How Airbnb designs for trust | Joe Gebbia

How Airbnb designs for trust | Joe Gebbia

I want to tell you the story about the time I almost got kidnapped in the trunk of a red Mazda Miata. It’s the day after graduating
from design school and I’m having a yard sale. And this guy pulls up in this red Mazda and he starts looking through my stuff. And he buys a piece of art that I made. And it turns out he’s alone
in town for the night, driving cross-country on a road trip before he goes into the Peace Corps. So I invite him out for a beer and he tells me all about his passion for making a difference in the world. Now it’s starting to get late, and I’m getting pretty tired. As I motion for the tab, I make the mistake of asking him, “So where are you staying tonight?” And he makes it worse by saying, “Actually, I don’t have a place.” And I’m thinking, “Oh, man!” What do you do? We’ve all been there, right? Do I offer to host this guy? But, I just met him — I mean, he says he’s going to the Peace Corps, but I don’t really know if he’s going
to the Peace Corps and I don’t want to end up kidnapped
in the trunk of a Miata. That’s a small trunk! So then I hear myself saying, “Hey, I have an airbed you can stay on
in my living room.” And the voice in my head goes, “Wait, what?” That night, I’m laying in bed, I’m staring at the ceiling and thinking, “Oh my god, what have I done? There’s a complete stranger
sleeping in my living room. What if he’s psychotic?” My anxiety grows so much, I leap out of bed, I sneak on my tiptoes to the door, and I lock the bedroom door. It turns out he was not psychotic. We’ve kept in touch ever since. And the piece of art
he bought at the yard sale is hanging in his classroom;
he’s a teacher now. This was my first hosting experience, and it completely changed my perspective. Maybe the people that my childhood
taught me to label as strangers were actually friends waiting
to be discovered. The idea of hosting people on airbeds
gradually became natural to me and when I moved to San Francisco, I brought the airbed with me. So now it’s two years later. I’m unemployed, I’m almost broke, my roommate moves out,
and then the rent goes up. And then I learn there’s a design
conference coming to town, and all the hotels are sold out. And I’ve always believed
that turning fear into fun is the gift of creativity. So here’s what I pitch my best friend
and my new roommate Brian Chesky: “Brian, thought of a way
to make a few bucks — turning our place into ‘designers
bed and breakfast,’ offering young designers who come
to town a place to crash, complete with wireless Internet,
a small desk space, sleeping mat, and breakfast each morning. Ha!” We built a basic website
and Airbed and Breakfast was born. Three lucky guests got to stay on a 20-dollar airbed
on the hardwood floor. But they loved it, and so did we. I swear, the ham
and Swiss cheese omelets we made tasted totally different
because we made them for our guests. We took them on adventures
around the city, and when we said goodbye
to the last guest, the door latch clicked, Brian and I just stared at each other. Did we just discover
it was possible to make friends while also making rent? The wheels had started to turn. My old roommate, Nate Blecharczyk, joined as engineering co-founder. And we buckled down to see if we could turn this into a business. Here’s what we pitched investors: “We want to build a website where people publicly post pictures
of their most intimate spaces, their bedrooms, the bathrooms — the kinds of rooms you usually keep closed
when people come over. And then, over the Internet, they’re going to invite complete strangers
to come sleep in their homes. It’s going to be huge!” (Laughter) We sat back, and we waited
for the rocket ship to blast off. It did not. No one in their right minds
would invest in a service that allows strangers
to sleep in people’s homes. Why? Because we’ve all been taught
as kids, strangers equal danger. Now, when you’re faced with a problem,
you fall back on what you know, and all we really knew was design. In art school, you learn
that design is much more than the look and feel of something —
it’s the whole experience. We learned to do that for objects, but here, we were aiming
to build Olympic trust between people who had never met. Could design make that happen? Is it possible to design for trust? I want to give you a sense
of the flavor of trust that we were aiming to achieve. I’ve got a 30-second experiment that will push you past your comfort zone. If you’re up for it, give me a thumbs-up. OK, I need you to take out your phones. Now that you have your phone out, I’d like you to unlock your phone. Now hand your unlocked phone
to the person on your left. (Laughter) That tiny sense of panic
you’re feeling right now — (Laughter) is exactly how hosts feel the first time
they open their home. Because the only thing
more personal than your phone is your home. People don’t just see your messages, they see your bedroom, your kitchen, your toilet. Now, how does it feel holding
someone’s unlocked phone? Most of us feel really responsible. That’s how most guests feel
when they stay in a home. And it’s because of this
that our company can even exist. By the way, who’s holding Al Gore’s phone? (Laughter) Would you tell Twitter
he’s running for President? (Laughter) (Applause) OK, you can hand your phones back now. So now that you’ve experienced
the kind of trust challenge we were facing, I’d love to share a few discoveries
we’ve made along the way. What if we changed one small thing about the design of that experiment? What if your neighbor had introduced
themselves first, with their name, where they’re from, the name
of their kids or their dog? Imagine that they had 150 reviews
of people saying, “They’re great at holding
unlocked phones!” (Laughter) Now how would you feel
about handing your phone over? It turns out, a well-designed reputation system
