company culture

How to build a strong company culture, from an ex-AirBnB employee

company culture
We recently came across this brilliantly insightful article from an ex AirBnB employee who shares their experience working for one of the best and most popular employers in the U.S, AirBnB.

There’s loads in there about what makes AirBnB the successful, innovative business that they are. The bit we’re going to focus on here, however, is culture.

AirBnB are an online marketplace for people to list and book accommodation around the world. Founded in 2008 by roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, they’re now estimated to be worth $35 billion, with 3,100 employees as of 2017 and offices in 21 different cities around the world from San Francisco where they were founded to Beijing, China.


Why focus on culture?

A great culture creates a competitive advantage, which allows the company to attract the best talent and build the best team. Whether its cool rituals designed to bring everyone together or clear values that employees connect with, building a culture has loads of advantages. Why would a company like AirBnB be so obsessed with company culture if it wasn’t so important?

So, how can you build a strong company culture?


It begins at the top

According to this ex-AirBnB employee, the founders were obsessed with culture. They have been since day 1 and this has been crucial to the company’s success.

As the company grew, each new hire bought into the culture and the founders’ values. New hires that followed then joined a team of people who embodied this culture, thus buying into it themselves. As the company grew, so did the culture.

Not every company prioritised culture in the way that AirBnB did from the very beginning, but this doesn’t discount the importance of culture stemming from those at the top of the company.

It’s never too late to start, however it can be a challenge implementing a culture several years down the line. That said, implementing a strong company culture will always be a challenge for any business, but the rewards make it more than worth it.


company culture


Strong core values

Around 3 years into the company’s life, a small task force was put together to create a set of core values. Those core values are used when measuring success and evaluating performance.

They’re also used in the recruitment process. All candidates are vetted against the company’s core values to ensure that all new recruits buy into the culture, thus strengthening it. Every employee can recount the company’s core values.

These values are clearly another crucial pillar of the culture at AirBnB. Building a team around a strong, clearly defined set of core values can be incredibly beneficial for any company.

How you define those values depends entirely on you and your company. It could be that you double down on your core competencies and incorporate those into your core values, or it could be that you feel a completely new direction is needed, thus developing a completely new set of core values.



Examples of rituals at AirBnB include Cookie Time Tuesday, New Hire Tea Time, a hosted bar and human tunnels. They might sound simple but they’re a great way to bring employees together, strengthen bonds and generally create a great environment for your employees.

There’s loads of room for experimentation with rituals. Try a few new ones and stick with the ones that work and the ones your employees love.


The main things to consider here are:

  1. Leaders set the tone, a strong culture stems from the top
  2. Set strong core values and embody them
  3. Create and experiment with rituals that bring your team together


Building a strong culture can be a challenging, time-consuming thing but the rewards are well worth it. It’s been crucial to AirBnB’s success in the 11 years they’ve been in business, proving that it’s not just a buzzword or a trend that will eventually die off. AirBnB’s culture has been 11 years in the making and their founders believe it will be crucial to their success even 100 years from now. They maintain that while in 100 years AirBnB may be much more than an online marketplace for accommodation, the culture will remain.


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