Disruptive Leadership and Changing People’s Minds with Nate Blecharczyk and Samaira Mehta
This week’s World Reimagined podcast includes two leaders uniquely positioned to discuss disruption and innovation. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Disrupting an industry takes more than just new ideas and a desire to shake things up. It takes vision, passion, and relentless innovation. And sometimes it means more than just changing the business landscape; it means changing people’s minds. How can leaders harness disruption to build a business that creates change? How can they convince customers to come along for the ride?
In this episode, host Gautam Mukunda speaks with Airbnb Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Nate Blecharczyk and Founder and CEO of CoderBunnyz, Samaira Mehta about the challenges associated with changing people’s perceptions to create industry-defining disruption.
It's important to use those mistakes and those failures as building blocks and reapply them to create a path that will lead you to success.Samaira Mehta
If you’re persistent enough to keep trying, then all that learning will pay dividends in the long run.Nate Blecharczyk
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Guest Information for Disruptive Leadership:
Nate Blecharczyk is the co-founder of Airbnb, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chairman of Airbnb China. Nate plays a leading role in driving key strategic initiatives across the global business, particularly those which require a combined understanding of the business, product, and data. Recently he oversaw the creation of the Airbnb City Portal, an industry-first software solution that addresses the needs of cities relating to short-term rentals. Previously Nate oversaw the creation of Airbnb’s engineering, data science, payments, and performance marketing teams.
Nate holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Harvard University. As a guest, Nate has stayed in hundreds of homes using Airbnb and he is also a Host in San Francisco, where he lives with his family. Nate and his wife Elizabeth are signatories to the Giving Pledge.
Samaira Mehta is a 14-year-old Tech Entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, California who was recognized by TIME as “One of the 8 Young Leaders Shaping the Decade” and a “Real-life Powerpuff Girl” by Hulu for her invention “CoderBunnyz” – a board game that simplifies complex coding concepts and teaches them in a fun farmyard adventure. Samaira is also the founder of “CoderMindz” – the world’s first-ever Artificial Intelligence board game that simplifies the intricacies of how AI works, and “CoderMarz” which brings together her love for coding and AI with her interest in outer space and Mars.
Mehta is a Davidson Fellow, Gen Z ambassador for Arm with their program GenArm2Z, works with the United Nations for gender equality, is a Softbank Masason Scholar, and was a finalist for the first ever “Kid of the Year” presented by TIME and Nickelodeon. She was featured on platforms like Vogue, CNBC, CNET, Business Insider, Today Show, UN Women, and Washington Post for her creations and 500+ workshops that she and her team have led, which spotlight her board games, through which she has taught over 15,000 kids to code.
She has been a speaker at over 100 conferences nationwide and internationally including at MWC’19, C2 Montreal, and corporations like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel, SAP, Walmart, and IBM. Her STEM initiative “Yes, One Billion Kids Can Code” and entrepreneurship academy “Boss Bizz” are ambitious but that’s not her only goal. She wants to become President of the United States when she’s older, giving her a bigger platform and voice to do what she believes is right for the country.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
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Gautam Mukunda (00:16):
Which is harder to change, someone's world or someone's mind?
Nate Blecharczyk (00:22):
The idea of hosting a stranger in your home is probably not intuitive to most people.
Samaira Mehta (00:28):
I never really set out to create any form of disruption, I really just set out to solve a problem.
Nate Blecharczyk (00:34):
Failure is simply a learning opportunity.
Speaker 5 (00:40):
World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world, an original podcast from Nasdaq.
Samaira Mehta (00:48):
Women bring so many new perspectives, new points of view to the table, the creativity, the compassion, the collaboration.
Gautam Mukunda (01:08):
What could this be someday? An empty house has so much potential. Should the couch go here or over there? Do we want to put the big comfy arm chair into that nice sunny corner or put the plant right in the window instead and see how big it can get? Well, I don't know what to make of all these weird, tiny cabinets, but I'm sure there's something we can do with them. Of course, every new place has rooms with fairly specific uses. You probably shouldn't put a mattress in your kitchen, say, or a dining room table in the master bath. But for the most part, when it's a blank slate like this, a home could be anything, even the beginning of a revolutionary business.
