A Chat with Harry Uffindell from Airbnb

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Gen caught up with Harry Uffindell, Head of Business Operations at Airbnb.

Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone or tablet.

Watch the video here or look below to read the transcript:

G: Hi guys!


[Laughter]


Last one for today. Today I'm here with Harry, Harry from Airbnb and what the hell do you do is probably the first question so I didn't even ask that!


H: Yeah.


G: …your job title is…


[Laughter]


H: So first of all, job title is Head of business operations at the Airbnb.


G: …very official.


H: Sounds, sounds a lot better than it is.


G: Do you have a job?


[Laughter]


H: I have a dog.


G: Cool.


H: Somehow. It's so, it's here at Biz Ops, Biz Ops is the easiest way to explain it.  Differs by startup, differs even by region within Airbnb. But I like to look at almost like a mentor or a consulting team. So we will work on long-term projects, it might be a, setting a 3-year vision for NZ or for APAC or it might be a specific problem you know, we're struggling with, you know supply or demand in a particular area, try and drill down… find solutions. So a bit of a data, bit of analytical and cross-functional role.


G: Yeah. And …most likely, get to work on the next few projects of what's business critical, which is kind of exciting rather than the same thing over and over again.


H: Yeah, yeah and I like, I think from my time working in startups as well, I enjoy actually being able to work across and so had my fingers on all of the pie so like I don't want to just be like, compartmentalized into one box, I like to…


G: You’d be …for horrible employees…


H: Yeah I’m like a nosey employee, I just want to where everyone is so …


[Laughter]


G: But you're a nice Kiwi at the same time so…


H: Yeah I'm actually the only Kiwi in the office…


G: Really?


H: Yeah.


G: So what was the office makeup here in Sydney?


H: It is.. what was it? It's 20… 25 to 30 of us…


G: Wow, yeah.


H: Pretty diverse group apart from that, simply I'm the token Kiwi, I'll give you that. I'm not sure but I’ve heard there’s other Kiwis in San Francisco.


G: Sounds like you missed…sure of that.


[Laughter]


H: Yeah…I’ve been raised here as well so …told us. I’m fine with…slack channel, but anyway.


G: Wow, it might not be real.


H: Yeah.


G: So what got you here? What did you do before this?


H: So free roam, if we rewind the clock, before, directly before this, I worked for a company called Tilt.


G: Yeah.


H: Tilt was a social payment startup, classic … company. I joined early-ish as employee number 17, I was the first person on the ground … Australia's to launch there. So came in as basically what's called a growth manager and then sort of moved into a I guess more of a country manager role with and I had a few people here. So that was amazing. We worked on that here for two years.


G: We used you for every startup dinner.


[Laughter]


H: Yep, yeah, no.


G: … drastically dropped.


[Laughter]


H: I know. I assume …I mean the product …shut down now.


G: I know! It was amid the last startup dinner.


H: Yeah.


G: Crazy.


H: Heartbreaking.


G: Yeah.


H: I miss the product because I actually liked to use it a lot at my friends were like …freaking swear word, like “f*#k you”…


[Laughter]


G: Yep.


H: …so I used it all the time but I am, I guess …I had an awesome couple of years working there, worked under some incredibly intelligent people, company itself I mean, excellent sort of successful in a sense. I think personally I learned the most I ever could have for those two years like…


G: … cheap MBA for you.


H: Yeah, I think it was… did feel like a mini MBA and so anyway Airbnb acquired Tilt so I guess reported as in a bit of an acquis-hire, so a lot of engineers on a product, a lot of great talent came over. Not including myself in that pool out of one in a few non-technical outsiders, that came across but it's yes so that was awesome. And before that, sort of dabbled in a few different things, did management consulting for one to two years and prior to that, was in law, worked as a lawyer…


G: Trying to imagine you wearing a suit.


[Laughter]


H: Yeah I figured it out pretty quickly I am… I was just …have found out as a really shitty lawyer, like I knew I was going to be able to fake it, like…


G: Yeah.


H: …three years, I probably got to, you know blend in for, you know, follow the crowd…


G: Yeah.


H: …probably could have done that, work for a World Cup, that was planned from uni. But…


G: Now you can work in the next world cup.


[Laughter]


H: Yeah, yeah. If I micro-manage my plans, like literally get based around rugby world cup. So like, even when I sign in, I'm like “Okay so in 2019 like open …for how long? Okay when, what about, what about 2026. The ….


G: Your rugby team is pretty damn awesome, like let's be frank, so I can understand why.


H: Yeah.


G: We're working on it.


H: Yes … yeah…working again.


G: Yeah.


[Laughter]


So do we. So going from Tilt to coming into Airbnb, how much of a culture shift was that?


H: So I think, I mean culture wise I actually think, I'd say Airbnb …really similar.


G: Yeah.


H: I think there's, if you’ve ever read any of Tony Hsieh, who was the CEO of Zappos, the shoe brand that Amazon purchased I think, for a truckload of money, I can’t remember how much but they really wrote the book on a lot of, a lot of startup culture, a lot of company culture and a lot of those things people [are] probably unaware that work at companies, like at Tilt …at the time … oh this is amazing cool thing that Tilt came up with, that even things at the Airbnb, they’re directly from Tony Hsieh and what they did at Zappos and so that, like, I, that must have been an amazing company to work for…


G: Yeah.


