Airbnb

Does your office have a gigantic light system made entirely of ping pong balls, and scooters in order to get from one meeting room to the next, which don’t really look like meeting rooms at all, but are in fact ultra-hip spaces inside an actual Air Stream and/or Moroccan Bedouin tent? No? Well how very uncool of you.

OK, full disclosure: the IH offices headquartered in LA hardly have door handles let alone Bedouin tents. Being a start-up and just coming out of our first year of operation we sit on borrowed furniture whilst we build our bigger dream.

The founders of Airbnb, whose offices do have scooters and ping pong lights, started as we did, with borrowed furniture and big dreams. In 2008 they needed to raise their next chunk of money so they bought a ton of cereal and designed special election themed boxes, Obama Os and Cap’n McCains, which they sold at convention parties.

Today, two 5-feet-tall boxes of cereal stand in their San Francisco offices to remind the 1,400 employees that their early-stage start-up story was one of pure unadulterated hustle.

The Head of Airbnb Global Operations, Varsha Rao, gave me a tour. We had connected through some IH chicks in San Fran (love that about my business: the connections), and Varsha had named her daughter India. She explained that no one had offices or even something as old-fashioned as a desk, you just groovily came into work and found a little quiet corner to stand up in (because no one sits down to work now-a-days).

As the tour went on I felt more and more inspired, but also ancient. Everyone we passed by was dressed in sparkly tee shirts and cutoff shorts “And on Fridays we are able to come to work in casual clothes” said Varsha. As it was Tuesday my mind boggled, what did everyone wear on a Friday?

As I flew down to Los Angeles and went into the IH office I remembered Varsha telling me the core values of the Airbnb philosophy: champion the mission, embrace the adventure and be a serial entrepreneur.

Our offices might not quite match but our values are very much aligned.

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