What drew you to write a book about Airbnb?

I’m not a tech reporter; I cover business more broadly, rather than the day-in-day-out of Silicon Valley. When I first heard about Airbnb, I was deeply skeptical—I wondered how it could be so different from sites like HomeAway or VRBO and others that came before it. But I was wrong to dismiss it; Airbnb’s growth soon started exploding and hasn’t really stopped. Even if you never want to stay in another person’s home yourself, you can’t look at something that has taken hold with the public the way Airbnb has—going from zero to 140 million trips taken on its platform in eight years—without examining why it struck such a chord. As a business journalist, I’ve always been drawn to big shifts in consumer behavior, and Airbnb was a major disruption not just to how people travel, but how they view space. The narrative itself was also incredibly compelling to me: that it was created on a whim by two broke, unemployed RISD graduates and one of their former roommates and that the same three founders are still running it now at a $30 billion valuation. Add in the drama of all the things that can and have go wrong, the disruption it’s caused the incumbent hospitality players and the fact that no investor wanted to go near it in the beginning, and I felt it was a business tale for the ages. 

You spend a lot of time on the company’s struggle to get the company off the ground. Why?

The famous account of Airbnb’s origins—how Chesky and Gebbia stumbled upon the idea to rent out space in their apartment when a design conference came to town and maxed out San Francisco’s hotel supply—has been told thousands of times. But the real story is more complicated. The founders didn’t think AirBed & Breakfast was going to be anything at all; they thought it was a creative way to pay the bills while they thought of their really big idea. Once they decided to make a go of it, they were confronted with rejection and failure over and over again. But through hustle, tenaciousness and creativity--plus a few key assists--they got it off the ground, and then saw their company soar to a size and significance they never imagined. That to me is the most captivating part of the story: How these three guys with unconventional backgrounds and an unorthodox idea proved so many people so wrong.