clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Airbnb’s co-founder is creating an in-house design studio to promote stuff like this trippy house in Japan

It’s called Samara.

The interior of a Samara project in Japan, the Yoshino Cedar House.
The interior of a Samara project in Japan, the Yoshino Cedar House.

Airbnb has reached a $30 billion valuation on the strength of its short-term home rental platform, which makes a lot of money.

The next step for Airbnb, however, will involve making money on the stuff its customers do while they travel: shopping, checking out museums and so on. The company plans to roll out something substantial in this area later this year.

But for now, Airbnb will tinker. And part of the tinkering is a new in-house design and engineering studio called Samara, led by Airbnb co-founder and Chief Product Officer Joe Gebbia.

“Samara will give us even more experimental space to apply what we’ve learned over the last eight years and pioneer services for connection, commerce, and social change within and around the expanding Airbnb community,” Gebbia said in a press release.

For a more concrete example of the lofty stuff that Gebbia is talking about, you can go and book the Yoshino Cedar House (courtesy of Airbnb) — a trippy-looking cedar wood house located in a culturally significant rural Japanese village. According to the release, money earned from Airbnbers “will be used to strengthen the cultural legacy and future of the area, which has struggled as younger generations migrate away from rural towns.”

While it’s possible, if not likely, that Samara’s experimentation doesn’t result in many new features or services for most users, that’s not necessarily the point. The idea is that Airbnb is laying the groundwork for becoming an all-in-one travel service, and giving customers as little reason as possible to book their travel stuff elsewhere.

Another example: Earlier this year, Airbnb released city “guidebooks,” hipstery little helpers for tourists in places like Paris or Rome.

The goal?

Getting customers to plan their trips on Airbnb instead of some place like Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor.

This article originally appeared on