Nate Blecharczyk (01:57):
First of all, this was a empty bedroom. It didn't even have a bed, but we set up an air bed and instead of calling it a bed and breakfast, we called it air bed and breakfast.
Gautam Mukunda (02:07):
Nate Blecharczyk is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Airbnb. When he and his roommates, turned co-founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia started up in 2007, they weren't trying to change the hospitality industry as we know it, they just wanted to make a few bucks back on their rent over a busy weekend in San Francisco, but they were also paying close attention to what happened next.
Nate Blecharczyk (02:31):
We put up a simple blog post advertising very affordable accommodation for the weekend. We actually got inquiries and three different individuals ended up staying there. One was a 35-year-old woman from Boston, another was a father of four from Utah, and there was a man from India. I guess we were expecting guys like ourselves, guys in their 20s. And so, we were immediately kind of struck by the fact that this was a diverse group, individuals with very different backgrounds than ourselves needing a place to stay.
Nate Blecharczyk (03:03):
Once they stayed, we all hung out together. Joe and Brian introduced the guests to their friends, their networks. And so, it ended up being not just a way to pay the rent or a way for them to save money and have a place to stay, but it really became this kind of social experience where friendships were formed. And so, that was how it all got started. But from there, we thought, well, this was such a win-win, maybe there are other people in other situations where the same arrangement might work. We recognized though to do that, we would have to overcome that stigma of how do you trust a stranger. And so, that was really then when we focused in on solving that specific problem, but we've kind of stumbled into it not because we had done a business analysis, but because we were solving our own problem.
Gautam Mukunda (03:49):
Nate and his co-founders had discovered a new way of thinking about unused space in their apartment. But in order to capitalize on it, they had to change the way people thought about strangers. In much the same way that this space could either be an office, a gym or a spare bedroom you rent out for a little bit of extra cash, the world is full of people who could either trash your home if given half the chance or become your new best friend. Changing the way people see each other was one of the first challenges Nate faced as a leader. It's not an easy one, especially when the person you want others to see differently is yourself.
Samaira Mehta (04:31):
I think this was one of the most eye-opening stages in my journey because I always thought I was perhaps too young to create change, but I never saw it in action until this time.
Gautam Mukunda (04:46):
Samaira Mehta started leading coding workshops as an elementary schooler. Then, she founded CoderBunnyz in 2016 at the age of eight, which, for those following along, makes her one year younger than that original Airbnb. She was motivated by a desire to share her passion for coding with people her own age, but she soon found out it was more than just her peers that she needed to persuade.
Samaira Mehta (05:11):
I never thought that people would actually say no to me, or they would reject me because of my age or because I'm a young girl. And so, I had to learn about this sort of societal perception of young kids, of young girls, and I had to persist through that and I had to prove them wrong, and I had to say that just because I'm seven, just because I'm a girl, it doesn't mean that I can't do something somebody older than me would per se be able to do.
Gautam Mukunda (05:40):
Even though they're in different fields and a handful of years apart, Nate and Samaira absolutely have one thing in common. When it comes to being a leader, both of them are disruptive. It seems like every innovation and every company are described as disruptive nowadays, but that's actually far from the truth. Disruptive innovation was a theory created by Clay Christensen and most things that are described as disruptive actually aren't.
Gautam Mukunda (06:06):
When we think of innovations, we think of faster computers or televisions with higher resolution. Those aren't disruptive. They're what Clay terms sustaining innovations, technological improvements that enhance the types of performance that the market has historically rewarded. Sustaining innovations push the technological frontier outward. They're the bread and butter of what companies do. But disruptive innovations are very different. They usually perform worse at the characteristics the market has previously rewarded, but in exchange, they're less expensive, more convenient or easier to use.
