Could design-thinking solve Airbnb's biggest challenges?
During his presentation at the Bloomberg Businessweek's first annual Design 2013 conference this week, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky spoke frankly about the power of design.
He said, first, that it was essential for technology companies to give designers the clout of engineers.
"When we went to the valley, design was viewed as a huge liability," said Chesky, who received a BFA in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design. "It was not good that we were designers. What they were really saying is that the heart of the company is its product, and the heart of a product is technology, and technology is created by engineers."
Chesky then said that design-thinking (a concept getting more mainstream everyday) was the answer to Airbnb's regulatory troubles in some major cities, including New York City.
“We have to think broadly and very differently and holistically about government relations. It’s not just about meeting with government officials. It’s about solving a design problem -- if we have problems in governments, that’s a design problem we need to solve,” he said.
Airbnb allows travelers to list, search, and book apartment, rooms, and homes from the sites other customers, providing an affordable alternative to hotels. Founded in San Francisco in 2008, the site now has more than 200,000 listings in over 34,000 cities around the world.
After a valuation of $1.3 billion in July 2011, the website raised $112 million in a financing round led by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.