is key for building trust. And we didn’t actually
get it right the first time. It’s hard for people to leave bad reviews. Eventually, we learned to wait
until both guests and hosts left the review before we reveal them. Now, here’s a discovery
we made just last week. We did a joint study with Stanford, where we looked at people’s
willingness to trust someone based on how similar they are in age,
location and geography. The research showed, not surprisingly, we prefer people who are like us. The more different somebody is, the less we trust them. Now, that’s a natural social bias. But what’s interesting is what happens when you add reputation into the mix, in this case, with reviews. Now, if you’ve got
less than three reviews, nothing changes. But if you’ve got more than 10, everything changes. High reputation beats high similarity. The right design can actually
help us overcome one of our most deeply rooted biases. Now we also learned that building
the right amount of trust takes the right amount of disclosure. This is what happens when a guest
first messages a host. If you share too little, like, “Yo,” acceptance rates go down. And if you share too much, like, “I’m having issues with my mother,” (Laughter) acceptance rates also go down. But there’s a zone that’s just right, like, “Love the artwork in your place.
Coming for vacation with my family.” So how do we design for just
the right amount of disclosure? We use the size of the box
to suggest the right length, and we guide them with prompts
to encourage sharing. We bet our whole company on the hope that, with the right design, people would be willing to overcome
the stranger-danger bias. What we didn’t realize is just how many people were ready and waiting
to put the bias aside. This is a graph that shows
our rate of adoption. There’s three things happening here. The first, an unbelievable amount of luck. The second is the efforts of our team. And third is the existence
of a previously unsatisfied need. Now, things have been going pretty well. Obviously, there are times
when things don’t work out. Guests have thrown unauthorized parties and trashed homes. Hosts have left guests
stranded in the rain. In the early days, I was customer service, and those calls came
right to my cell phone. I was at the front lines
of trust breaking. And there’s nothing worse
than those calls, it hurts to even think about them. And the disappointment
in the sound of someone’s voice was and, I would say, still is our single greatest motivator
to keep improving. Thankfully, out of the 123 million nights
we’ve ever hosted, less than a fraction of a percent
have been problematic. Turns out, people
are justified in their trust. And when trust works out right, it can be absolutely magical. We had a guest stay
with a host in Uruguay, and he suffered a heart attack. The host rushed him to the hospital. They donated their own blood
for his operation. Let me read you his review. (Laughter) “Excellent house for sedentary travelers prone to myocardial infarctions. (Laughter) The area is beautiful and has
direct access to the best hospitals. (Laughter) Javier and Alejandra instantly
become guardian angels who will save your life
without even knowing you. They will rush you to the hospital
in their own car while you’re dying and stay in the waiting room
while the doctors give you a bypass. They don’t want you to feel lonely,
they bring you books to read. And they let you stay at their house
extra nights without charging you. Highly recommended!” (Applause) Of course, not every stay is like that. But this connection beyond the transaction is exactly what the sharing
economy is aiming for. Now, when I heard that term, I have to admit, it tripped me up. How do sharing
and transactions go together? So let’s be clear; it is about commerce. But if you just called it
the rental economy, it would be incomplete. The sharing economy is commerce
with the promise of human connection. People share a part of themselves, and that changes everything. You know how most travel today is, like, I think of it like fast food — it’s efficient and consistent, at the cost of local and authentic. What if travel were like
a magnificent buffet of local experiences? What if anywhere you visited, there was a central marketplace of locals offering to get you thoroughly drunk on a pub crawl in neighborhoods
you didn’t even know existed. Or learning to cook from the chef
of a five-star restaurant? Today, homes are designed around
the idea of privacy and separation. What if homes were designed
to be shared from the ground up? What would that look like? What if cities embraced
a culture of sharing? I see a future of shared cities
that bring us community and connection instead of isolation and separation. In South Korea, in the city of Seoul, they’ve actually even started this. They’ve repurposed hundreds
of government parking spots to be shared by residents. They’re connecting students
who need a place to live with empty-nesters who have extra rooms. And they’ve started an incubator
to help fund the next generation of sharing economy start-ups. Tonight, just on our service, 785,000 people in 191 countries will either stay in a stranger’s home or welcome one into theirs. Clearly, it’s not as crazy
as we were taught. We didn’t invent anything new. Hospitality has been around forever. There’s been many other
websites like ours. So, why did ours eventually take off? Luck and timing aside, I’ve learned that you can take
the components of trust, and you can design for that. Design can overcome our most deeply rooted stranger-danger bias. And that’s amazing to me. It blows my mind. I think about this every time
I see a red Miata go by. Now, we know design won’t solve
all the world’s problems. But if it can help out with this one, if it can make a dent in this, it makes me wonder,
what else can we design for next? Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “How Airbnb designs for trust | Joe Gebbia