Gautam Mukunda (06:44):
Disruptive innovations don't appeal to the most demanding and most profitable customers. Instead, they appeal to low-end customers who don't need the higher performance provided by sustaining innovations. Over time, sustaining innovations allow these disruptive innovations to get better, appealing to more and more customers until they take over much or all of a market. Because disruptive innovations appeal, at least initially, to the least profitable customers, they pose an exceptionally difficult challenge for incumbent companies, which are focused on developing innovations to appeal to their most profitable customers.
Gautam Mukunda (07:21):
Airbnb is a classic disruptive innovation. When they first launched, if you could afford a nice hotel, you'd never consider an Airbnb, but if you couldn't afford a hotel, someone's couch was still a lot better than nothing. Then, over time, they moved up market.
Gautam Mukunda (07:38):
Samaira's coding workshops are similar. They're not a course at MIT, but they're not supposed to be. Their audience is completely different and often overlooked. We often talk about disruption as something companies are trying to do, but it's more often the emergent result of their choices, not the goal they were working towards. When these two founders set out to start their businesses, being disruptive was far from the front of their minds.
Samaira Mehta (08:07):
I truly believe that being able to change young people's attitudes and their mindsets towards computer science, I think through my inventions, is one of the most disruptive parts of my career. The youth who once thought that coding was boring and hard are now developing real world solutions using the power of code because they enjoy it so much. Going back to what I said about my inventions, I invented CoderBunnyz, CoderMindz, and CoderMarz, and these are essentially board games that have simplified complex coding and AI concepts in mechanisms that kids as young as six years old can understand, and more importantly, enjoy.
Samaira Mehta (08:49):
My board game CoderBunnyz simplifies complex coding concepts. These are concepts that could be as basic as sequencing, conditionals, functions and repeat loops to more advanced concepts like stacks, queues, lists, parallelism and inheritance. CoderMindz on the other hand is the world's first ever board game that teaches the concepts of artificial intelligence. Through a fun adventure, AI concepts such as training and inheritance and adaptive learning and autonomy are made more understandable.
Samaira Mehta (09:19):
Then, moreover, I would also consider disruption to be my integration of computer science and AI education in entertaining ways within schools and library systems across the world through the worldwide outreach that I've been able to carry out. I've held over hundreds of workshops, teaching thousands of kids how to code in exciting ways through my creations. I believe that the real disruption is the accessibility and simplicity of coding and AI tools.
Nate Blecharczyk (09:52):
For myself, certainly the idea of hosting a stranger in your home is probably not intuitive to most people, certainly wasn't 14 years ago. I think that the ultimate disruption here was creating the necessary trust to build a real industry around this. The funny thing about it was myself and two co-founders, we got into this simply by solving our own problem, not with any notion that we were being disruptive or even understanding this issue of trust, we were simply trying to pay our rent.
Gautam Mukunda (10:26):
Disruption doesn't have to mean bursting through the doors of an industry like the Kool-Aid man. I mean, sure, you could rip out all the walls on the first story of your house and make the entire thing an open concept, but that sounds like a lot of trouble for not a lot of reward. Disruption can be subtle and simple, like changing the way people think about something you love.
Samaira Mehta (10:48):
I never really set out to create any form of disruption, I really just set out to solve a problem. Of course, that is how a lot of the disruptions start out and that's how a lot of the entrepreneurs start out. They have a problem or they see something and they think I can do that better. And so, as a six-year-old, to me, this problem was a pressing issue that my friends didn't enjoy coding as much as I did. At the time, I couldn't really find many fun tools, nonetheless board games that would make coding engaging. The few that were existent were not thorough enough in teaching to code.
Samaira Mehta (11:29):
I went on to develop my own entertaining and comprehensive board game through which I could prove to my friends how fun coding can be. I'm very grateful for all the disruption that I've been able to make with my creations now practically changing the perspective of many young people. Many of these changed minds have been through my workshops, but when I first started holding my workshops, I noticed that very few girls were attending the coding workshops that I was teaching.