H: …and probably still is …but culture wise I saw a lot of similarities and I think that's, you know similar in VCs, Tilt and Airbnb both are ex Y Combinator companies, so a lot of the similar influences and a lot of great things that both companies do. I guess one of the biggest differences is just sheer size and scale and so the benefits of working …the smaller stuff like Tilt which obviously had, had funding, you know but a smaller group of people, you could know everyone by name, there was a 100 to 120 of us at varying times, a lot of room to grow and still very flat but I guess the impact you're having on the world is a lot smaller, personally you can, you can see a lot of change but I think at a company like Airbnb that, the great thing is what you're doing can really impact so many people's lives across you know, pretty much every single country in the world.


G: Yeah, we've been in here like what, less than half an hour and the amount of personal stories behind people's lives…


H: Yeah.


G: …the animals.


[Laughter]


…need to explain.


[Laughter]


H: Yeah, I might, I’ll give her a letter of recommendation with like a link, … amazing Airbnb … inside an …and…


G: Actually, don’t share because then people will go and then …use it…secondhand.


[Laughter]


H: We won’t feel…


G: …until after.


[Laughter]


H: So yeah, I think culture is the same but you know it, is a good and bad things that come with smaller or larger companies but I am, I, you know working with the team here the, just sheer number of incredibly talented, motivated, enthusiastic people is pretty contagious and you know whether they're in the office next to you, you know …sitting here next to you or in Singapore or in San Francisco, it does feel like, it's one sort of I guess big, big family without being too cliché, but no, it's been great.


G: I means it’s setup like a house, right.


H: Yeah…


G: Let me show some of the stuff, see here. Apparently, so what's the story behind the offices around the, is it around the world or just Australia?


H: So this is around the world so as you can see, it’s sort of the… color in here, actually, maybe I’ll flip this around, so, well you see the decorations and it's …a strange colored room. So this… so this is the Havana room, so all the Airbnb offices are based on listings we have around the world so this is actually a lounge in an Airbnb in Cuba and we're actually right next to kangaroo valley so …there and it gets pretty down to detail in terms of the things on the wall and the types of sinks and everything, it's like everything like that so… yeah, I mean, I haven’t been to Cuba,… but, yeah, so you’d be in the Singapore office and you can be in like the Vancouver room.


G: Wow, that’s cool!


H: So yeah, it's pretty cool.


G: So from a two sided marketplace point of view, I mean you… you guys are having to deal with the same supply and demand issues that every startup day one to you know, let's call it 20, how do you deal with it? And as a company this scale, how do you deal with it at this point in its journey?


H: So I think it changes  over time and changes in a few ways so when you look, when you look at different markets take Australia for example…


G: Yeah.


H: You know, I guess zooming back out we believed in a world where anyone can belong anywhere and Australia, that sort of, never been more true… it's got the highest penetration for …


G: Which is incredible.


H: Yeah, for any market in the world, in terms of sort of brand awareness I think some …hovers somewhere around eighty percent and I guess without diving into the numbers, it gets pretty close to you know nearly a third of the traveler population, and Australia, New Zealand that are already on Airbnb…


G: …culturally because Aussies are probably more like “Don't worry mate, come sit here and we’ll sort you out” kind of thing? Like …


H: I don't know, I think Airbnb has been really successful … Australia and New Zealand sort of quickly because of our just inherent sort of love for traveling and the OE which is ingrained as like a rite of passage almost and so…


G: Yeah, we got to get off the island.


[Laughter]


H: Yeah. And I guess before my time but the phases of growth here was very much people were using Airbnb when they went traveling so when Australians and New Zealanders went to Europe and they tried Airbnb for the first time with their friends or their family and they come back from these trips and go like “Holy s*#it!” like, “this was amazing, awesome experience, check out this Airbnb thing I stayed at” and then people start talking about it here, they …again maybe hosting or …thinks about it or then traveling domestically which is what we’re seeing more and more of now, particularly new sort of segments so whether it's not just I guess for you know 18 to 20 year olds and sleeping on the couch for a spare room, it's actually you know…


G: Turn to luxury… even just normal …couch options.


[Laughter]


H: Yeah exactly, so bunk beds to ten thousand, twenty thousand dollar a night, the mansions in …everything …from an eighteen-year-old backpacker that's just arrived in Sydney off the plane or you know business traveler from Hong Kong…


G: Superstars…want to stay somewhere in a ridiculous mansion…


H: I believe so.


G: …is good.


[Laughter]


That’s awesome and so, I mean, when you think about, I mean you've spoken to a lot of different startups, you do a podcast…


H: Yeah.


G: …if you'd like to plug that quickly.


H: I will, thanks for that.


G: After you. Please.


[Laughter]


H: We don’t even organize that. So I yeah, I do, I started a podcast called Growth engineer, so basically a podcast that interview local, when I say local, I meant Sydney, Melbourne … entrepreneurs and really sort of dig into … background, their personal story and the tools they used, to build scalable, sustainable growth in their business. So I try to mix it up, I interviewed a few sort of really early-stage founders, maybe with small teams you know three, four, five, change it to sort of pretty well known, so Airtasker, you know they took …raised 33 million, Vincent Huang, and talked to the investor side so interviewed Niki from Blackbird which is I think one of my favorite conversations.


G: Oh that’s great. Yeah.


H: Incredible guy obviously and some amazing companies, Paul Bennetts from Spaceship was I think…


G: Yeah, that’s …interesting. Yeah.


H: Yeah the funny thing is with Paul, I, he was my kick off so here's my first …


G: Lift off, pun intended.


[Laughter]


H: I miss that as well. Golden opportunity. Anyway.


G: You’re off the marketing team.


