First on Entrepreneur: Airbnb’s Brian Chesky Shares His Childhood Obsession for Design

Airbnb’s co-founder shares stories about his childhood passion for design.

Editor’s Note: In the brand new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how best to scale a business — and at, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences inside our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: the only method to scale is to accomplish things that don’t scale.

Many forget that Brian Chesky, the CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, isn’t an average Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He wasn’t a coder and he didn’t attend Harvard or Stanford, schools popular for nurturing multi-billion dollar founders. Rather, Chesky was a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, where he received a degree in industrial design.

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Although some in the Valley investors were initially skeptical of his background, Chesky believes the institution and its own programs benefit founders.

“I believe RISD produces great entrepreneurs,” Chesky said within an interview. “They educate you on that creativity can solve any problems.”

In a recently available conversation for the Masters of Scale podcast series hosted by Reid Hoffman, Chesky shared his childhood desire for redesigning from toys to athletic shoes — a drive for problem solving that could help him reshape how exactly we travel.

Below can be an excerpt out of this conversation — one not contained in the Masters of Scale series, or somewhere else.


I recall the very first time I was within an airplane — I was probably 7 years old — I visited St. Louis. I was raised in Albany, NY — a little suburb of Albany called Niskayuna. I hardly ever really got beyond my town quite definitely. I visited St. Louis, and I simply realized suddenly the perceived world was just infinitely larger if you ask me. We reach St. Louis and the best part was just driving around the town. My father would ask me, “Where do you wish to go?” And I’d say, “Everywhere.” I had to start to see the whole city.

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In hindsight, I had some odd behaviors. I learned how exactly to do plans drawings. Plans are when you draw from looking down. So, you basically look at floor plans. I’d start doing this of different cities. A bit older, I had a pal whose dad was a landscape architect plus they had landscape architect drawings within their backyard. Therefore when I was 8 years old, I acquired really into landscape architecture, which can be an incredibly weird thing for an 8-year-old to be thinking about. I was enthusiastic about the keeping decks and designs and landscaping and thought that really was awesome. The thread through all this was I liked to redesign backyards, cities, neighborhoods and I acquired into architecture and started redesigning homes.

Then around that point I’d see old Walt Disney clips on television — and I realized that if we became Disney shareholders we surely got to have these awesome, colorful books called annual reports. I loved the annual reports because they have renderings into the future theme parks. THEREFORE I asked my dad to become Disney shareholder and we bought a couple shares of stocks so we’d get these reports. It had been the only method you could see images of theme parks. I was enthusiastic about this. You often will just Google it now. Therefore i started designing theme parks.

The thread through all this was I liked to redesign backyards, theme parks, cities, neighborhoods and I acquired into architecture and started redesigning homes.

Maybe the ultimate thing I’m reminded of — an odd behavior I had when I was around 7, 8 years old. I asked Santa Claus for a poorly designed toy, therefore i could redesign it. That’s when I started engaging in the look of objects. And I finished up going college for industrial design.

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Industrial design is actually product design. Your body design things that are usually manufactured in factories. When the overall game Gear came out, that was just like the Sega game, I’d take it apart, redesign it. I QUICKLY got enthusiastic about Nike shoes, just like the Nike Air, the Air Jordans, the Bo Jackson cross training shoes. Everything I was raised with I tried to redesign. So, it’s something I’ve been doing for years.

Below may be the Masters of Scale podcast featuring Chesky. In it, Hoffman and the Airbnb founder discuss the need for starting a company centered on providing a handcrafted experience — not scale. Listeners may also get access to it on Apple, Google, Stitcher and othe

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