Samaira Mehta (11:58):
I began to hold workshops dedicated towards girls only to make them feel more welcome, because through firsthand experience, I know that when girls sort of see themselves in a room filled with other girls doing the same thing, they're all motivated and lifted up believing that they all can achieve this big goal. But circling back to the question, I don't think any of my disruption was intended, rather they were driven by a sense of solving problems. I saw a problem and I felt as though I could do something to help combat them.
Nate Blecharczyk (12:32):
I absolutely agree. Oftentimes, people ask, "How did you have the confidence to kind of stick with the path you were on when people didn't really get it?" Certainly in the beginning, they didn't get it, this idea of a stranger staying in your home. I think the answer is simply twofold and she said it well. You're having fun while you're doing this. You're kind of pursuing your passion. Again, we didn't create a proper business plan when we set out to do this. We had simply been trying to solve a problem one weekend and then we kind of ran with it, largely because the three of us were good friends and wanted to work on something together.
Nate Blecharczyk (13:04):
Then, the second bit is as you go through the motions and you start having impact and you see how it impacts people, that's what gives you the faith that you're onto something when you know the kind of impact that your product is having on people's lives. You understand that better than anyone on the outside. As long as you don't lose sight of that, you can understand why someone who isn't as close to it as you might not yet understand. But if you yourself have been that close to the impact, it can give you a lot of confidence.
Gautam Mukunda (13:34):
Disrupting an industry is more than just coming onto the scene with a bunch of new ideas and a willingness to shake things up. To hear Nate and Samaira talk about it, it can happen almost by accident, a product of unique experiences and intense passion. What's tricky isn't changing the business landscape, it's changing people's minds.
Samaira Mehta (13:55):
I think that this sort of ideology or maybe that a preconceived notion that people may have about coding is something that's hard to change because, it's the way that they have been thinking for a long time and that's why one of my biggest schools was to be able to simplify coding and make it into a board game. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a board game? To make it into a way where people do enjoy it. A lot of that was getting feedback from people like my friends, the people who will be using the game, the people at that younger age and constantly using their feedback to improve. From your target audience constantly taking feedback from them and always reapplying that feedback into your work was one of the best ways for me to keep going forward.
Gautam Mukunda (14:45):
Nate, you, I think, faced a challenge that while it's not obviously similar, I actually think is deeply similar, you had to take someone and get them to open their home to a stranger. I'm sure you've seen this joke on the internet, that in the '90s, it said, don't get into cars with strangers and don't meet people you'd meet on the internet. Now, we call someone on the internet to get into their car. You had to do it with their homes. And so, I think you had to shift this preconceived notion of the home as a place that you keep strangers out into one that you welcome people in.
Nate Blecharczyk (15:15):
Yeah, absolutely. The common thing people would tell us is that, "How can I trust a stranger?" One of our early hosts had an interesting answer. He said, "A stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet." We would do these experiments when we were meeting with investors and other folks early on when they said, "How are you going to solve this trust problem? How can you trust strangers?" Well, we said, "Okay, you wouldn't share your home with just anybody, but would you share it with somebody that you went to school with? Would you share it with someone who is in town for this reason?" The minute you started to contextualize it and it became clear kind of this is a real person who's maybe not so different from yourself, people become much more comfortable than in the total abstract.
Speaker 5 (16:04):
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Speaker 6 (16:13):
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Gautam Mukunda (16:47):
In 2016, Jonas Kaplan, a psychologist at the University of Southern California used an MRI to measure the activity in people's brains while they were fed statements that contradicted their view of the world. When presented with contrary arguments to general knowledge statements such as Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, their brains were relatively calm. But when presented with arguments that ran counter to deeply held political convictions, there was a marked increase in a part of the brain known as the default mode network, as well as in the amygdala. The first one regulates notions of identity and the second one controls negative emotions.
Gautam Mukunda (17:24):
In other words, our brains are wired to perceive contradictions to our beliefs as personal attacks. This is one reason why negative stereotypes and normative roles persist in society long after most of us can agree that they've outstayed their welcome, but it also explains why it's hard to persuade someone of something really important, because the simple act of exposing us to new information can feel like an attack on our basic sense of who we are. The downstream effects of our inherent slowness to come around are something Samaira is very familiar with.
