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How Airbnb does things that don’t scale

13. Mai 2020

Sometimes you hear crazy ideas as a product manager and think that’s impossible. The lesson, Colleen Graneto learned at Airbnb, is: This is the point at which you should ask the question: How might this be possible? And then work backward from there.

Product Management at Airbnb

The housing platform is famous for its philosophy of doing things that don’t scale. This mantra goes back to Airbnb’s early days at Y-Combinator. When the founders learned that the quality of images had a significant impact on which places got booked, they took matters into their own hands. They went out to their hosts and helped them personally by improving their offerings with better pictures. The lessons they learned influenced the final product in a big way and how the platform was conceived. 

This recipe is still at work at Airbnb, says Colleen Graneto at our DL Summit 2019. Colleen had worked on the “Experiences” platform of Airbnb before she moved into the payment department. Before the experience feature was launched, Airbnb sent out employees, that vetted offerings in ten different cities. It was only later that a quality scoring algorithm took over. Now, Airbnb has scaled to tens of thousands of experiences. 

“When you start small, it is very surprising what can be possible.”

In her fireside chat with DL-founder Stefan Vosskötter, she encourages product managers and product designers to go out on the streets and do unusual things. Another example from Airbnb: During the ideation process for experiences, people from Airbnb went out on the streets of San Francisco and asked strangers, if they could arrange a tour through the city for them. 

Videos from these encounters showed the rest of the company how impactful the idea was for everybody. That helped everybody to align themselves behind the idea and move the project into the next phase. 

About Colleen

Colleen is currently a product manager for Airbnb’s Payments Platform. She also teaches product management, scrum, and agile at General Assembly. Previously she also led product development in the Experiences business. Enabling highly effective teams is at the core of Colleen’s career. 

In her role at Airbnb, she is transforming the platform infrastructure and refining the product development methodology, so that new business growth can happen fast. Having worked for B2B- and B2C-products alike, Colleen has a unique understanding of what is necessary to launch products that resonate with users. Many agreed, which helped the product designers to get a better understanding of what users would expect from booking an experience on Airbnb.

LinkedIn: Colleen Graneto, Stefan Vosskötter

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