Nearly a decade ago, two revolutionary new online startups were introduced to the world.
Uber, the ride-sharing platform enabling people to summon a cab via a smartphone, and turning all kinds of people into taxi drivers in their spare time. Only, Uber made quite clear from the beginning that its ultimate goal was self-driving cars.
And Airbnb, the home-sharing platform which got people all over the world renting their spare rooms to travelers from near and far. Airbnb is spreading so fast that they are adding the equivalent of one entire Hilton hotel chain’s worth of rooms for rent per year. Unlike Uber though, Airbnb's mission is to enable "self-driving people."
In a recent article in the New York Times, Thomas L Friedman predicts that in five years, Airbnb will not only still be the world’s biggest home rental service, but also one of the world’s biggest jobs platforms. Friedman writes that Airbnb has been expanding, very quietly, its platform beyond enabling people to rent their spare rooms, to allowing them to translate their passions into professions, and thereby empowering more self-driving people.
Airbnb is not only helping people rent out their rooms. There is a new trend which has taken off: “Hey, hope you enjoy the room. By the way, I’m also a great cook; would you like me to prepare a dinner party for you?” Or, “I’m an amateur historian; would you like me to give you a tour of the city?”
Brian Chesky, Founder, CEO Airbnb said, “We created a garden and planted one plant — and that was home-sharing, and now we’re seeing what other things can grow in this garden.”
“Experiences” is what's growing in the Airbnb garden. Oodles of people are turning their passion into profit and their inner artisan into a second career. Now someone looks to rent a room or an apartment, they can select “experience” on the Airbnb site.
Take for instance Dave from Anacortes, Washington who will introduce anyone who is interested, to wild wolves while on a nature hike: “Meet one of the largest wolf packs in the Pacific Northwest! Just 1.5 hours North of Seattle, take a 1-mile hike through 700 acres of old-growth forested parkland while we learn about wolves' habitat, behavior, and the myths and misconceptions surrounding this apex predator.”
Or Sarah in London, who will show you how to “make a one-of-a-kind hat” with “an array of feathers, flowers, lace and tulle.”
Antonio in Los Angeles will teach your group how to “make a custom piñata with an esteemed paper-mache artist” in the piñata district. Tools, “tamales and pan dulce” from Antonio’s favorite places are all included.
It's no surprise that Airbnb’s “experiences” site has grown tenfold this past year.
When tourists go to a foreign country, their goal is to understand the local culture by visiting museums and viewing “art by dead people,” noted Mr Chesky. “Why not learn how to make art yourself, taught by a living artist in that culture and immerse yourself in the artist’s world? These are experiences you can bring back with you!”
Chesky said that when he retires, he would like to say that Airbnb created 100 million new entrepreneurs in the world. That's a nice legacy indeed.