[Laughter]


H: Yeah, and so I, I actually was thinking about first time this podcast, how, how am I going to convince people to … me like well, I had, had the fact that I worked at a startup… that's something I could leverage, but yeah, so I, I sort of remember these drinks and …on that day, I think it had a few drinks... everyone had and after he'd got off from this …I think …we work in … I sort of just cornered him and went in and introduced myself, told what I was doing, love to chat to him and he was like, you know like, “Let’s talk, we’ll make it happen, send me an email blah blah” and so I just followed up a few times.


[Laughter]


G: Few?


H: And once I had him, I sort of could be like “Oh well I'm interviewing Paul from Spaceship and a few others” and then that was a really easy way and then I was just …getting more and more people but he was the first one and he was actually the first person I physically you know, interviewed and sat down with so I was pretty nervous at that first one so I had to really sort of fake it and luckily, Paul is just one of those incredibly intelligent guys I felt like I walked out of that room just a measly smarter for it like he just knew a lot about a lot and I feel like we could have talked for hours, but yeah he's great and I love watching what they're doing, I've seen you know people come out in huge support, I've seen and you know people that also through a few question marks at them and you know like with anyone disrupting a big industry is going to face but no…


G: …return it in a smart way as well.


H: Yeah but look, I, I loved the whole experience, I've got I think six up there at the moment, there's another seven or eight that had been recorded… I know there's a few …pinging me … like “Hey when are going to upload …our podcast”, the truth is, I guess I wasn't sure what I was doing, they'd started this role and they'd just you know …but short of time but I will get them up.


G: No pressure but it's now being said and recorded.


H: It’s now being said and recorded so like, Dan from Growth hackers will be like, “You've said this a few times,” they'll be I mean I'm sure they're wondering like it'll go.


G: Yeah wanted to. So from all those conversations all the different style businesses from the more marketplace ones what are you seeing is the way that people who are tackling the whole you know challenge behind supply and demand for two-sided marketplaces?


H: I think, I think we see it differently for different startups right, some, some of them inherently have to build both at the same time…


G: Yeah.


H: …others can …depending on your site like really early stuff say startups can sort of fake it till they make it right, like you can, if you can generate demand through you know Facebook ads and Google AdWords and things like that and if you don't have the supply and you know might even be you sort of running around SF, it’s a delivery startup, you know or it's say, Uber for kids or whatever it is, you're the one and you and your friends and founders, you're actually doing the initial supply side…


G: Yeah.


H: …and then once you get to the point when you’re like okay this is sort of turned into our full-time job you've actually, you can prove that this is something worthwhile for someone else to do…


G: Yeah.


H: …and you know conversely you might have to, you might have to give that supply and really sort of pay extra or really force it to mark through to get the engine running but I think it's very much on a case-by-case basis and definitely depends on what stage your startup is in, I think you might find that you know demand is super easy to generate and you consider, you know you can get a thousand people subscribed to an email list to kick off with, begin that with one or two first big suppliers on, you know, people in the supply side on board might be a bit tougher, but yeah.


G: Yeah and who are you seeing as doing it well? Besides Airbnb of course.


[Laughter]


H: Well I, I guess locally I look at … yeah I mean I'm looking at Airtasker, I think, I think they're doing a great job. I personally…


G: Shoutout to Tim.


H: Shoutout to Tim, yeah, he's a great guy, I met him through an intro, through an intro for Jonathan, who I met originally, I was now doing … property?


G: Yes.


H: Something like that …at Hong Kong or Singapore?


G: I think it might be …Australia as well.


H: Okay.


G: Yeah.


H: Same way I got introduced to some of his, yeah, I had a really cool interview from all Growth engineer and he, yeah I think they're doing really well, like they, and not just saying that because they’ve raised 33 million that summer …abnormal marker of success, that’s you know that’s saying that “we need more capital to do something bigger and better” so I think they’re expanding to the UK, which…


G: Yes. They had to get out of Australia though.


H: Yeah.


G: Because otherwise how you know, how long are you destined to be here rather than onto that next step?


H: Yeah, exactly, right. But I think when I look at, when I look at the Airtasker I mean, personally I've used it a lot recently…


G: Yeah.


H: …and this is like, the speed there seems, I met someone the other day, he's done 800 jobs, this is a full-time job…


G: Yeah.


H: …they're creating full-time jobs, it's not a just Fiverr like the gig economy, these people are full-time and earn a lot more money than you know, they, they might other ways you know, be doing something else…


G: Yeah.


H: …and so in terms of the, I guess the, the variation and like the skills and just the pure speed and quality of the work, like I’ve requested all sorts of different things, from delivering like a phone charger!


G: Oh God!


[Laughter]


H: Yeah, that was the worst, I was delivering a phone charger to a bar…people put skill like …just delivery or pull up, I put a print the other day and had someone come around and do it then I, seriously when I put a job on Airtasker, I get five responses in about two minutes…


G: Wow!


H: I think… there's a group of them like 20 of them and they’re just first on…


G: They’re on it.


H: But yeah …


G: …they're actually skilled at what they're doing by the sounds of it as well…good job.


H: Yeah and they've obviously done it well enough for someone like me, you know I advocate them, advocate for them now from like the demand side.


G: Yeah.


H: But they've obviously created enough demand and or enough supply to actually sort of make it hum and looks like it's humming well enough to go give it a crack in UK.


G: Yeah, kudos to them.


H: Yeah.


G: … really interesting to watch that journey.


H: Yeah, I know …


[Laughter]


G: Well, I mean, there's something like TaskRabbit now right, it’s being bought up by IKEA, which is an interesting acquisition, but it really makes sense when you look at probably the breakdown of the jobs they do.


