On any given night, up to 60,000 people stay in places they found on Airbnb.

One of them is always the guy who co-founded the fast-growing online travel lodging service.

“In June 2010, I moved out of my apartment and I have been mostly homeless ever since, off and on,” Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky said at the South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive, film and music festival.

“I just live in Airbnb apartments and I check in every week in different homes in San Francisco,” where the company is based, he said. “It’s the best way to take the pulse … The key is to always use your product.”


Users can browse Airbnb’s “wishlists” for apartment recommendations. PHOTO: Airbnb

Founded in 2008, Airbnb is an online community where registered users can find a privately-owned room, an apartment, an entire house, even a tipi, igloo or a European castle for a few nights or weeks.

Each property is professionally photographed for the stylish Airbnb.com website. Guests and hosts can post online reviews about each other and hosts are protected by a US$1 million guarantee from Airbnb in case of damage.

The service makes money from user fees, while the prices for users often undercut those offered by big-name chain hotels. And the hosts make money from space that would otherwise go empty.

Privately held, Airbnb the name was inspired by the air beds co-founders Chesky and Joe Gebbia once used to rent out in the mid-2000s to help pay the rent has become a poster child of the Internet-driven “sharing economy.”

“What we want you to do is to live locally, in a world where, post-mass production, the economy is powered by people,” he said. “The shared economy, for me, is an economy powered by people”

Speaking to AFP afterwards, Chesky said Airbnb present in more than 30,000 cities in 192 countries is striving this year to develop its presence in East and Southeast Asia, where it has opened a Singapore office.

“We’re bigger in Europe than we are in the United States, which is like our second biggest market,” he said.

“Latin America is third. Asia is still pretty new, except for Australia. We are focused on Tokyo and Seoul and Southeast Asia. It’s one of our fastest-growing markets.”

He acknowledged there were some cultural hurdles to overcome in Asia in getting homeowners to warm to the idea of renting out their unused spaces to strangers.

“But what I’ve been surprised by is not how different people are, but how similar they are,” he said.

“There are certain types of ‘Airbnb people,’ and they are in every city in the world it’s just that in some cultures, there is more of a generational divide.” — AFP RELAXNEWS