If you’ve travelled in the last five years, chances are you’ve used Airbnb to find accommodations. For an explorer like Alexander Mimran – he once visited 60 cities during a nine-month stretch – the opportunity to work for a company whose beliefs were in line with his own was a major win, and allowed him to merge his professional life with a personal passion.
After creating two start-ups (a successful online diary service and a file sharing platform), Mimran caught the eye of Airbnb, who quickly acquired Mimran and his team. Now working as the principal designer for the world’s largest community-driven hospitality company, Mimran facilitates adventure for others. We caught up with Mimran and chatted about startups, why travel is such a big part of his world and company culture at Airbnb.
Kit and Ace: How did Airbnb discover you?
Alexander Mimran: I founded two companies. The first one was Penzu, which started during the Web 2.0 craze before Evernote or anything like that existed. I was helping other people keep their thoughts online in a diary form. It has continued to grow alive and now has over two million users around the world. Minbox was another company that I founded four years ago. It’s a file sharing service and collaboration for creatives that helps merge disparate cloud files into a single and sharable space. That's the one that Airbnb acquired.
KA: It’s such a booming company. I think a lot of people are interested in what it’s like working there. What’s the culture like?
AM: It's extremely energetic, youthful and open. Everyone here is intelligent and versatile – the best of the best. The culture is heavily emphasized as being the biggest driver of their success. Not only are people kind and humble – reminds me of home! – but work extremely hard to make an impact in the world.
KA: That kind of energy must be exciting.
AM: Totally. It's a hyper-growth company. From the size of the company to seeing what they're going through right now and being a part of it, it’s pretty awesome. And the offices are beautiful. It's a design-led and founded company. They understand design and everyone has an appreciation for it. That was definitely a plus for me.
KA: What was it like going from running your own start-ups to joining major company?
AM: I thought I would be working less than I was at a startup, but I'm actually working way more [laughs]. I'm working with designers, product managers, content strategists and engineers pretty much all day. I’m helping lead a talented team of designers who were previously at Google, Facebook, and Ideo—so it’s humbling, and I’m learning from them every single day.
KA: Does working for a company that is so travel-oriented appeal to you?
AM: Totally. One hundred percent. One of the company’s core values is "Embrace the adventure." I definitely feel as though it's aligned with my own values. I did a huge trip to Asia, maybe five years ago, where we covered 60 cities – all in southeast Asia – in a period of nine months. I lived in the middle of a jungle in Bali, explored mainland Thailand and took trains through different parts of Vietnam. I spent over a month in the desert in India. Just craziness. It was eye-opening.
KA: Where would you go next?
AM: That's a good question. I'll have to do Europe, properly. I went when I was younger, did the main tourist traps, went backpacking, but I didn’t really see it. That was 15 years ago. I'd love to go back and get a different lens on it. Go to different parts of Greece, which I've never been to. Basically boat around the Mediterranean, I think that'd be pretty cool. I have a three-month -old newborn, and as she gets older we're going to start doing some travelling.
KA: Working in such a fast-paced environment, what are you looking for out of your clothes?
AM: You don't want your clothes to get in the way of what you're doing. As I'm moving around a lot throughout the day, I want to make sure that I'm not hot or constricted. I don't want to feel uncomfortable – it's essential.
KA: What would you say is the best part about your work?
AM: I'd say the challenge and the fact that I'm learning so much and learning from an incredible organization of people. I'm on the Host and Homes side of things here, where we're focused on bringing more people, more hosts, and more homes into the Airbnb platform. We’re truly changing the world every day and it’s exciting.