Airbnb co-founder on designing Olympic-sized trust between strangers

Joe Gebbia, co-founder and chief product officer at Airbnb chats to us on the role of design in their success.

The Airbnb app has changed the way people travel and interact with strangers around the world. According to co-founder Joe Gebbia it was all by design.

In a recent interview following the Design Indaba Festival 2017, at which he was a speaker, Gebbia says they struggled to get investors because the concept of Airbnb ran up against an age-old bias that we’ve all been taught since we were kids - that strangers equal danger.

He said: "It was just kind of crazy to think that there’d be a company that would allow people to open their homes, at scale, all over the world." This is why they looked to design for a solution. 

 "We had to design Olympic-size trust between people who had never met and it was no small task. I think inch by inch, screen by screen, interface by interface, we figured out the right mechanics to trust and how to build for it. As a designer moving to Silicon Valley, at first it was really hard [because] no one took us seriously. We tried to raise investment from very experienced and successful investors who looked at the composition of our team of an engineer and two designers and said ‘that’s crazy, no successful company has ever had that composition before, we’ll pass’."

But that composition proved a success at the company now valued at over $30 billion.