AirBnB is a service that puts people with spare rooms in their homes in touch with people who want to rent them for short stays across city break holidays or business trips. It is a great example of a business that has been made possible by the so-called social web. Renting a room – or even your entire home – to a stranger? Nah. Staying in a stranger’s home? Are you mad? They might be mad! But it works. AirBnB has been touted as the next big thing. It turns out that they are pretty big now. They are now operating in 192 countries and earlier this year they passed a million nights booked.
This is an example of a community that scaled. Globally. As the AirBnB guys said when the Interactive Mission met with them, they are tapping into an entire economy built around sharing. This sharing is not just the sharing of physical assets (i.e. rooms) but the sharing of genuine experiences, stories and human connections. The end of hotel anywhere. Sure they are right for the economic times – they launched at just the right time when the global economy went wrong – but they are right for the psychological times and that is what really gives their business a shot at longevity.
There’s more from Joe Gebbia, AirBnB’s founder on Vimeo. And to Joe’s point, once the “sharing is good” story is owned, AirBnB becomes the brand that consumers will trust and consolidate around. Then AirBnB moves seamless into car share, office space share and so on. And them, presumably, AirBnB moves seamlessly towards an IPO.