  1. Very nice idea but this has been done for so many years for free with couchsurfing. That you do to help and know people not to make a profit…

  2. How can this be a TED talk? It's a corporate as. And not a very good one. Airbs is getting flack for its pseudo-sharing economy bs, just like uber – they are hypocritical corporate spin masters enabling the corruption of true giving. And hurting a lot of innocents besides

  3. I had an awful experience with Airbnb.

    My family was planning on going to Philly on Christmas Break. Yes, the Christmas Break that happened half year ago. My father reserved a place in Philly with my Mother’s credit card on Airbnb. However, because I got accepted into the United States Naval Academy on Christmas Eve, my family had a last minute change of plan; instead of going to Philadelphia, PA, we decided to go to Battleship New Jersey. We cancelled the reservation the very next day after we decided to change our plan, which is definitely a week before the reserved date.

    According to the policy, we should be able to get our money back with no trouble, but that is not the case here. My father is relatively older and he is in the middle of retiring from Pennsylvania Army National Guard and starting working in Philadelphia National Park again, so he could not remember which account he used. He tried all three of his email addresses. He soon realized that only his gmail account received information from Airbnb, so he tried to use that to log into his account. He was successful, but only in some ways. He was able to log into Airbnb, but he was told that the account he logged in was not the account that he used to make reservation. He called Airbnb multiple times and emailed them multiple times, but he could not get any helpful information because “he was not the correct account holder”.

    At first, I thought that might be his fault; maybe he just did not know how to contact with the right personal (regarding his 25+ years of working experience in the military). So I took over this ridiculously hard and annoying task. I called Airbnb three times, each time, I was on hold for at least 15 minutes. The first and the second times were not productive at all. Both times, the customer service girl just told me that they will contact the host and the host will contact me. She would ask me for my email and my phone number and tell me that the host will get in touch with me shortly. I waited and waited. Well, I never received anything. The third time I call, it was the same drill, 15 minutes waiting period with noisy, unclear music and finally a girl picked up the phone. After I spent 10 minutes explaining my situation, she just told me that she could not give me any information because I am not the account holder. I told her that I can prove my father’s social security number, his birth date, the credit card number, etc. she still told me that I can not have any information. Well, I actually somehow understand her. After all, it is true and I am not my father, whom is the account holder. But ridiculously, my father was told multiple times that they could not provide him the account information because he is not the “right” account holder. This is quite ridiculous. We can provide every possible alibi that we are the account holder; yet, we cannot even get the contact information of the host.

    Truly, $200 is not a big deal. My family does not rely on that money to put food on our table. But we are a typical middle class American family; we work to earn out money; we do not live on welfare nor Obama care; we spend when we think it’s necessary and save up when we can. The money is not even the main point any more, the point is that it is our money, and it is our right to have it retuned.

