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Build a better startup by running lean

Airbnb is now a household name, over the years they've become a powerhouse in the travel sector.

They've disrupted an industry by providing travellers with an alternative to staying in hotels, and also provided a new source of income to individuals with spare rooms and apartments.

Key metrics

When it came to growth, the founders had a very lean mindset and focused on that one key metric that could change things.

It happened to be professional photography.

It all started with a hypothesis.

Hosts with professional photography will get more business.

This is where gut instinct comes into play, they were all pretty confident that professional photography would help their business.

Instead of implementing it straight away, they were smart, they built a concierge minimum viable product.

A concierge minimum viable product is essentially the smallest thing you can build, with the least amount of effort, but still delivers the value you said it would.

A concierge approach is where you manually run things behind the scenes for the first batch of customers, this lets you validate whether the need is real, before writing a single line of code.

Initial tests showed that listings with professional photographs got two to three times more bookings than the market average.

In the early days, Airbnb had 20 photographers out and about taking pictures for their hosts.

Once Airbnb proved their original hypothesis, they took it a step further, they started to watermark their photos to add a sense of authenticity.

Customer service then started to offer professional photography as a service when hosts or potential hosts called.

Each step of the way, Airbnb kept measuring the results and adjusting as necessary.

By 2012, Airbnb was doing close to 5000 photo shoots per month.

Key points

Airbnb had the notion that better photos would lead to more rentals.

They tested the idea with a concierge minimum viable product, putting in the least amount of effort as possible, but still getting valid results.

When the experiment yielded positive results, only then did they build the required components to roll it out to all their customers.

Conclusion

Sometimes growth can come from parts of your business that you'd least expect.

When you think you've got a decent idea, you should figure out how to test it quickly, with the least amount of cash.

You should define what a successful test will look like before you start, and what you're going to do if you're right.