FEATURE22 September 2014

A blow-up success

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From an airbed on an apartment floor to a multi-billion-dollar valuation, Airbnb has made a success of the sharing economy and an open, conversational approach to customer understanding. Jo Bowman reports.


Even Heggernes, now UK and Ireland country manager, joined the company three years ago when Airbnb was three years old; he was employee number 100, or thereabouts. The global headcount is now over 900, and the peer-to-peer room rental service has provided beds for more than 11 million guests in 192 different countries. Its success and rapid growth is due to consumer thirst for unique travel experiences, not just a place to stay.

“When we survey our guests, one of the reasons people say they use Airbnb has nothing to do with price or the exact place they’re staying but the fact that they hate being a tourist, they hate being the person standing there with a map not knowing where to go, ” Heggernes says. “They want to stay with a local who can give them guidance, and that’s something I can very much relate to. I want to go to New York and stay in Brooklyn and be one ...