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October 2, 2014

Airbnb’s Brian Chesky on Regulation

“I think that we want to be regulated [because] to regulate us would be to recognize us,” says Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky in a recent video from the Aspen Ideas Festival talks. “What we don’t want is a blanket prohibition.”

Airbnb, which allows people to rent out their properties to travelers, has been the subject of regulatory scrutiny, and Chesky says its understandable, given the way technology is changing the economy. “What happens when people can create not only content, but industries?” Chesky says. “So I understand when governments look at this and they say whoa whoa whoa, hold on.”

There should be discourse, he said. But he said that if he goes on vacation and rents out his home, he shouldn’t be viewed as a hotel, get a series of inspections, and be designated as a limited liability company or as a corporation to rent out his place for the weekend.

He later said that sharing-economy companies can sometimes be better at “high level screening” than the government and described how he thinks the relationship between these companies and the government should work when it comes to screening:

I think what government should do is set a framework for what the screening is. We should abide by what general screening looks like. There should be a general kind of universal commercial code of  standardization  for all these different categories. Then city-by-city that last 10 or 20 percent can be changed for that city. But for us to go 34,000 cities and do this process is probably gonna become unsustainable.

And government will always be there for a “last recourse,” he said.

In New York, the company recently agreed to hand over an anonymized version of data to the state’s attorney general that had been subpoenaed.

  • Paul McKelvey

    There is no reason to learn the same lessons over again when we have such a good reference record. Unregulated industries go through growing pains that are largely avoidable. For example, the ad hoc hiring of a car for transportation in ride-sharing arrangements is inherently financially risky for the driver and passengers. When a driver is acting as an operator, there must be minimum qualifications for the driver. Insurance is needed to protect the driver and passengers. Law needs to be written to spell out the liabilities of the driver and passengers in this type of arrangement.

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