Brian Chesky is an American entrepreneur and CEO of Airbnb, an online marketplace for arranging lodging, primarily homestays, or tourism experiences. The “100 Most Influential People of 2015” list by Time included Chesky.
Brian Chesky was born on August 29, 1981, in Niskayuna, New York, to Deborah and Robert H. Chesky. His father is of Polish descent while his mother is of Italian origin, and both worked as social workers. Chesky has a younger sister named Allison.
Growing up, he displayed an early interest in art, often replicating paintings, and designs, frequently redesigning toys and shoes. Subsequently, Chesky developed a keen interest in landscape architecture and design.
When he was young, he played hockey and liked to draw and design new versions of Nike shoes, which is what initially led to his love for art.
His high school yearbook quote famously said, “I’m sure I’ll amount to nothing,” which he thought was funny, but his dad didn’t.
In pursuit of his passion, Chesky enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1999, where he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in industrial design in 2004. During his time at RISD, Chesky crossed paths with Joe Gebbia, one of the co-founders of Airbnb, with whom he would later collaborate to establish the now-famous platform.
Following his college education, Chesky secured a job as an industrial designer and strategist at 3DID, Inc. located in Los Angeles. Subsequently, in 2007, he relocated to San Francisco and shared an apartment with Gebbia. In the same year, the Industrial Designers Society of America scheduled a conference in San Francisco, and as a result, all available hotel rooms were fully booked.
This predicament left Chesky and Gebbia with the challenge of making rent for the month. As a solution, they decided to rent out their apartment to conference attendees in need of lodging. With the purchase of three air mattresses, they initiated their concept of “Airbed and Breakfast” and had their first three guests spend the night.
In February 2008, Nathan Blecharczyk, a technical architect and Harvard graduate, joined Airbnb as its third co-founder. Each of the co-founders assumed a distinct role in the company, with Chesky taking the lead as the Chief Executive Officer. Seeking funding for the startup, Chesky and his colleagues came up with a novel idea of creating special-edition cereals, named “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCains”, inspired by presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.
The unique cereal boxes attracted the attention of Y Combinator, which subsequently accepted Airbnb into its seed funding program. Within a year, the company expanded globally, establishing offices across Europe.
In 2011, Chesky wrote a letter addressing a resident’s complaint about tenant vandalism, where he announced a 24-hour hotline, increased staff support, and a guarantee for theft or vandalism. Additionally, in 2015, Chesky declared Airbnb as an official sponsor of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with over 120,000 guests have stayed in Airbnb homes during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Notably, in December 2020, Airbnb went public at a valuation of $100 billion. In an interview with Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast, Chesky revealed that he has a standing regular check-in phone call with former U.S. President Barack Obama.
In 2016, Brian Chesky joined ‘The Giving Pledge’, a group of billionaires that have pledged to give away most of their wealth. This group includes renowned philanthropists such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
In May 2022, Chesky demonstrated his commitment to philanthropy by donating $100 million to The Obama Foundation. The Foundation announced that this generous gift would launch a new scholarship program called The Voyager Scholarship, also known as The Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service. This scholarship is intended to support students in their junior and senior years of college, who are pursuing careers in public service.
The scholarship offers up to $50,000 in financial aid, a $10,000 stipend, and free Airbnb housing to pursue a summer work-travel experience between their junior and senior years of college. Additionally, scholarship recipients will receive a $2,000 travel credit every year for ten years following graduation, an annual summit, and access to a network of mentors. Chesky’s donation will undoubtedly benefit students pursuing public service careers and make a significant impact on society.
As of 2023, Chesky has an estimated net worth of $15.1 billion, according to Forbes.
Under Chesky’s leadership, Airbnb has grown to become one of the largest travel and hospitality companies in the world, with a valuation of over $100 billion. The company has more than 7 million listings in over 220 countries and has served over 750 million guests since its founding.
Chesky has been recognized for his entrepreneurial and leadership skills, receiving accolades such as Fortune’s 40 Under 40 and Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.