Samaira Mehta (17:57):
I think it is really hard to change people's preconceived notions, especially about young girls, about young kids. It's really hard to change that. And so, going back to what I said way earlier about fewer girls attending my coding workshops, at first, this was extremely surprising, but now, I look back and I think I can understand why, because the thing is girls don't inherently lose interest in STEM fields, but rather I think it's something that builds upon time.
Samaira Mehta (18:27):
When I was five years old, I wanted to be this scientist when I grew up. And so, my dad gifted me a big science kit for my birthday and it was the best present that I'd received. I spent a lot of time working on projects from those science kits. I created slime and I learned about polymers and I created soda geysers and I learned about chemical reactions. I built model airplanes and I created these card tracks out of cardboard. I love creating.
Samaira Mehta (18:53):
I think, like me, approximately two-thirds of girls are interested in science until the fourth grade. However, something happens in middle school that leads to a sharp decline for girls' interests in STEM. I think that this is because, by just about the fourth grade, a girl has seen enough of the world to know what society wants her to do. This is reflected in the places that they visit the most often, such as the girls toy aisle. In fact, even if we just take a moment to picture it, picture the girls toy aisle, we probably imagine something pink, aisles filled with dolls and princesses. This is a perfect example of societal gender bias and expectations because from a young age, we girls are taught to like princesses and be them.
Samaira Mehta (19:42):
While there's nothing wrong with this, girls have so much more potential. I truly believe that this ideology is not a biological trait because I grew up loving science and engineering, but rather, it's a cultural norm. It's a example of the discrimination based on gender that's embedded in the regulations of society, but it's almost always been this way, like forever. Nothing has changed because our world today almost always favors the status quo. It favors the existing conditions and the preconceived notions. I truly believe as we circle back to the question that changing that mindset, changing those preconceived notions are by far one of the hardest things to change.
Gautam Mukunda (20:28):
The legendary psychologist, Dean Simonton, looked at leaders in a wide variety of fields and assessed their capabilities and cognition. What was the strongest predictor of success, he found? Their cognitive complexity, the extent to which they were able to interpret the world as a large number of interrelated variables. To be a good leader, you need to look beyond the simplistic interpretation of the world and see what your customers and your team can really bring to the table regardless of their background. But you also need to do away with, or at least examine very, very closely, the notions you have about yourself as well, especially your relationship with one of the topics leaders are often most reluctant to discuss, failure. Because if you want to do something big, you have to be willing to fail. If you don't want to do something big, well, what's the point of spending your life on small things? After all, as the great John Lewis always said, "You only pass this way once. You got to give it all you can."
Nate Blecharczyk (21:31):
Look, doing this is not without risk and risk means risk of failure. One thing I've learned over the years as I've done many projects and kind of many attempts at business, even outside the scope of Airbnb is that failure is simply a learning opportunity. And so, if you have that mindset, if you accept the fact that even if you fail, you're going to learn in the process and if you're persistent enough to keep trying, then all that learning will pay dividends in the long-term.
Nate Blecharczyk (22:01):
And so, that's another thing I like to tell people who are nervous about whether it's going to work or not. I mean, it is a good question, but as long as you're confident that you're going to learn something in the process, and as long as you're confident that you have a long time horizon in terms of applying those learnings to your career, to your entrepreneurship, then it's going to be time well spent.
Samaira Mehta (22:22):
I definitely agree. I think that I look at it like mistakes are proof that you're trying. Only the people who will work hard, who will go for it are the people who are going to make mistakes. It's important to use those mistakes and those failures as building blocks and reapply it to create a path that will lead you to success, but it always takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of persistence and a lot of patience. The whole process may take longer than you think. You may have to change your path, you may have to modify or change the goal, but you definitely don't have to give up. I truly believe that all of the persistence and hard work will always pay off.
Gautam Mukunda (23:02):
I know, Clay once told me when he was encouraging me to do a research agenda that most people did not think was wise, but he said, "Look, at least if you fall, at least you're still moving forward."
