AirBnb Can Rewrite the Rules of Remote Work In an Instant and the Connected Graph With It.

Prior to the pandemic I had a product called DeskHoppa, the idea was simple, desks by the hour. I dislike working in coffee shops for a couple of reasons. Firstly, privacy, I’ve had too many people peering over my shoulder and looking at what I was working on, secondly I can’t conduct a proper phone call in a noisy space. The last reason, security, nothing like watching a MacBook Pro or other expensive computer being lifted and bolting out of the building.

The idea of being able to rent a desk for an hour or two was compelling to me, and as it turned out a few others. Keep in mind this is before the pandemic but during the dizzy, cult like, ascension of WeWork. I was proud of what I achieved, surge pricing for desk space. Yup had that.

Then the pandemic hit…..

The Great Desk Reset

It was interesting to watch how attitudes shifted in work, but also to see how commercial landlords had leveraged themselves with setting up competing workspaces.

I’ve seem online desk booking systems come and go, some good and some not so good. It doesn’t matter to me at all. I hope they all do well, I know where I’d rather be, out of it. It’s a volume game and as it’s a marketplace venture you need the volume on both sides of the equation. Customers looking for somewhere to work against a healthy supply of hosts to feed the need. That doesn’t take into account the needs of the customer, likes and dislikes. Yeah I had collaborative filtering in mine as well…..

I should take a leaf from Judith Duportail and write, “Desk by Algorithm”.

What About AirBnb?

It makes sense for AirBnb to make a play on the desk space whether that’s in an office, a co-working space or a home. Once you break things down, whether it’s a home, a room, a desk or a swimming pool, everything reduces down to a single entity and whether you can lease it out for a period of time. And AirBnb have the leverage to partner with the local coffee chains, and other retailers, to drive in-store incentives.

Last week they made their first move, not by addressing it directly but by allowing users to check the Wifi quality of the host while searching in the app.

“One of the really big changes is for millions of people they’ve been untethered from where they have to work,” says Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. “They can go anywhere, and work anywhere. There’s a sense of freedom that people never had before.”

And I think this will be part of a bigger move. Like I said earlier, marketplace startups are very hard to do. It’s a high volume, low margin game and the cost of acquisition happens twice, for customer and for host.

The next stage is office space, especially existing office space. AirBnb have the insurance negotiations to withstand claims from visiting customers or claims from hosts, most startups can’t withstand that initial outlay for insurance costs. They, AirBnb, have the infrastructure, the algorithmic nonce and ability to reach millions. Makes sense to me and it will keep the post IPO shareholders happy too.

From Door To Desk

From the basics of desk renting, it opens up the whole travel graph (Yes, I did this too called TravelGraph oddly enough), connecting all the dots and edges from leaving the house, travelling and finally sitting at your desired workspace (with tea in hand). Concerned about the air quality in the office? OpenSensors already do environmental measurements for office space.

I want to work in Faro, the question is, how from BFS?

Now we have a semantic, searchable graph of everything travel and work related, it could increase from there. Know someone who’s looking for a difficult to find item, become the courier (I’m a big fan of Pabbler), or looking for an experience, then ViaVii could connect in too.

Endless possibilities.

Sitting on the Edge…

We’re not at the start of the work revolution, it happened years ago. The focus has changed though since the pandemic, everyone was forced to pause and think about where and how they worked. And now at this point, it gets interested.

Who needs the metaverse, the real world is far more interesting!

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Jason Bell

Specialises in synthetic data and automated brokerage. Author of two Machine Learning books for Wiley