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Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky, & Joe Gebbia 

CO-FOUNDERS, AIRBNB

I think yesterday was 10 years since I left Starwood Hotels, and ever since I left, I was trying to think if I was going to do another hotel brand after I started with W Hotels. It had to have more than just an economic proposition; it had to be meaningful and interesting. There are a lot of issues with hotels, one of which has to do with the Internet age. Guests are not as loyal as they used to be. They can shop around so much more easily, and also there’s the turnover of employees. Turnover of employees is something like 60, 70 percent in hotels. So how do I build something interesting? A brand that has meaning, a brand with a purpose?

I had been on a panel with Snoop Dogg and Blake Mycoskie from Toms Shoes about entrepreneurship, and I was intrigued with this social responsibility model that Blake had come up with, giving away pairs of shoes with each shoe you buy. And I thought, “Well, why don’t we do something for the environment?” Because my kids were doing environmental-science classes, and I really think it’s our responsibility to protect the earth for future generations, I came up with 1 Hotels. And I named it “1” because it’s one world; we’re all responsible for each other. I had to figure out how we were going to reflect that in the hotels. Obviously we’d try to do stuff that was as natural as possible, and our employees would now be part of a cause and not just a brand. But I think our guests would self-select, and they’d say something about themselves by coming to 1 Hotels.

I took a lot of heat on the name. But I stuck with it because of the message that we’re trying to portray and the simplicity of it. I think too often everything we do is too much. Nature is about the right balance and that’s what we’re trying to strike in our design.

From the start, the design aesthetic [of 1 Hotel in Miami] was to make it light, make it bright, and make it clean. Celebrate nature, use as many reclaimed materials as you can, work with what was really not a very attractive building. It’s like a butterfly, right? It’s sort of ugly, and then it comes out of its cocoon and is beautiful. We actually had butterflies in the lobby. They were in cocoons, they’d hatch, and we’d let them go. And that’s kind of what the building was. It closed its doors, cocooned itself for about a year and half, two years, and then we opened up. People love this design aesthetic. I think that we have a mission, and if everybody copies us, I’d be really happy about that. —As told to Roxy Kirshenbaum

 

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