While the sun edged its way up and over the rooftops of a still peaceful Paris, something incredible was happening in the 19th Arrondissement. Something big. Something good.
As the doors opened at 7am, 5,000 members of the Airbnb community made their way over leaf-lined cobbles towards the Grande Halle in Parc de la Villette, ready for the largest gathering in Airbnb’s history.
The energy was up, the anticipation high and the atmosphere – buzzing.
One by one, hosts and guests settled into their seats and welcomed to the stage, Airbnb host and Parisian local, Ludovic.
For those that don’t know him, Ludovic is an excellent ambassador for his community and he lives to share his city with his guests and fellow hosts.
“You opened your homes to the world. Now it’s my great pleasure to open my home to all of you.”
With his visible enthusiasm and genuine nature, it’s easy to see what makes Ludovic such an inspiring host, and why he was such a hit with the 5,000 people in the audience. Whether here as hosts, guests or staff, we can all learn something from Ludo.
After Ludovic, Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Chip Conley, let everyone in on what the next three days held in store. Whether it meant getting tips from other hosts, or listening to talks from Alain de Botton, everyone left certain that the next 72 hours were going to be a wild adventure.
And who better to start us off on that adventure than Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky who paid homage to the incredible host community around the world. The same community that has grown from the 30 hosts who joined Brian and Joe at the first Paris meetup in 2009, to the 5,000 hosts who have come to make Parc de la Villette their home for the next three days. The same community who accept guests as if they’re family, and who care for others and make them feel like they belong.
“Airbnb’s mission isn’t your house. It’s hosts. It’s you. And you are part of a community that knows no boundaries of culture, country or generation. And hosts teach us that in the end, people are fundamentally good. So on behalf of our guests, thank you.”
And with that, Brian invited two of our most important hosts from one of Airbnb’s newest cities to join our community, Havana, Cuba.
Moments later, the crowd settled into an expectant calm and listened intently to Silvio and Julia’s story of life in 90s Cuba. The necessity of innovation and entrepreneurialism. The support that hosting on Airbnb offered. The connections. The excitement, and the broadened horizons as they opened their doors to the world, and show guests the real Cuba.
Silvio and Julia are still early on in their journey as Airbnb hosts. The guests they’re yet to greet, the friends they’re yet to meet and the stories they’re yet to make are just around the corner.
With any journey, the first steps can seem the most daunting. But being in a room with 5,000 Airbnb hosts means that they were never short of support. Their fellow hosts were only too happy to lend an ear and share advice from their own experiences.
A sentiment that Co-founder and CPO, Joe Gebbia values ever since he and Brian received a pivotal piece of advice from mentor, Paul Graham. “Go meet your hosts.” Paul had said in 2009.
And 6 years later, meeting with hosts remains one of the most valuable and enriching experiences for the Airbnb team.
“What helps us grow, is listening to hosts. Listening to people who live and breathe Airbnb.” which is what makes
Once hosts had taken a break, they began to absorb the stories that had captivated them so completely throughout the morning. Then it was time to create a magical experience for the people who so often create them for others, courtesy of the dazzling Cirque du Soleil.
After a bite to eat over lunch and a chance to mingle with more of the international community, co-founder and CTO, Nate Blecharczyk, took to the stage with existing hosts to discuss what motivates them – and the Airbnb community – to open their homes to guests from around the world.
For Alex from the US, Grace from Kenya and Pamela from France, it’s a desire to meet new people, to earn extra income and to surprise and delight their guests.
Nate also shared details on Airbnb’s growth around the world. How there are now almost two million homes on Airbnb in over 34,000 cities from over 190 countries, and how the Global Host community has grown to over one million strong.
Next on stage was Joe Zadeh, Vice President of Product Development, for one of the most anticipated sessions of the event. Joe revealed the latest upgrades to the Airbnb platform in the form of a host of new features designed to make hosts’ lives easier, so that they can continue to provide guests with the very best experiences.
Features like introducing the Business Travel Ready programme, the roll-out of Smart Pricing or making sure that every guest uploads a profile photo when creating their Airbnb account, so that hosts know who they’re opening their doors to.
You can read through the full Product Update summary in more detail, here.
After Joe, Chip Conley was joined onstage by Jim. Jim hosts on Airbnb and celebrated his 82nd birthday two days ago. He was born in the USA but since 1976, has been opening his home in Paris every Sunday where he hosts dinner for anyone who wants to come, from friends to total strangers. For him, his home is a space where he can introduce people to each other. Where he can help them meet new people and learn from each other in a relaxed, friendly environment.
This is the epitome of what the Airbnb community stands for.
In an interview in 2009 on NPR, he said “people are the most important part of my life. If I had my way, I would introduce everyone in the whole world to each other.”
Once Jim and Chip had discussed the art of hosting, and the different types of travel – there are two.One is when you travel like a tourist and you see the famous landmarks that all your friends have seen. The other is when you participate in the daily lives of locals. We think we know which one Jim prefers.
During the first Airbnb Open last year in San Francisco, 1,000 hosts from all over the world had dinners together. Mainly hosted by Airbnb employees, these dinners were a chance for hosts to get to know each other better and make new friends.
This year with 5,000 hosts and 630 employees, the Airbnb Open crowd were invited to over 1,000 dinners all around Paris. Some were hosted by local hosts (courtesy of VizEat), and some by local restaurants (made possible by Restopolitan).
Once the dishes had been cleared away, and as the evening light turned to night, it was time to close the Day 1 of Airbnb Open 2015.
But amid the ‘bonne nuit’s, the hugs and the promises to meet for a coffee at the Grande Halle in the morning, there was something different. Something new. A sense of friendship. Of closeness. Of belonging.
That’s what the 5,000 hosts who came together created.
As Joe Gebbia said earlier in the day: “I may have co-founded Airbnb, but when it comes down to it, Airbnb exists because of you.” The same could – and should – be said of Airbnb Open and the magic that it brings.
Stay tuned to find out what happened on Day 2, in tomorrow’s recap here on the blog.