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Airbnb Makes Game Changing Small Bets on Travel

Airbnb’s short but stellar history is characterized by small bets. It is this series of small bets that enabled Airbnb to quickly win the hearts and minds of travelers and far outpace competition.

Small bets are low-risk actions taken to learn about opportunities. They’re imperative to understand how to impact culture and grasp your true audience’s needs, as well as unleash new value.

Airbnb’s laser focus around the entire travel experience gives them the ability to make frequent small bets at specific junctures without pushing the business off track.

“We don’t think we’re just in the business of providing accommodation,” said Airbnb CTO Nathan Blecharczyk. “Really, what our customers are carrying out, is their trip as a whole.”

Airbnb’s recent culture-stimulating small bets include:

In-App Local Concierge
Visitors ask real residents of their travel destination questions about local amenities.

Group Dinners
Local hosts throw dinners for visitors and local strangers.

Neighborhood Tours and Experiences
Visitors explore local cultural experiences, including walking tours, bike tours, nature hikes, crafts, and tastings.

All three of these bets were launched on a very small scale, just one city at first. They explored potential human needs along a typical travel experience, as well as the reverberations of culture in a larger way.

Anthropologist Grant McCracken says in his book Cultramatic, “the search for the future is an exercise in edge finding.” He continues with, “in order to find the innovation that returns lots and lots of value, we will have to try many things that return next to nothing. It’s the nature of the hunt.”

If Use All Five were to work with Airbnb, we‘d love to try these small bets and gauge guest reactions:

The Local’s Hit List
Work with Airbnb hosts to provide guests an itinerary of local events and activities in advance of their stay based on travel dates and interests.

The Fresh Connect
Partner with local grocery stores or chefs to provide weary travelers with meals and groceries upon arrival.

The Local Playlist
Hire musicians to assemble Spotify playlists of local bands and artists to play as guests walk into their Airbnb rentals. Allow guests to purchase tickets to shows at local music venues during their stay.

All three of these small bets potentially enhance the travel experience by tapping the power of culture, as well as lead Airbnb designers to other, possibly more important or lucrative, opportunities at play.


Levi Brooks is the CEO/Co-founder of Use All Five.
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