions. It’s a way to align people on what’s important to the company. Culture and core values are the one thing that should never change, or should only evolve slowly over time.

Brian Chesky

And so Joe, Nate, and I, when Airbnb was three people, decided to start studying companies that we could seek inspiration from, and Zappos was one of those companies. Alfred, at the time, was COO.

Alfred Lin

At Zappos, we were focused on creating a culture of great customer service. Our first core value was to deliver “wow” through service, and that resonated with what Airbnb was building as well.

Brian Chesky

When Alfred left to join Sequoia I immediately emailed Mike Moritz, and told him, “We need to connect with Alfred.”

Alfred Lin

That’s how my relationship with Airbnb started. We started meeting and talking about culture and customer service. Then Brian asked me to speak at a few fireside chats back at their first office.

Brian Chesky

He did one of our very first firesides. Every couple weeks we have somebody come, and I think he was the first or second. And one thing we learned from Alfred’s time at Zappos was that they wished they hadn’t waited until they were a hundred employees to write down core values.

Alfred Lin

They had already studied Zappos. They had read Tony’s book. They’d done a ton of homework, and absorbed everything they could.

Brian Chesky

At Airbnb, we created core values before we hired anybody. Every person in the company was hired around our core values.

Alfred Lin

They were already much further along than Zappos had been in terms of thinking about culture and core values, and how culture should be reflected in their operating behaviors. I was just so impressed with Brian, Joe, and Nate, and their insight.

Brian Chesky

We just realized early that we needed to be intentional — that culture needs to be designed. At some point in building your product you get to phase two, which is building the company that builds the product. And then it doesn't matter how great your product is; if you can’t build a great company, your product won’t endure.

Alfred Lin

Even when we first met, Brian described the Airbnb culture exactly the same way that he describes it today. The core values, and the culture of the company, have just been incredibly consistent. It's a testament to what Brian and Joe and Nate have built.

In its mission to create a sense of belonging around the world Airbnb has helped some 35 million guests find the perfect place to stay. Today, the company is connecting hosts with travelers in over 34,000 cities and 190 countries worldwide. *Content sourced from Alfred and Brian’s interviews with TechCrunch and Sam Altman’s Startup Class.*

Airbnb
A community marketplace based on sharing to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world.
Milestones
  • Founded 2007
  • Partnered 2009
Team
  • Nathan Blecharczyk
  • Brian Chesky
  • Joe Gebbia