Company Culture and Building a Team, Part 1

Alfred Lin, Former COO, Zappos and Partner, Sequoia Capital; Brian Chesky, Founder, Airbnb talk about the importance of building company culture and building a team around core values. Lecture starts off academic and then picks up at 11m25s with Brian Chesky interview.


  • Alfred Lin introduces lecture, covers culture
  • 53s – what is culture, why does it matter, core value worksheet, elements of high performaing teams, best practices for culture
  • 1m11s – what is culture? Everyday core values and actions of each member of the team in pursuit of our company mission.
  • 2m44s – why does it matter? “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Ghandi
  • 3m10s – first principles, alignment, stability, trust, exclusion, retention
  • best companies to work for also best performing
  • 4m52 – core value worksheet
  • honesty, integrity, service, teamwork, … go deeper level of description
  • elements of high performing teams (results, accountability, commitment, conflict, trust)
  • mission to values, thnk deeper about values, interview for culture fit, evaluate performance on culture as well, make it daily habit
  • 11m25s – airbnb, Brian Chesky Q&A
  • airbnb background
  • core values: champion the mission, (mission: belong anywhere and bringing people together)
  • london riots story
  • 23m30s – creative and frugal: obama o’s; captain mccain
  • 27m22s – how has strong culture helped make tough decisions
  • 1) culture not talked about, 2) hard to measure, 3) long term results (not short term)
  • 32m40s – culture and brand 2 sides of the same coin
  • no such thing as good culture or bad culture, just strong culture or weak culture
  • if you have strong culture, the brand will come through
  • talk about what we value, without that you become utility and commodity
  • 35m22s – how to communicate what company does
  • “forget hotels, save money with airbnb” – too limiting, “travel like a human”, lots of story telling
  • role of CEO: 1) articulate the vision, 2) develop strategy, 3) hire people to fit the culture = company
  • 37m40s – how do hosts reinforce culture? super host level, host convention, apply to list, getting more rigorous
  • 38m28s – open source contributions: a result of culture and hiring, bottom up
  • 41m41s – how did they get users to site in early days? “better to have 100 users love you than 1,000,000 who kind of like you” -PG
  • visited and lived with users, make perfect for one person, then scale
  • on demand photography network
  • 46m10s – is airbnb a tech company or marketing? payments company, trust and safety, regulatory problems (34,000 cities), search and discovery
  • in 190 countries (all but north korea, syria, iran, cuba), 40,000 homes in Paris, offline product, design

Additional Reading



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