H: Yeah.


G: Do you think that they're going to be able to then scale outside of the states? I guess it's the reverse right? Of Airtasker.


H: So what Taskrabbit trying …


G: Yeah.


H: …expand out of the States?


G: Yeah.


H: Yeah I think you know international expansions are always one of those things that's always a question of you know where, you know, do we, do we go really deep in the, you know the wine market we're in and it's not like you're in Australia with this, with a 23 million people, you know that's, that's there can be enough for some companies, but for a lot, it's not. When you're in the US, it’s like 400 million that’s, or 300 … 350 whatever million that's a big market you know, you can create a really big, stainable, scalable business in a market that size but I, I think, I think expanding just has, there's so many extra hoops yet to jump through, there’s so many hidden…


G: Yeah.


H: …challenges, whether it's just localizing your product or you know understanding the locals and what they actually want and how, like even, even when we expanded with Tilt from, from the US to Canada, like you know you'd assume it’d be very similar, just yah, little nuances…


G: Yeah.


H: …and obviously with payments that … adds layers of complexity as well…


G: Of course, yeah.


H: But yeah, I think in terms of just finding talent and …build a team around it and trying to… and you've also, you worry about keeping cultures consistent across offices…


G: Yes.


H: …so a lot of challenges are not for the faint-hearted, but I think…


G: Maybe not …the city …the place that you want to go to because the glamour behind it I mean from Australia right, a lot of people go to the US because it's …San Fran…


H: Yes and that’s the part I don't like so I see a lot …Australasian startups you know like “Hey we're in Australia, UK, U.S. and about to go into South Korea…”


G: Yeah.


H: You go like, “Why don't you just do one really well?” You know, and I think that's, again, it's like fundraising that's another at-work number of employees or a number of countries you're at so …fake metrics …yeah sure, they can be good, they can be signals.


G: Yeah.


H: But often they are fake metrics… exist with people want to be in ten countries and I prefer to be in one country absolutely …


G: Really well.


H: …killing it so I think when, if you’re in the US, you're probably you know that's a pretty super hyper competitive market and if you've been able to make a dent there, then if you've got the right team and right group around you, then you know it's going to be easy, but yeah….


G: Definitely and so from your point of view as a growth person, tools that you, tools of the trade shall we call it?


H: Yeah.


G: Well I think you're about to do one right now.


[Laughter]


Kiwi trick… under the camera, never happened.


[Laughter]


What sort of tools are you using? What are you planning that’s working? Thank you very much for that. Tools for growth marketing.


H: Growth marketing, so I mean, the, I guess the role that I'm in now, I, I'm I guess as close …as I probably used to be, say …something like …growth engineer, so I mean, growth for us was a relative multi-pronged approach at Tilt where we, there's someone that had a really good saying which is I think it was Jim Collins who said, “Fire bullets and cannonballs” and the idea behind that is that when you're trying things out whether it's, when you're trying to get that early growth like whether it's, you know, email marketing or you know whether it's you know Facebook ads or Instagram or YouTube or I'm just publishing content and building a big medium following or, or Snapchat oh whatever it may be, I, I'm not someone to say, “Hey you know, spread ten percent across 10 different channels” because the chances are you're not going to do any of them very well but if you've got your, if you've got one that's gained a bit of momentum then absolutely allocate you know like two three four percent and so plant those seeds or you know. Analogy, shoot those bullets and then when you see a bit of traction on one of those, that's when you can really sort of double down and go, “There's, there's something here.”


G: Yes.


H: So for us until we found our ambassador program funnily enough was actually really successful for us …sort of …


G: We … Like Minded Bitches right?


H: Yeah.


G: I think ambassadors… of the world your applicants, you don't need to be doing any of the work.


H: Yeah and it works really well and you know it still costs money because you still got to acquire them you know and talk to them and it takes up time and everything else but that worked really well for us, these were sort of, essentially uni ambassadors, advocates the products that was sort of you know mood sensing device to use it as much as they could and spread it amongst their friend group and Facebook ads for us was also really powerful, I found one of the tools, really beneficial was and like this was for us looking for partnerships but it can apply to any b2b, b2c but probably more for b2b is getting someone on Freelancer or oDesk or whatever you use to, to basically get a, create a big excel sheet like I'm a big fan of lists…


G: Yes you are.


[Laughter]


H: …whether it's a to-do list you or putting together a list of a hundred people that you want to have coffee with, or pitch to or whatever it is.


G: Yeah.


H: so I found like on Freelancer you pay some money, you know a pretty small amount of money in comparison…


G: Yeah.


H: Yeah, you know three, five, ten dollars an hour and say you know, “Here is the Excel list,” give them really, really clear instructions, check ins, I think Holly from … she has awesome resources on how to hire freelancers and I like, I followed it word for word and it didn’t let me down.


[Laughter]


G: Would you mind copying the links in this after?


H: Yeah, sure.


G: Thank you.


H: I think there’s actually a YouTube series as well and so I found that really … we got these people from these Freelancers and they would put together these amazing excel lists with say like, the business, the name, email address, the phone number, the website and then using a tool …square, basically a way to create like a custom email but inserts say their name, the company you know website, so it looks like it looks pretty close to a genuine custom message, but the easy way to bulk send to say 500 people.


G: Yeah.


H: And obviously just A/B testing different subject lines, one of the ones I found that works really well, it's a bit of a cheeky one, a subject line “re” so “re:”


G: Yeah.


