The China Startup Pulse

The Making of Airbnb’s China Dream with Sean Pan, Former Head of China Operations at Airbnb

Episode Summary

Airbnb, undeniably the world’s most popular vacation rental online marketplace, just went public recently. In just days, Airbnb’s valuation has exceeded $100 billion and now eclipses even some of the world’s largest hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. This episode is a blast from the past, where we revisit our conversation with Sean Pan, the former Head of China Operations at Airbnb, who had overseen the transformation of Airbnb’s strategy, management system, and branding in China since 2015 when the company only had 6 employees! Today, China has become one of the most important markets for Airbnb where the company is seeing exponential growth. Airbnb, or Aibiying, as it is better known in China managed to not only survive in the China market but also growing from strengths to strengths, something that most international startups have failed to do when they enter China. In this episode, Sean mentions one of the key obstacles confronted by many foreign companies who want to localize in China is the communication problem between the global and China team. How did Airbnb manage to successfully tackle this issue? What efforts does the company put in to build internal trust?

Episode Notes

Airbnb, undeniably the world’s most popular vacation rental online marketplace, just went public recently. In just days, Airbnb’s valuation has exceeded $100 billion and now eclipses even some of the world’s largest hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt.

This episode is a blast from the past, where we revisit our conversation with Sean Pan, the former Head of China Operations at Airbnb, who had overseen the transformation of Airbnb’s strategy, management system, and branding in China since 2015 when the company only had 6 employees!

Today, China has become one of the most important markets for Airbnb where the company is seeing exponential growth. Airbnb, or Aibiying, as it is better known in China managed to not only survive in the China market but also growing from strengths to strengths, something that most international startups have failed to do when they enter China.

In this episode, Sean mentions one of the key obstacles confronted by many foreign companies who want to localize in China is the communication problem between the global and China team. How did Airbnb manage to successfully tackle this issue? What efforts does the company put in to build internal trust?

Show Notes:
[01:26] Introduction to Sean
[05:33] The Philosophy behind Airbnb’s office in Beijing
[06:30] Building and maintaining Airbnb’s unique Culture in China
[08:09] How to foster a commitment to China from the global Team?
[12:00] Key finding for Airbnb’s success
[15:38] Managing the relation with head-quarters
[16:12] Evolution of Airbnb’s China strategy
[18:03] Creating a China-specific brand
[22:38] Challenge foreign entrepreneurs are facing in China
[26:00] Is there an opportunity for foreign companies in China?

Many thanks to our guest Benjamin Qiu; host Oscar Ramos; producers  Eva Shi and  Sagar Chaudhary; editor David; organizer Chinaccelerator; and sponsor People Squared. Be sure to check out our website www.chinaccelerator.com

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