Samaira Mehta (23:11):
Gautam Mukunda (23:13):
Changing the way we, as leaders, look at failure is important because it changes the way we look at ourselves and our experiences. By recontextualizing the decisions we made that didn't go right by changing our perceived notions of what it means to fail, we not only disrupt the way we view the world outwardly, but the way we look inwardly too.
Nate Blecharczyk (23:34):
The first year was very difficult. One of the mistakes we made during that period was we were kind of optimizing for growth and not product market fit. Said another way, we thought we were building an internet business and therefore, the answers were about writing code and driving signups, incentivizing signups. After the first year, we got accepted into a program called Y Combinator, a very famous now kind of accelerator program for new companies.
Nate Blecharczyk (24:06):
One of the first pieces of advice that we got from Paul Graham who's one of the founders was that it's okay to do things that don't scale. I know you're trying to build an internet business, but it's okay to do things that don't scale when you're trying to find product market fit. More specifically, you should actually go out and meet your users. Again, as an internet business, you can't meet every single user as you scale, but in the early days when your users are in the dozens or hundreds, there's no reason why you can't go out and meet them.
Nate Blecharczyk (24:36):
That was counterintuitive to us because frankly, we didn't have the money to even buy a plane ticket. But with that encouragement, we scrounged up the money and we were flying to New York and we were trying to meet every single user we had in New York and there was only about 50 of them. It wasn't a large number. It was a feasible number. And so, I think one of the learnings we had during this period was to meet your users. It's okay to do things that don't scale, even though you're trying to build up an internet business, and in doing so, and meeting your users, you can perfect the product market fit. You can more quickly have a feedback loop where you're getting insights from customers and iterating on the product, whereas we had otherwise been trying to create basically incentive schemes, coupons, and affiliate programs to drive traffic into a product that fundamentally wasn't where it needed to be.
Gautam Mukunda (25:31):
I love to find kind of similarities between my two guests. What struck me here is that each of you has approached, what you just said, what I think of as one of the greatest challenges of leadership, which is understanding people who are different from you. That Nate, you used a series of technological and social solutions to try and understand people who didn't necessarily think a stranger is a friend I haven't made yet, and generate in them those change, to put yourself in their shoes.
Gautam Mukunda (25:58):
Samaira, you did that with board games. To understand, you were able to put yourself into the shoes of people who weren't like you and then use that understanding to help them in a pretty powerful way. Do you think about that deliberately? Do you have a strategy where you're like, "No, this is how I try to understand someone who's very different from me"? Or is it an intuitive process?
Samaira Mehta (26:17):
I think for me, it's more of an intuitive process. I see somebody who may not agree with me, who may have different beliefs than me. When it comes to coding, it's like they don't enjoy coding or they think it's boring or it's hard or it's frustrating. Then, there's people like me who think that coding is fun. It's where you can create your own solutions and build your own games and apps, or at least as a seven-year-old, that was my mentality. It was this process of well, can I make it fun for them? These are some of my best friends who think that coding is hard and boring and here I am truly enjoying this process. Is there a way that maybe I can make it fun for them so that we can code together, we can create these apps and games together?
Samaira Mehta (27:04):
And so, it was the process of taking something that my friends already did like, which were board games and through that, proving to them how fun coding can be. And so, I took this complex intricate thing called coding and I basically dumped it onto a board game. I took the concepts behind how coding works and I sort of intertwined that into an adventure through which my friends would be playing a board game, but as they move the certain steps or as they played their cards, they'll be learning about various concepts that are applicable in real world computer science.
Samaira Mehta (27:46):
And so, it was this process of just, hey, my friends don't like coding, I like coding. Can I do something to make it fun for them? This process of wanting to be able to connect with some of my favorite people and make something that I love so much something that they can love so much as well.
Gautam Mukunda (28:05):
Great leaders challenge us to question our views of the world, our projects, and ourselves. I wanted to know who had done that for Nate and Samaira. Who in their lives had most impressed them and why?