H: “strategic partnership” or “opportunity”, whatever the wondering the subject line is but have to have a “re:”, obviously it looks like it's a bit of tricky way, it looks like you've already having a conversation so not going to guarantee a response, maybe get one or two new responses, but probably up your open rate so might be worth chasing with a group of people but just in terms of scale and being able to get a hold on a contact details whether it's for an email list, whether it's literally networking and coffees or whatever it is, like … times it's really useful.


G: Yeah, definitely, it's great. And from a startup’s point of view when you're, day one, you're trying to figure out where to start, what do you suggest? Clean slate.


H: Clean slate, wow!


G: Yeah.


H: So I, I think that a few things, I think about firstly why like why are you doing it? What do you want get out of it? I think a lot of people just jump into startups you know they might have watched The Social Network or whatever it is and I think some people might just want to be their own boss, which is fine, it’s absolutely cool that, you know, you can be a contractor, you can be you know you can be a freelancer on, yeah online and working around the world, or people might want, say you know just they want to be rich, right. If you just …startup to be rich, you know I'm saying probably not alright a path …like you know, …people say you know, four out of five I've heard…startups fail…before they hit that home run…


G: Yeah.


H: You know Travis, you know Uber was this company right.


G: So what about the guys here … Airbnb I mean serial …


[Laughter]


H: I mean it's not easy right.


[Laughter]


And so I think to be really like clear on what you're doing it for and…


G: …what’s going to get you out of the bed every morning? It’s not easy.


H: Yeah, exactly, right. And I think as long as you're clear and then your … and so I think why you're …getting yourself into this because it's going to have ups and downs like why you actually wanted to it and then also thinking like people always talk about, like product market fit as a … yeah, and then you also hear a little bit about, about sort of company …


G: Yeah.


H: So making sure that you're not going to Series B fun pitching for a 25k check because right, you're just talking to the wrong people, you know wasted time, you're trying to pitch a B2B business in their purely interest in like robotics and AI. Like … and so not product market fit burn or invest sort of company for I like to think about like you know like, like found …company… like mission fit so like, why are you well placed? Like, why do you actually want to solve this thing? And for example you might think, “Hey I can think of all these great applications, right off the back of success for something like Snapchat, but if you really don't give a f*#k about like advertising or Snapchat or anything like that, like it's going to get hard, it's going to get difficult in your … days then you'll give up.” But if you're, if you're doing something that you’re genuinely passionate about …saying that you would do regardless of whether it felt not like just saying that you had to see in the world and it means so much to you…


G: Yeah.


H: So, for example, like of, you know, if you had a like a family history like I do, of melanomas and skin cancer, it's like for me it might be like okay well like I've seen like I'll …I know I, I really want to create …this problem and it makes … to me and I need to see this in the world. I mean that's a lot more convincing to an investor than someone that say “Okay I want to create…


G: …want to sell this in three to five years.


H: Yeah, yeah, yeah like I want to create something that I, I think is, I want to create like an …ICO or I want to do something around Bitcoin, it's like, you only just became interested in it because people are sort of making a lot of money off of it at the moment like so and I think it's important if you're not passionate about what you're doing, you're going to hit those lows and those moments and that's when you give up, but yeah that's what saved us trying to figure out like why you're doing it? Making sure that you’re… really care about, yeah.


[Laughter]


G: Yeah, especially you know it doesn't happen overnight. There's so many stories of overnight successes right and then in the States they've just raised you know for example $65 million dollars overnight success because they're braced.


H: Yeah.


G: What's your view on the world with you know when it’s success and how long it takes and, you know, what's the reality behind startup?


H: So I think, I mean the realities, I know, there's no overnight success, right? People just forget about the early days, they forget about the struggle, like they, even Instagram one of the you know fastest growing apps, went absolutely ballistic, they had a, it was like a hundred thousand subscribed, pre-launch sort of thing, like it, there was a wait list, used to be a wait list to join Instagram. And you think Twitter, which is almost like a more extreme example, like I don't think people realize being in Australia and New Zealand just how I'm saying that liftoff was, but it was absolutely crazy, sort of caught the whole world by storm and squishing the US…


G: …momentum with Trump using it?


[Laughter]


H: I don’t know, well, I think he's actually probably brought a lot of users back on the platform. I certainly check Twitter more now, but even those who say Twitter and Instagram, they weren’t overnight successes. Instagram, I think was Bourbon before…they were like the 20th photo sharing app …turn to all these things, so their secret sauce was filters, that was what set them apart and sort of really set them up for success.


G: Yeah.


H: Twitter used to be a text messaging app.


G: Oh really?


H: Yeah it's like, like TWTTR…


G: What about that Harry … their wait list I mean that same approach has been …


H: Yeah that was crazy… yeah I love that approach, it was Harry's razors pre-launch, they had like 125,000 people I believe sign up for razors and you basically would skip, you basically move up the queue and these like, like a lifetime of razors and rewards you know, how many people you can refer…sort of like gamified.


G: How much did the razors cost per month? I don’t know, you’re a guy.


H: I don’t know …I’m like ……really expensive, crazy expensive.


G: Yeah. So a lifetime supply of razors was actually quite a lot of money then.


H: S*#t yeah.


G: Yeah.


H: Especially if you're razoring…you’re raising …


[Laughter]


If you’re using razors a lot like, yes, they’re super expensive. They really gamified the referral system so if you're looking for pre-launch or launch ideas, I really recommend Googling Harry's razors, super interesting, super cool company.


G: Yep that's amazing, and so when you see the future of Airbnb, I mean your advice moving into experiences…


H: Yeah.


G: …all sorts of different things what does it look like?


