Don’t steal culture: letter from CEO to Airbnb team

Original author: Brian Chesky
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Translator's note : I ask you to excuse me if for someone the title seemed too crude, but I thought it necessary to make the translation as close to the original as possible (Don't fuck up the culture) in order to convey the original message of the author.

I once sent one letter to our entire Airbnb team. I decided to publish it with the idea that it could be useful for young companies in building their own culture.

Hello team

Our next meeting is dedicated to the fundamental values ​​that are necessary for building our culture. It occurred to me that before this meeting I should write you a short letter about why culture is so important to Joe, Nate, and me.


After the end of the next stage of financing in 2012, we invited our investor Peter Thiel to our office. It was at the very end of the year, and we showed him different metrics of the team. In the middle of the conversation, I asked him how the most important advice he could give us would sound.

To which he replied: "Do not steal the culture."

This was not exactly what we expected from the man who had just invested $ 150 million in our business. I asked him to clarify this statement. He said that one of the reasons he invested in us was our culture. But he also held a somewhat cynical point of view that as soon as a company reaches a certain size, this culture will inevitably be “poher”. “Hmm, somehow it sounds depressing,” I thought then.

It turns out that we were ultimately doomed to “steal our culture”? In the course of further discussions, it became clear that it is still possible to protect and strengthen it. But this was to become one of our most important goals. To myself, I thought about how many company executives are primarily focused on culture? Does it belong to the list of the most important indicators that they study most closely? Do they spend the lion's share of their working hours every week on this?

Culture is just a way to do things cohesively and enthusiastically.

Our culture is the foundation of our company. Maybe they will quickly forget about us after our departure, and after a hundred years, Airbnb will definitely not remain a website for booking accommodation. In our evolution, we will go much further (not to mention the fact that after 100 years, grandchildren will ask their grandmothers what websites are).

It is culture that is what will stand the test of time, as we could see from the experience of companies with a century of history. It forms the basis for all future innovations. Destroying the culture, you break the machine that produces your products.

So how do we build a culture?


Supporting our core values ​​in everything we do. Culture is thousands of things, thousands of times. These are the basic values, adhering to which you hire people to work, write letters, work on the project. These are the values ​​with which you come to work. Thanks to our values, we have the strength to build a culture. We also have enough strength to betray its values ​​by betraying values. Each of us has such an opportunity to do so, and this is a heavy burden.

Why is culture so important to our business? I will describe it simply. The stronger the culture, the less the company needs to strengthen the "corporate spirit". When culture is strong, you can trust everyone in the firm belief that they will do the right thing. People can be independent and independent. They can be adventurous. And if our company is entrepreneurial in spirit, then we will be able to reach the stars. Have you ever noticed that people in families and tribes do not need “corporate development”? The reason for this is the strong bonds and culture that replace it. In organizations (or even in a society) with a poor culture, you need to establish many clear rules and procedures.

There are days when you can easily feel the pressure of our increasing expectations. Periods when we need to launch a product. And also the time when we are dealing with bureaucracy-related problems. And all this is addictive. And all this is very important. But compared to culture, all this is relatively short-lived. These problems come and go. But company culture is forever.

About the Author: Brian (Brian Chesky - Airbnb Co-Founder & CEO)

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