“In order to scale, you have to do things that don’t scale.” — Reid Hoffman

This episode is a showcase from Masters of Scale, one of the few podcasts I recommend repeatedly to entrepreneurs. It’s a conversation between LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman (@reidhoffman) and Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky (@bchesky), and it focuses on how you can scale your company by, paradoxically, doing things that don’t scale.

This is, in some ways, part two of my conversation with Airbnb’s co-founder Joe Gebbia (which you can check out here). I also highly recommend subscribing to Masters of Scale, which just began its third season and features interviews with founders of Spotify, Instagram, TaskRabbit, Shake Shack, and Glossier, among many others.

And if you’re looking for a companion piece to read with this episode, I can recommend none better than 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly).

Please enjoy this short conversation between Reid Hoffman and Brian Chesky, with a few cameo appearances in the mix.

#326: Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Brian Chesky of Airbnb, and How to Scale to 100M+ Users


Want to hear another podcast with an entrepreneur who understands the meaning of “traction?” — Listen to my conversation with Bryan Johnson, the rags-to-riches philosopher who founded Braintree, which was bought by eBay in 2013 for $800 million in cash. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#81: The Rags to Riches Philosopher: Bryan Johnson's Path to $800 Million


This podcast is brought to you by Audible. I have used Audible for years, and I love audiobooks. I have a few to recommend:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  2. The Tao of Seneca by Seneca
  3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  4. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

From now until July 31st, 2018, Amazon Prime members can get Audible for just $4.95 a month for the first three months ($14.95 per month after). To claim this offer, go to Audible.com/Tim or text TIM to 500500 to get started.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Reid Hoffman:

Masters of Scale | LinkedIn | Greylock Partners | Twitter

  • Connect with Brian Chesky:

Medium | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


  • The 2008 PR campaign that turned things around when Brian and Joe of Airbnb were in dire need of a lifeline. [06:43]
  • Brian gets his hands dirty (and burnt) for the team. [08:35]
  • “In order to scale, you have to do things that don’t scale.” Reid introduces the program. [09:18]
  • Y Combinator’s Paul Graham reminds Brian of an important lesson he’d forgotten between design school and Silicon Valley: to design with empathy. [11:14]
  • How the Airbnb founders immediately put this lesson into practice. [12:59]
  • How these early personal visits with hosts gave Airbnb its roadmap. [14:29]
  • Passionate feedback from early users is one sign you’re doing something right. But you need to separate the wheat from the chaff to turn that feedback into growth. [15:12]
  • A thought exercise for increasing the distance word of mouth travels when people talk about your business: how many stars would this experience be worth? [17:18]
  • What are the two stages of a start-up’s product, and which one should be scaled first? [20:15]
  • How Brian decided on what to scale first. [21:16]
  • Input from Airbnb’s Ellie Thiele about how they began to automate for scale and build features that users really wanted. [21:39]
  • How Stripe’s Patrick Collison and Kayak’s Paul English personally weighed customer feedback in the early days. [23:19]
  • Thoughtful founders may look back on these early days with mixed feelings, but they’ll often consider them their career’s most creative phase. [24:41]
  • Nancy Lublin founded Dress for Success out of her New York City Apartment as a clothing drive to help women interview confidently for jobs. [25:11]
  • Two opposing mindsets required for the transition from the handcrafted phase to the massive scale phase — think of the difference between writing and editing. [26:01]
  • The non-glamorous work that goes into making the adjustment from one phase to the next. [27:42]
  • The importance of maintaining the handcrafted mindset no matter how big your company gets. [28:50]
  • Looking to reinvent an industry? Get orthogonal. Airbnb peered outside of hospitality and found inspiration from cinema. [30:00]
  • What are the essential ingredients for a perfect trip? Here’s a master class in finding the answer by handcrafting. [30:51]
  • Using this handcrafted experience to create a blueprint for operating on a global scale. [32:49]
  • Brian’s surprising message for early-stage entrepreneurs worried about traction. [34:36]
  • Reid’s closing good news for early-stage entrepreneurs. [35:21]


Source: Ferris