Blog Post

Airbnb CEO: The future is about access, not ownership

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Brian Chesky and Katie Fehrenbacher at GigaOM RoadMapFor decades now, folks in America have generally prized the idea of ownership — and the more expensive and permanent the asset, the better. Owning a home and buying a car are seen as major, almost mandatory milestones in many people’s lives. But according to Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, as the world’s population gets larger and technology makes us more connected, the adulation of ownership is slowly starting to wane.

“We have an ownership society now, but we’re moving toward an access society, where you’re not defined by the things you own but by the experiences you have,” Chesky said in an onstage interview at the GigaOM RoadMap conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

And naturally, Chesky pointed out that his company Airbnb, an online marketplace which lets people rent out their apartments and homes, is well-positioned for this new world. “We give people access to those experiences.”

Of course, giving people this kind of intimate access to the hard-earned assets of others comes with its dangers. Earlier this year, Airbnb came under fire when one of its users’ homes was ransacked and burglarized by a person with whom she connected on the site. Chesky addressed the situation directly, and said that ultimately it was a learning moment for the company — albeit a painful one. “In many ways it was a wake-up call. We made some mistakes this summer,” he said. The company has since instituted a new safety program, and Chesky said it has more products and services aimed at securing user trust.

Ultimately, though, Airbnb still believes that many people are willing to share their cherished belongings with others. “It’s not a binary situation where you either want to share with whole world or nobody. Most people are somewhere in between and it’s a matter of where you are in the spectrum,” Chesky said. “For us, it’s about giving people that control.”

Photo by Pinar Ozger.

7 Responses to “Airbnb CEO: The future is about access, not ownership”

  1. Hmm..why does Airbnd owns its domain name? I bet that if I asked to lease his site he would not let me…what about his employees? Can I borrow them for a bit? I bet not..

  2. Tyler Ward

    I believe we are moving away from being an ownership society due to the recent devaluation of asset classes, not because of the great technology revolution. The information revolution will cause influence and access to become two of the most important assets a person can have in their repertoire but until they start to pay cash flows, they will never be as important as ownership.

  3. The implosion of world economies might force us down the road of access over ownership much sooner than many of us would like. For many I think it is a matter of trust, if & when the ‘sharing economies’ mature to be able to effectively deal with trust issues, a whole new world of peer-to-peer wealth generation might might be upon us.