By this summer, Airbnb will usurp the InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide as the world's largest hotel chain—without owning a single hotel. The startup, which allows users to rent out their spare rooms or vacant homes to strangers, surpassed 10 million stays on its platform last year, doubled its listings to 550,000 (in 192 countries), and, according to a source familiar with the company's business, tripled revenue to an estimated $250 million. Befitting its growing might, last fall CEO Brian Chesky poached boutique-hotel pioneer Chip Conley to be Airbnb's head of global hospitality. Already, Conley has created a baseline of nine standards of care for Airbnb hosts to follow as part of a bigger revamp of its mobile tools. And it all starts with design, chief product officer Joe Gebbia told Fast Company last October, "We encourage employees to ship new features on day one. One new designer decided to change the icon used to favorite a listing from a star to a heart. This little change increased engagement by more than 30% and inspired a new product, Wish Lists." Rather than just include design in the boardroom, Airbnb's mentality is "What if design ran the boardroom?"
[Illustration by Mick Marston]