H: So short answer is: it's hard to know. I am, but I'm really excited about what the future holds just like at a broad scope just humanity in general and all the amazing companies that we see in the world and all the amazing things they are doing.


G: What, what are the ones you look to for as the ones doing amazing things?


H: I, so I’m …a bit of Elon fanboy, I really look to the same people like Elon what he's mentioning to do what he is saying, you know, the hardest industries in the world that people have put a lot of merit, whether you felt so like rockets, like terrible industry to get into, electric cars being done, it runs wasted money, failed on it, solar panels, see the three hardest ones he took on at the same time and then he just created the boring company just to like adds a bit of a life and he's doing Hyperloop as well.


G: Yeah.


H: So and …offering to solve … correctly you know what the f*#k is he doing!


G: Yeah.


H: Look I, I look to people like that and creating a positive influence in the world like in terms of you know reducing, you know the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and trying to trying to actually make a dent on, on climate change and sort of being, you know being that sort of, that generation that can, actually does something about it. So I looked at him, I also look to you know two other things that I'm quite passionate about and you know we, I can't say this as like a practicing …hearing but someone who's trying to consistently eat less meat, I think we’ll probably look back on the, just the production of, slaughter of animals and probably be a bit embarrassed by it and, in years to come so the companies that are producing these fake meat…


G: …meat they are incredible, aren’t they!


H: Yes so things like hamburgers that taste like hamburgers …but they’re vegetables or they are made from vegetables, or it’s a tiny ….the animal take them, then growing in a lab…


G: Crazy.


H: Kind of crazy but it's going to fix us up now but I guess the question is can they scale it and I think they probably can …


G: Yeah.


H: But I think we will look back on this period where we just look at the treatment of animals worldwide and the slaughter of them and just go like … to the street and then the third one is just work that people are doing around the war on drugs and I think there's a, there's a lot of, a lot of really significant people that are putting their voice behind it and not politicians yet, really, but people like Sir Richard Branson, Kofi Annan and people …like …this is like the longest product without an iteration right, this is like the longest, like one time …one solution ..criminalize and enforce and harshly penalize and it doesn't work, hasn't worked for 50 years for 49 years since Nixon started it and it's there's a lot of places that are going to [be] successful in changing that, so Portugal and even a few of the states saying it clicked on so I'd love to see some of that change in just see that money redistributed for education and treated as a health issue …you know…


G: But isn’t it crazy where you see cases where somebody's been put away for 10 years for like you know a personal amount of marijuana and somebody for rape to be put away for six months.


H: Yeah.


G: How does that add up?


[Laughter]


H: Yeah and I you know I think sort of people roll their eyes and go, “Well you can't decriminalize it though, that'll increase consumption and you have school kids doing it,” but the thing is what we're doing isn't working. So much money … and there's been so many deaths and, and just more supply-demand …so obviously this isn't working and there's been other cases where Portugal very much wiped out their heroin epidemic by treating it like a health issue, not criminalizing them putting that, that money they saved from law enforcement into education and rehabilitation and pretty much eliminated.


G: It's amazing.


H: Yeah. The US is going through the worst opioid epidemic in history right, it's absolutely crazy at the moment.


G: But in the flip side of that is with marijuana … the states that have made it legal had they seen a complete drop in everything around that?


H: There were they … so Colorado for example, they began regulated this is not decriminalization, this is full regulation this is the state growing and selling it and so it will retail selling and they have seen that they've seen people basically treat it as they do alcohol, it can be something that you can unwind at the end of the day, they're not having to pull money into the black-market so one, you like eliminate the money that goes to the black market, goes to the gangs.


G: …increase in taxes!


[Laughter]


H: Yeah, absolutely. …increase in taxes which they actually put aside into …solely to hospitals and schools but you can even revenue gathering aside, all the money you saved from law enforcement.


G: Yeah.


H: So anyway, so I mean anyway I …


G: …model seems to be working.


H: It does. So things like that I'm passionate about and so yeah I, I'm really interested to see what, what upholds and I guess getting back to the first part of your question and that …way, Airbnb what we're doing, so we you know I, when Airbnb first started, it really was just that accommodation business and that was the laser of focus for you know eight or nine years…


G: …people think it's an overnight success, eight or nine years, that’s ridiculous, right?


H: Yeah, I know. It was a long time in the making and also you know wasn't anywhere …but it's exciting to see I guess what the transition now and when we look at the entire trip, so not just where you stay, but you know how you go about planning where you're going to go, you know what you know how you're going to get there, what you're going to do once you are there, how you're going to get home, how you're going to share with your friends and I think we've got the accommodation piece “Oh you’ve got part of the accommodation piece” but that's, that’s really 20% of it and so I'm really excited to see what we do to own the …and so the first step outside for us has been experiences and so Sydney and Queenstown are the first of soft launches here.


G: Queenstown would be amazing.


H: Yeah, yeah. I know I haven't been back to Queenstown since … but I've tried a few in Sydney and they're pretty amazing and for those people that don't know it's basically a, it's, it's a host but it's not someone who's in you in the home at someone hosting with the local zoo, hobby or experience that you want to do, so for example in Sydney last night I went to the MCA, Museum of Contemporary Art where …who is really well-known artist in Sydney and he took us through the museum on sort of like a one-to-one tour we did the class with them, we had drinks with him, there is one's in New York you can go, you can go on a sidecar and this guy drives you around and gives you …he’s lived in New York for like 70 years and gives you that history you can, there’s one's Sydney to do surfing with the local and then going to go out … bar this local place and you know for someone traveling like we, I like to sort of compare to ending up on or they put them off like a red bus right, you get there …they you're a tourist again you know, you have got a big map pull the selfie stick and…


G: Yeah.