Nate Blecharczyk (28:19):
Well, there's two actually, and they're my co-founders, Joe and Brian. I say that because, I mean, obviously, the three of us have created this company and gone on this remarkable journey over the last 14 years and all three of us are still fully engaged in the company, but I honestly don't think any of this would've happened had any one of us not been a part of the team. I think there's just this incredible complementary nature to what we each bring. I really believe no one person has it all.
Nate Blecharczyk (28:49):
My background, as I mentioned earlier, is in engineering. I'm great at building things and kind of all things technical, but my two co-founders are designers by background. And so, we've often said that our relationship is kind of a marriage between art and science. Even the two of them are quite different. Ryan is kind of incredibly kind of bold in his thinking. He always makes you ask for a 10X what you think you can do and pushes you, but in doing so, brings out your best. Joe just brings incredible kind of compassion to any undertaking and perfectionism, really wanting to understand the end user, how it holistically impacts them and apply that.
Nate Blecharczyk (29:27):
I've got to say that these different perspectives actually lead to a fair amount of conflict, especially in the earlier days when things weren't going well. We often disagreed, but we very quickly also realized that by finding compromise, by finding the intersection of our three different views, that that middle ground always represented kind of the best path forward. And so, I've learned so much from my two other co-founders and I think it's a big part of the success of Airbnb.
Gautam Mukunda (29:56):
Well, thanks so much. Samaira, same question for you.
Samaira Mehta (29:59):
I think, I've gotten the opportunity to meet or encounter so many influential people throughout my few years, but I'd still say the most influential people in my life would definitely have to be my family. My dad was the one who introduced me to coding in the first place. And so, really, none of this would be possible without him. My mom is one of the coolest people I know. She's a rehabilitation counselor. She basically gets to help people improve their lives and overcome challenges for a living. She always helps me learn and grow as a person while making sure that I'm always taken care of.
Samaira Mehta (30:38):
My parents have always given me the liberty to do whatever I wanted. They never really established any rules in the house, rather they led by example. They never taught me to be bold or to be kind or to be compassionate, rather they were bold kind and compassionate. Those traits were picked up by my younger brother and I. Speaking of my younger brother who's 10 and however annoying, he's truly an influential person in my life. He's funny and he's an amazing soccer player. He always lets me test out my new ideas on him. All of my inventions have meaningful edits made to them due to his feedback. I honestly don't know where I'd be without all three of them.
Gautam Mukunda (31:21):
Thanks so much for that. Samaira, just saying, this is forever, so your younger brother will be able to use this against you at any time in the future.
Gautam Mukunda (31:34):
If you've ever shopped for a house, even for fun, you've probably noticed how frequently they're staged. Realtors will set up homes as if someone was living there already because research shows people are more likely to buy a place if they can picture themselves in it. But if the chairs and tables and artwork are already arranged just so, are you seeing the house or are you seeing how someone else sees it?
Gautam Mukunda (31:58):
Admittedly, there's something daunting about a truly empty home. A blank slate has a gravity to it. It's easy to see the future when it's bounded by customs, or history, or couches. All the changes are on you and other people, be that your family, your roommates, or your team will know it's your decisions that shaped the way things are. But an empty house is also an opportunity for innovation, for creativity, and by looking at it as a fresh start, you can see beyond other people's preconceived ideas and make something new. What this place is, what it can be is entirely in your control.
Gautam Mukunda (32:42):
After all, most people probably thought they knew what air mattresses and coding workshops were too. Maybe this house would be better with a window in that far wall, or without the kitchen island, or a whole new vegetable garden where the backyard used to be. It would take work. It would certainly be disruptive. But if you want something that feels like home, you're going to need to embrace that blank slate.
Speaker 5 (33:17):
World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world, an original podcast from Nasdaq. Visit the World Reimagined website at nasdaq.com/worldreimaginedpodcast.
Speaker 7 (33:31):
Gautam Mukunda does not speak on behalf of Rose Park Advisors, LLC, or any of its affiliates and is not soliciting investments or providing investment advice.