The Airbnb Story: How Three Ordinary Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions . . . and Created Plenty of Controversy

In absorbing detail, Fortune editor Leigh Gallagher tells the remarkable behind-the-scenes story of the creation and growth of the online lodging platform that has become, in under a decade, one of the largest providers of accommodations in the world. While neither owning nor controlling any of the inventory it offers, but instead inviting everyday people to profit from their space and giving travelers a more unique and affordable way to see the world (whether that’s a treehouse, a shipping container or just a studio apartment in a quirkier part of town), Airbnb has had a radical and transformative impact on its customers, on the travel industry, and even on the way we view space itself.     

“A fast-paced, fun dive into one of the seminal firms of our time; through the tale of Airbnb, Leigh Gallagher shows us how the sharing economy can be a force for emotional connection—as well as for social and business disruption.”

—Rana Foroohar, Financial Times columnist and CNN global economic analyst

In addition to exploring the colorful history of its founding and the many factors contributing to Airbnb’s success—an epic recession that left people with a much greater incentive to travel cheaply or to turn their homes into something monetizable; fatigue with a hospitality industry that had become overpriced and overcommoditized; and a new generation of millennial travelers who didn’t bat an eye at the idea of sharing space with strangers—Gallagher also investigates the more controversial side of the Airbnb story. Regulators have fought back forcefully in many markets to curb the company’s rapid expansion. Hotel industry leaders wrestle with the disruption it has caused them and the growing threat it represents to their bottom line. And residents and customers alike struggle with the unintended consequences of opening up private homes for public consumption. Gallagher closely examines crises that hit the company at its core, like ransackings and other fraudulent uses of the platform (including the story of one family in a wealthy New Jersey suburb who learned the hard way that Airbnb’s promise of “trust” can fall short); accidents and even deaths resulting from unsafe conditions at Airbnb listings; and racial and other kinds of discrimination by Airbnb hosts. 
     Gallagher also offers an in-depth study of the company’s founders, including Brian Chesky, its quirky and curious young CEO. One of the more singular aspects of Airbnb’s rise is the lack of traditional management experience its founders had, and the way that Chesky, Gebbia and Blecharczyk essentially hacked leadership may offer a new playbook for management training. Now in the midst of an ambitious expansion into new travel categories like tours, services and flights, and heading towards an inevitable IPO, the eyes of the world are on Chesky, Gebbia and Blecharczyk and their troops as they steer their game-changing company into new markets and uncharted waters. 


“Leigh Gallagher captures the remarkable journey of Airbnb exceedingly well; she takes readers from its earliest and scrappiest days through to becoming an enduring company with a brand beloved by millions around the world.”

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and partner, Greylock Partners