[Laughter]


H: As you …probably seen it in the ads, but having the ability to actually connect with locals and go a layer deeper and true experience of what a city is like I think experiences for Airbnb is…really, really exciting and so I’m really bullish on it and anytime I can, I try to get involved.


[Laughter]


G: There’s that nosy person again.


[Laughter]


H: 100%.


G: How does Airbnb scale something like that to curate these experiences and do this globally?


H: Yeah so…


G: That's … be a challenge.


H: Yeah it's a tough question. It's a really good question. Something like homes was a little bit different home you could really you know you could basically open up the platform to whether it's cities or entire countries, people would list their homes and you could book them. Experience is a little bit different, Experiences sort of curated as such but there is a bit more hand holding throughout the process …all …latest sort of platform where webs of connecting and experience hosting the guest, but we have a real focus on quality with the Experiences so we don't want say 15 people who decide that you know they want to just do that Bondi to Coogee walk and you know there, there's nothing special or unique or different about it, we want to make sure that you know this Experience isn't someone that's had all this experience there if you could think of the one person you want to take you on this walk or take you surfing or you know cook a meal with you or whatever it is we’ll go…


G: …won't end up cooking with me, it's bad.


[Laughter]


H: And so there is a bit of, I guess, help there just making sure the right host the right quality of people going to love the experience they do and I think that's really paying off like the number of five-star plus reviews is I think 90 plus percent.


G: That’s incredible.


H: Yeah it's great and I’m …


G: Makes people fall in love with Sydney right? You want to do it - you've got to go experience things that's more meaningful I think to this … generation than the tangible well if you know how big ... house you stay in.


H: Yeah absolutely and I think one of the cool things about it and someone just wrote an article, the name sort of skips me but they ran an article about how its allowing people to turn their hobby and into, into a business…


G: So true.


H: So for example…


G: Providing the services.


H: Yeah, yeah, and well there is someone that snorkels around Sydney harbor or you know, knows the fish markets like the back of his head and this is allowance of whether you're like a side entrepreneur sort of trying to balance you know building your own thing, allowing you to generate money from your hobby and earn a side income so this is really, really cool that we saw that with … people being at … spare room or when their kids move out and just generate, maybe you know pay a mortgage or pay for that holiday, we're now seeing Experience hosts to be now sort of you know balance their lifestyle by you know earning money from the hobby or maybe even support you know a budding business or whatever it is, are really cool see it so much just developing a whole new wave of entrepreneurs, which is cool.


G: Which is interesting as well because you’re seeing a lot of like businesses, banks stuff the business of Airbnb like Hometime, etc. How do you guys deal with things like that you know? Obviously you want to support them because this is driving businesses for you guys but you want to oversee make sure there's … all over the world …qualities of … what do you do? Because it's not the supply channel would have …that you guys are headed.


H: What services…


G: Like... managing …those houses, feeding clients or people to stay in them or whatever…


H: Yeah, sure.


G: … it's kind of commercializing it.


H: Yeah I mean that…


G: Is it conflicting or?


H: No it's complimentary.


G: Yeah.


H: So there's a whole different bunch that I probably characterize like…


G: No I know …


[Laughter]


H: But say like, you know there’s ones that provide a really easy way to be able to sort of store their keys and…


G: …that's cool.


H: It allows easy access for the guests, so that’s awesome.


G: Perfect.


H: It made me feel that … or just time for and they want to make sure they respond really fast and so they take on the management of the Airbnb listing for them and again that works really well and we actually built that in with co-hosting now as well and making it even easier and there's people who you know do the cleaning side of it and take away that's true so I guess in our eyes all these things that help people become better host will help create a better experience for our guests really, really positive and I mean for us, as far as I'm aware we don't really actively sort of promote one or the other …


G: It's all beneficial to the community, end of the day, right.


H: Yeah you know and I think that's a fair way to do it and when you look outside, you'll see the … it's very, just Airbnb you know we keep our mission super simple, Airbnb emails, like you know there's, you get a few but you want to initially want to add a whole, whole bunch that you know maybe we will but you know at the moment the site end I guess…


G: It's more about the unique spaces…


H: Yeah.


G: …rather than I guess the content.


H: Yeah exactly. Yeah so, yeah.


G: It would be interesting to see how that evolves.


H: Yeah.


G: You're a man of content, I ask this to everyone. What do you go to for podcasts? What do you think people should be reading?

H: Oh!

G: Yeah.

[Laughter]

H: So okay, so first on I guess like podcasts and my favorite I, I feel like I've stolen a lot of knowledge from really intelligent people over the last few years, so This Week in Wtartups by Jason Calacanis is probably my favorite. … 100 and something … week and just really gets people pretty early on but you know some people just super famous super smart, whether it’s entrepreneurs or venture capitalists or journalists, so that one keeps me really entertained, it’s about an hour, well two one-hour episodes every week, so a lot goes to that and then he's also started a new one on an angel, which is specifically angel investors. Second one like I listen to a little bit of Tim Ferriss, yeah, I yeah something you might cringe at like the four-hour work week and there's a lot of really amazing lessons and really practical tips in there so I'm a fan of Tim Ferriss I'm not like a, I’m not like a Gary Vaynerchuk …I think I'm more like, there’s, they’re probably similar actually all those …but I, I like to pick and choose so there's some really good episodes with some … fine.

G: Yeah.

