Skift Take

With Airbnb's backing, Joe Gebbia is pursuing new ventures. He — and his voting power — is still very much involved with the Airbnb board.

Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, who saw his role diminished in recent years, announced he will “step back” from his “full-time operating role” at the company.

Gebbia, 40, who co-founded the company with Brian Chesky and Nate Blecharczyk in 2008 in San Francisco, will remain on the board and continue to serve on the non-profit Airbnb.org. He was reelected to the Airbnb board of directors in June for three years, and he wields 21.4 percent of the company’s voting power.

Gebbia had served as Airbnb chief product officer until several years ago, when he transitioned to Airbnb.org to work on refugee issues. He chairs Airbnb’s in-house design studio, Samara.

Former Airbnb head of global hospitality and strategy Chip Conley, during a keynote address at a Destinations International conference in Toronto Wednesday, said Gebbia called him that morning to let him know he was leaving Airbnb. An Airbnb spokesperson Wednesday declined to comment about the news.

In his letter to Airbnb employees Thursday, Gebbia wrote: “It’s been an incredible journey I’ve joyfully traversed across my 20s, 30s, and now into my 40s. Yet, like any traveler, I often find myself wondering what else there is to explore. After great consideration, I’ve decided to step back from my full-time operating role at Airbnb.”

Gebbia said he will become a dad, and will work on a “complementary product to Airbnb, documentary filmmaking, and various philanthropic initiatives. I’m looking forward to sharing more about these with you soon.”

Gebbia didn’t have much of an operational role at the company in recent years. He chaired Samara, Airbnb’s in-house design studio, and chaired Airbnb.org, which is officially an independent non-profit, until June when head of hosting Catherine Powell assumed that role.

In a move that didn’t get much publicity, Airbnb said in April it transferred “tangible personal property and intellectual property” to a newly formed company where Gebbia is the majority shareholder in exchange for $2.5 million in future equity. Airbnb is also providing two short-term leases as workspaces to Gebbia’s new company.

Pre-pandemic, Samara under Gebbia launched an initiative called Backyard to build some sort of accessory dwelling units or pre-fabricated properties potentially as a means to further homesharing.

Of the three co-founders, Gebbia has been known within Airbnb as the heart and soul of the company.

“Joe is the soul of the company,” Conley told Skift as part of The Definitive Oral History of Short-Term Rentals. “But Joe and Brian have more in common with each other (than Chesky and Blecharczyk). Where I think Joe is really helpful was when Brian was getting too much focused on the business and not enough focused on the culture.”

The three co-founders have a series of nominating and voting agreements to ensure they continue to direct the board’s major decisions. They agree to cast their votes for one another in board elections and to vote against efforts to dislodge them.

Between them, the three co-founders control 72 percent of the company’s voting power.

While Gebbia transitioned out of the role of chief product officer several years ago, and Blecharczyk, who headed Airbnb’s efforts in China, lost that portfolio in May when Airbnb announced it was removing its listings in China.

Tags: airbnb, airbnb.org, founders, startups, vacation rentals

Photo credit: Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. He announced he will cease his operating role at the company. Airbnb