Airbnb’s Joe Zadeh Talks Product Direction And Keeping Things Simple

Airbnb’s had a busy summer. It rolled out an Apple Watch app, hit 1 million guests staying in an Airbnb in a single day, and over the summer Airbnb members hosted 17 million guests.

But the company still has to ensure that it hires the right people who continue to scale up while keeping its products simple. We sat down with Airbnb’s VP of product Joe Zadeh to find out more about the company’s product development culture and where the company is right now.

airbnb watch appZadeh leads Airbnb’s product management team but also led cross-functional product-driven missions for the entire company. He’ll interview everyone that ends up on the product management team, and then spends his other time working with cross-functional groups to move initiatives forward. One of his latest tasks, for example, is making the booking process really simple.

The company now has around 300,000 instant booking listings, Zadeh said. Hosts need to have confidence that they can trust guests, so they are working to make the process as frictionless as possible. Airbnb’s worked on tools like personalization for hosts. Airbnb’s algorithms, for example, can understand if hosts prefer long stays over short stays.

The whole product development process starts with hiring people who can grow “as fast if not faster” than the company. What works today is not going to work a year from now, Zadeh said, meaning Airbnb has to be careful that each person they hire can keep up with how the company changes over time.

Airbnb’s Apple Watch app is a good example of the whole process. During the app’s development, once again had to focus on simplicity. The result was an app that was centered around communication between hosts and guests — where the development process was about keeping out features rather than including them.

“It’s still in its infancy but it’s a great tool to keep people connected with less friction,” Zadeh said. We didn’t do the watch just to do the watch. It’s in service for the human connection.”