Since its founding, in 2008, Airbnb has spearheaded growth of the sharing economy by allowing thousands of people around the world to rent their homes or spare rooms. Yet while as many as 425,000 people now stay in Airbnb-listed homes on a peak night, the company’s growth is shadowed by laws that clash with its ethos of allowing anyone, including renters, to sell access to their spaces. In this interview with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, Airbnb cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky explores how the company’s relationships with cities can evolve. An edited transcript of Chesky’s comments follows.
Starting a revolution
It’s a currency of trust, and that used to live only with a business. Only businesses could be trusted, or people in your local community. Now, that trust has been democratized—any person can act like a brand.
Airbnb is a way that you can, when you’re traveling, book a home anywhere around the world. And by anywhere, I mean 34,000 cities in 190 countries. That’s every country but North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Cuba.
The reason we started was I was living with my roommate, Joe, in San Francisco, and I couldn’t afford to make rent. That weekend, the International Design Conference was coming to San Francisco. All the hotels were sold out. Joe had three air beds. We pulled the air beds out of the closet, we inflated them, and we called it the “Air Bed and Breakfast.”
On Monday 3 November 1986, a group of five masked men drew a white line on the Berlin wall. The line started at Mariannenplatz in the capital’s alternative Kreuzberg district, heading west via the Checkpoint Charlie border crossing in the city centre. At points, the line was so thick the paint dripped all the way to the bottom. Where police guarded the wall, it ran thinner, snaking down to the pavement and then back up.
After around 5km (three miles), just south of the Brandenburg Gate, opposite the square that now hosts architect Peter Eisenman’s Holocaust memorial, the line suddenly stopped. At 11:30 on Tuesday morning, border guards from the eastern side of the wall had ambushed the line-painters and put an end to their project.
In the early 16th Century, the movement objecting to the flagrant greed and corruption in the Roman Catholic Church, now known as the Protestant Reformation, got under way in earnest. In 1517 in Germany, Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-Five Theses.” At about the same time in Switzerland, Huldrych Zwingli launched a reform movement with a remarkably similar set of “Sixty-Seven Conclusions.” The recently-introduced printing press helped spread these ideas rapidly from place to place, but unresolved differences kept the reform movements separate. At the time, the prospects of reform looked remote, as the Church, most governments, the ruling classes and civil society supported the continuance of the status quo.
In 1529, the German Prince Philip of Hesse saw potential in creating an alliance between Luther and Zwingli, realizing the strength of a united Protestant front to fight the entrenched elite. He convened a meeting, now known as the infamous Colloquy of Marburg. At the gathering, Luther and Zwingli agreed on everything except one doctrinal issue: was Jesus Christ spiritually present at a mass? Zwingli asserted no, while Luther insisted yes. In the debate, Luther became so angry that he carved his rejection into a table in the meeting room. (Some critics suggest that egos also played a role: if the strong-minded protagonists had been able to resolve their differences about the spiritual presence of Christ, another issue would have emerged to preclude agreement.)
When Ronald Ross tipped over the water tank outside his bungalow in Bangalore, it began a lifelong battle against mosquitoes. It was 1883 and Ross, only two years out of medical school, was the British Army’s new garrison surgeon. Overall, he was happy with the posting – he considered the city, with its sun, gardens and villas, to be the best in southern India.
He was less enthusiastic about the mosquitoes. Having arrived to find his room filled with the sound of buzzing wings, he decided to hunt down and destroy their breeding ground in pools of stagnant tank water. The ploy worked: as he drained the tanks, mosquito numbers fell
I have long predicted the demise of cable TV (the dumb pipe). With services like Netflix, Amazon Instant, Google Play and more there is absolutely no reason to view content on someone else’s timetable.
It’s also arrogant of anyone to think their content is so important or special users should have to watch at a specific time on a specific device or screen. Timeshifting is the new default and content should be available on whatever device a user prefers. Not via some archaic set of arbitrary rules because someone “says so.” The technology exists so that control is in the hands of users.
More than that, cable providers have long provided awful customer service, ignored / lied to the market, held people hostage and clung to dated technology and trends that support their (ever-weakening already lost) grasp on content.
Modern electronic payment systems rely on trusted, central third parties to process payments securely. Recent developments have seen the creation of digital currencies like Bitcoin, which combine new currencies with decentralised payment systems.
Although the monetary aspects of digital currencies have attracted considerable attention, the distributed ledger underlying their payment systems is a significant innovation.
As with money held as bank deposits, most financial assets today exist as purely digital records. This opens up the possibility for distributed ledgers to transform the financial system more generally
Paul Richardson spent three weeks in Paris recently and tried to capture the city’s classic sights as well as the modern business side. While he captured some fantastic scenes, his editing really made this timelapse stand out.
He spent three weeks shooting, followed by 5 weeks of editing the images and footage for a grand total of about 400 hours on this project. That is 2.5 hours for every second of this video, which was entirely self-funded an
My elder daughter has just passed her 16th birthday, and she never notches up another year without recalling my original E-type Jaguar. A month before she was born, her mother was taken into hospital for observation; and on that same day the car was sent down from Coventry for me to test. I was on my own, free to go wherever I fancied and at whatever hour. To take me, I had the car that was the sensation of the early ‘60s, the car that, even two years after production had begun in 1961, could still turn more heads than a platoon of poachers in a poultry farm. It fitted like a glove, went like the wind, looked like a million dollars, and sold for a little more than a couple of thousand pounds. Even though it might be doomed in some hands to idle its life away in a top-gear London loiter, it carried about itself everywhere the immense and unquestioned authority of a car that was known to be capable of 150mph.
It was time for me to fulfil a long-cherished ambition, to see the dawn from the top of Worcester Beacon, to watch the sun come upon the 12 counties within the purview of that loftiest of the Malvern Hills. From my home then in Hampton it was a moderately long drive, but it should not feel long, or take long in an E-type; and in any case I was free to set off whenever I liked.
weetness was meant to be irresistible.
We are born with a sweet tooth. Babies drink in sugar with their mother’s milk. Sweetness represents an instant energy boost, a fuel that kept our ancestors going in a harsher world where taste buds evolved to distinguish health-giving ripeness and freshness from the dangers of bitter, sour, toxic foods. Sugar gives us drug-like pleasures – lab rats deprived of their sugar-water fix exhibit classic signs of withdrawal. When things are going well, we blissfully say, “Life is sweet.”
And now sweetness is linked with death and disease. Sugars are themselves toxins, some researchers suggest, that cause obesity, diabetes, hyper- tension and Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar has joined salt and fat on the list of dietary evils. Governments and health experts are urging people to cut back their daily intake.
The British government says that it plans to hire the U.S. gene-sequencing company Illumina to sequence 100,000 human genomes in what is the largest national project to decode the DNA of a populace.
In a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Illumina said it had been picked as the “preferred partner” for the £100 million project.
Genomics England confirmed that it had chosen the California company to carry out the sequencing project. “We’ve been through the ‘bake-off’ process to find the right company to do the sequencing, and will now be entering detailed negotiations,” says Vivienne Parry, a spokesperson for Genomics England.