H: Gary Vaynerchuk I think he does a great job with content and he's got a few little motivational books … give you a pick up …so I sort of Jason Calacanis and, and Tim Ferriss and then …there's a few other ones, I forget the name… Sam… god I don't listen to it enough, there's a few shows, I can’t actually remember the names, there's one …come on, TedTalks is a really good one.

G: Do you watch them?

H: Yeah and the podcast … got them as well where you just have like you know it's great for a short commute if you need 14 minutes or eight minutes and just there's some really emotional and really cool things in the morning, or on the way home so I try to do that on my 45 minutes there …an hour and a half of you know learning I guess, I'm without sort of trying to avoid looking at emails and reading the news or whatever might steal my attention that morning and then in terms of the books like I, I read a lot I, I wish I read more, some of my favorite is like I stay away from fiction and I think when I want to get into fiction, I like watch a really good film, when I read, it tends to be either biographies, not self-help but more like professional development type books and then, so some of my favorites like I really enjoyed Deep Work by Cal Newport, about just how people have achieved really sort of remarkable results by trying to eliminate distractions at work and like long periods and long blocks of time and blocking off your calendar to do that sort of thing. So like that the one thing by Gary, I think it's Gary Keller…

G: …you remember all those names.

[Laughter]

H: …they are the favorites and then some other ones like good to great, some classics by Jim Collins, I think and then God yeah there's a whole bunch of it I ever owned but they're probably they're probably my …go tos, they are the other ones I give to people the most I think if you again this is like a cringy title, but Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, just hands down one of the best books you can ever read and would recommend even I'm actually reading it now for the third time like it's just incredible book, obviously I don’t have enough friends yet or the influence. But so they're both really, they were all really great books and I've the …sort of area I’ve been reading is stoicism so I'm, I'm not a religious kind of guy but stoicism is like it's got a few sort of like, like classical sort of like influences and just like well I’d almost compare it to like some of the Buddha sort of outlook and so there's some pretty interesting like books and stories on that one, yeah I don't know I think every time I look at that my friends think I'm like more …but yeah I, it’s kind of interesting to mix it up a bit of that sort of stuff …

G: Yeah, different perspective, right?

H: Yeah.

G: Yeah that’s awesome so lucky last question what I ask everyone as well is if you could have a superpower what would it be? Besides the ability to open beers with no …

[Laughter]

H: A superpower, a really tough question because there's so many cliché answers of just like knowing the future and picking the lottery numbers or just like being able to read people's minds which I wouldn't like because I think … like, yeah, you could be hyper aware, but also like hyper just like angering, self-conscious, anxious…

G: You would be, yeah like that…

H: …anxious also God, this superpower, I feel like the, the ability to and like ability to understand how other people think and feel is a really powerful tool, it might seem like a super lame superpower but like I feel like a lot of the times when people, you might get into an argument you might get the outcome that you wanted, a lot of the time it's, you're both well and you both have the same sort of good intention…

G: Yeah.

H: But you're not necessarily understanding you know the sort of motivation or how they think, where they get their energy from you know … the spectrum how they sort of relate, and so just being able to get a really quick understanding of that can, I think can save you a lot of, a lot of time and just help you relate in and deal with people, and I think if you're really, if you're really solid and strong and being able to collaborate and talk to and negotiate and strike deals with all types of people that puts you on pretty good …with that smooth you know selling yourself at a job interview, whether that is trying to pitch an investor or whether that's trying to get people to come join your company, whether it's trying work with colleagues…

G: We’re planning to kidnap engineers at the moment, yep. [Laughter]

H: Yeah, yeah and I mean and all of that helps in even though resistance like even just being self-aware of that worth sort of family and personal relationships is as helpful as well.

G: So true, really cool. Any parting words well before we finish up?

H: Any parting words?

G: How can people support you in what you're doing?

H: Yeah, so…I think what I’d say to people is just, I’d love them to check out our growth engineer, I mean I've put a bit of a time in it to … that podcast.

G: Did you do that?
[Laughter]

H: I should and I should upload the other ones, but you go to growthengineer.com or search on just a podcast at growthengineer, it'll pop up and there’s just some cool advice from people far smarter than I am, it's just not just me talking, me letting them talk.

G: Yeah.

H: Which is the position you… we… actually we did an interview.

G: We did.

H: …better because the smarter person talking which is you.
[Laughter]

G: It’s not what we’re doing here but …back.
[Laughter]

H: …so I'd say check out growthengineer and then also definitely check out Airbnb Experiences, I think it's, I am super excited about it, there's an awesome team here in Sydney and they have create a bunch of them I know, they really came to support you know budding and future Experience hosts so whether it's people looking for a side income or trying to monetize their hobby, check it out it's pretty so inspirational, some of the stuff online and get in touch you know and you've got sign that you want to make into an experience but yeah the only other thing would be you know if you're thinking of doing your own thing then just absolutely get out there and give it a crack and I'm you can me up on LinkedIn I'm pretty sort of open book kind of guy, I'll take a coffee with …

G: Pretty much anyone.
[Laughter]

H: …almost anyone. Yeah so like I’m desperate you know, no but I think that’s the key to …just reaching out to the people and

G: And being open as well because you kind of expect to hold back if you're not willing to help other people.

H: Yeah I think we got to take advantage of being in a smaller country and smaller you know sitting like sitting here you can really get a coffee or whatever meeting with anyone you like if you go about the right way and actually … Excel sheets, reaching out to who's my mutual contact you know and actually putting in the work.

G: Yeah.

H: Yeah.

G: Amazing. Well thank you so much for letting me harass you on a Thursday night.

H: No problem.

G: Awesome, well thank you very much.