    Use Airbnb not only did not help my family and I to have a good time, but it also damaged our family relationship. I would still like to help my mother to get her $200 back, however, I probably won’t call Airbnb again and my family won’t be active to try to contact Airbnb any longer. I doubt that we can ever get our money retuned and it has wasted so much of our time. I am not happy with Airbnb at all and I will not recommend Airbnb to anyone.

  4. I love airbnb! esp their referral program!! Sign up through my link and you save $35 off your first trip or $75 off your first guest stay, you get the deal, i get the deal, it's a win win!



  7. How can we build trust between us and Airbnb staff ? They've all the information about users… Where do they go, who they are and what the like. This corporation is the only host that nobody can build trust with.

  8. id never let random people in my home. just because u ok'd the people staying in your home doesnt mean that they didnt lie like online dating. you also dont know the crazy people theyll being in ur home. and theres no way id let people have drunk parties in my home.

  9. if I would do let someone stay in my house. I need 2 valid ideas issued by the gov't and a shoot tazer beside my bed. you cannot be too sure now a days.

  10. I love my trust into humanity, makes my life worth living. I live in an Airbnb commune since 2 years and now I can visit places all over the world. Karma (or how ever you want to call it) is a thing, not a misty-eyed concept.

  11. wait the host is supposed to stay in the house too? well we usually have a home of someone that's on a vacation too.

  12. This is probably the fakest guy ever. While airbnb is ruining cities this guy is telling fake stories about how great airbnb is.

  13. just came here from the interview with Tim Ferriss. joe is such a fantastic storyteller! i have a lot to learn for my own startup endeavours…

  14. This guy looks and speaks like an insane serial killer. It's enough to put you off airbnb for life.

  15. I have finished watching this video completely.

    I am a Taiwanese who cares about the global affairs.

    And, sadly, most of my fellow Taiwanese don't really care about the world.

    Hopefully Taiwan can become increasingly globally-aware and globally-competitive.

    God bless Taiwan.

  16. Airbnb Trust… that's rich!

  17. Started out kinda dorky but actually turned into a heartwarming and inspirational story. Good things come from helping people but better things come when you charge for it. Airbnb is gonna make me a millionaire.

  18. In India 100 years before house were built with platform with roof at the entrance to accommodate travelers for free. recently it was gone and came back as Airbnb with cost.

  19. Turning fear into fun seems great to me.

    Getting out of the box and breaking stigmas can give you the opportunity to see things that others do not see.

  20. Airbnb used to be good, but now it is a horror story. I was at an Airbnb when a host met a guest that she would not allow to check in because the person was a 1st degree murder felon. She tried to get Air to help her, but they would not. After all murderers have money and rights too. RIGHT? I did not want to stay in that home. Air does not CARE. Remember that. They don't care one little bit about the host or the other guests on the hosts property. I do not recommend ABB a hotel is better because at least you get a private door to lock. At least a private B&B with their own regulations would also be better. When ever a business owner cannot remove a guest that may pose a threat. It is NOT good. Air takes all the control from the host and does nothing good with it. Socialist Business

  21. Soy el único que vino corriendo a ver el video después de escuchar la historia en perros de la calle? es increíble!!!

  22. Vengo de la narración de la historia de Hernán Casciari: "Lo que le pasó al hombre que me salvó la vida". Joe Gebbia cuenta su caso a partir del minuto 11:04

  23. Esta muy buena la historia de Joe cuando estuvo en el Uruguay,para conocer al anfrition ,Javier Artigas,

  24. This is the other side of the story of the Uruguayan guest.
    La historia de quien alojó a Casciari, Javier Artigas es esta:


  26. One thing I've noticed is the types of people who're hosts are all liberally thinking, unpleasant types don't tend to trust so easily

  27. Shame it’s not an ideal world and there’s still people who trash Air BnB places, shot adult movies in them, use them for mobile drug labs and human trafficking

  28. Min 7:39 "It turns out a well designed reputation system is key for building trust"
    Min 15:06 "You can take the components of trust, and you can design for that"

  29. Air B&B blocks true trust between property owners and guests, extracting a fee from both parties. Their cancellation policy harms property owners, leaving them at risk for last minute cancellations that cannot be rebooked. Ironically it’s become a huge enterprise with an ever increasing presence in vacation rentals, exactly the behemoth invasive corporation the millennials have shunned. The same blind trust the audience places in Facebook to keep their information safe. Trust but verify 😆

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *