News Article | April 14, 2016
Fast Company editor Linda Tischler died Monday after a long illness. Linda started at Fast Company in 2000 and pioneered the magazine's design coverage at a time when few, if any, mainstream publications paid attention to design. Through her exuberant stories on everyone from architect Michael Graves to industrial designer Yves Béhar, she highlighted both the business of design and the importance of design in business. It is much to her credit that design has evolved into a core business practice, embraced by companies large and small. Here, we asked colleagues and friends to share memories of Linda.—Eds. Gadi Amit, founder, NewDealDesign I met Linda at a Fast Company event, when the economy was in a rut. At first, I was quite shy about approaching her, but we started chatting and when I suggested that we should pay more attention to design for the middle class—and less for the 1%—she lit up. With her warmth and intelligence, she said, "Okay, why don’t you do that? Write something!" The whole discourse around the democratization of design—Linda had a huge role in that. She always had a social conscience. Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design, Museum of Modern Art I have great memories of Linda in many different places—at MIT's Media Lab and at the Aspen Ideas festival, at MoMA at my marathon events and at evening panels with young designers. Everywhere, she was my kindred spirit, holding the design flag high with intelligence, open-mindedness, and generosity. Everywhere, her eyes pierced the air like curious, bemused laser beams, crowned by her bob that reminded me of my favorite Italian singer when I was a child. She was a force. She loved design and was able to explain it to all, very simply, honestly, and elegantly. I will personally miss her tremendously, and so will the design world. Rinat Aruh, cofounder, aruliden Linda taught me about what really mattered. Not just about design, but about friendships, business, and people. She always had to time to listen, looked out for me and gave the most appreciated feedback—straight to the point without any fluff! She was our biggest champion, constantly encouraging us to keep doing what we do while sharing her point of view with enthusiasm and humor! I will miss her dearly. Caroline Baumann, Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum LINDA=LIGHT. Linda Tischler spread light through her magnetic personality and that one-of-a-kind smile, and her unique embrace and celebration of design. She illuminated minds with the way she wrote and talked about design, and encouraged teens year after year to pursue careers in design at Cooper Hewitt’s Teen Design Fair. She was an irreplaceable model for them and for all of us—to share positivity, excitement and generosity. We miss you Linda. Yves Béhar, founder, fuseproject Through great times and tough ones Linda was a force with a smile. She was understanding and inquisitive, always curious about the world. I will never forget those qualities, and aspire to them. A couple of years ago, we spoke on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival—it was fun and entertaining, it was just a solid human conversation about design and life. And this moment reminded me of how every conversation with Linda was always just that: a human story at the center of design. All of us designers are lucky she applied her talent and wit to design. I am lucky to have known her. It aches to say it: So long Linda. Dror Benshetrit, founder, Dror In 2002, I launched my design practice as a hopeful 25-year-old and shortly thereafter, met Linda. To this day, I count our meeting as one of my luckiest stars. Growing to become a supporter, mentor, and friend, she has been a pivotable force in my career, and I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom that holds true. In any instance, whether it be through her Fast Company articles, book with David Butler or speaking engagements, she radiated kindness, positivity, and love. Linda, I will miss you. Tim Brown, president and CEO, IDEO Linda was a great advocate for design thinking. My best memory of working with her was at the opening address of Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative conference. She was going through chemotherapy at the time, but you would never have known it. We were both sitting in the green room feeling very out of place alongside President Clinton, Queen Rania of Jordan and Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank. But once we got on stage we relaxed in each other's company and had an inspiring conversation about the role of design in social innovation. Her willingness to stand up for design in business and society, even when she was going through her own health challenges, was a great example for all of us. Design will miss her voice. Ken Carbone, founding partner, Carbone Smolan Agency Every designer owes Linda their deep gratitude. Linda was a courageous champion for all design disciplines and no one expressed the value of what we do better that her. Through her brilliance, curiosity and generous spirit, her influence on design and business was nothing short of singular. Beth Dickstein, founder, BDE If you're lucky, you get to work with good people. If your luckier, you get to make a great friend. I was luckier, as Linda and I were great friends. One I will miss tremendously. Her brilliance, humor, generosity and warmth were always there. When her illness was getting worse, I said, "I'll pray for you everyday." In her wonderful witty way she said, "Okay, better put it in overdrive, baby." I know the industry lost a dynamo, a straight shooter, a true journalist. Her family lost an irreplaceable force. I lost an amazing and caring friend. Tyler Gray, former editorial director, FastCompany.com I took over Linda's office at Fast Company when she stopped coming in. I remember finding the bottom drawer meticulously organized with clips and past issues of FC. I stacked them up and barely moved them because it felt like she was the steward of our archive. When people came in to ask about something we'd covered I half pretended it was me who kept that archive—not sure if anyone actually did other than her. The fib only stretched so far, though. She had dog-eared pages and Post-it notes on issues she clearly referred to often. Most people, including me, wouldn't have the patience today for that kind of thing these days without some sort of digital interface with search capabilities. Linda was a rare breed who could straddle the digital and analog worlds, with a mind that could slipstream through either. She commanded the respect of designers and architects and artists and brands—without ever seeming like she was relenting to anyone's will than he own. I've spent the evening reading through old emails we shared. I found this one, after she learned about her cancer, about the same time I learned about my mom's. "This stuff is scary as hell," she wrote, then referenced a Boston cancer institution. "When they handed me my little blue Dana-Farber card I thought, 'Shit! This is a club I never wanted to belong to!' but there you have it, and I guess you have to play the hand you're dealt. I'm going to give it my best shot." Walter Herbst, professor, Segal Design Institute, Northwestern University Like all who met her, it was an instant love affair. Linda visited our Management program in Product Design and Development at Northwestern University, some years back, which started it all. I invited Linda to speak at our annual design event, Design Chicago, which I knew came at the same time as the Milan Fair. She quickly shot back, that she had seen enough chairs in her life, and agreed to come. She captured the entire audience, which included our own design and development master’s students as well as our Kellogg MBA’s, our engineering students, as well as the president and the Deans of the university. Her influential talk may have led to what Northwestern University has now—"Design" as one of our pillars. We were always checking in, and she was always finding time to talk about our kids and of course design. I will miss her, as will everyone who knew her. David Kelley, founder, IDEO and Stanford d.school Most people know Linda for her hugely generous support of design. But what not everyone may know is how her work connected people. She was the first to break the story of my cancer publicly in a piece she wrote in 2009 about design thinking. For her to tell the story in such a caring, thoughtful, sensitive way helped me have the conversation with others. Her writing engendered so much empathy. People shared their stories with me, and I bonded with those who’d gone through it themselves. Knowing how difficult that experience was, I admired Linda’s strength in soldiering on and not making a big deal about her own illness. In the piece she wrote, she quoted me about the moment we started calling ourselves design thinkers: "I'm not a words person, but in my life, it's the most powerful moment that words or labeling ever made. Because then it all made sense." Linda was a words person, and what she wrote changed the world of design, and lives like mine, too. Judy Klavin, president, Kalvin Public Relations Nobody covered the intersection of design and business the way Linda did. We started working together in 2008 when I arranged meetings for her with my design firm clients. Before the meeting, we’d spend hours reviewing story ideas that we thought for sure she’d be interested in. Then she’d zero in on a completely different angle or something she saw on a designer’s desk that caught her eye. And, the story she’d develop and write was always smart and engaging. Shortly after, she was recruiting design leaders to be guest bloggers on the inaugural FastCoDesign site. She had a gift for encouraging the creative community to articulate their vision and bring it to life. I am so grateful for her friendship, honesty, insight and determination. Thank you, Linda, for uncovering so many stories that might never have been told. We all learned so much from you. Cliff Kuang, founding editor, Co.Design Linda was a giant. Our readers today often remark how Fast Company has brought design into the realm of business and innovation; Linda pioneered that ideal as an editor here in the early 2000s. Moreover, she kept with it. Through the relationships she cultivated in the profession, she helped make the very first iterations of FastCompany.com into a platform for designers to be heard. And it was because she believed in the power of design, and she believed in the optimism inherent in making the world a little bit better with the things you do every day. All of us at Fast Company, who've found our careers bringing design stories to the world, owe Linda a debt. Hopefully, we can repay it by continuing the work. Stuart Leslie, president, 4sight Inc. Conversations with Linda about design were always the highlight of my day and I looked forward to each one. Her enthusiasm in understanding the unique angles she was exploring was contagious and left me energized, thinking differently about design each time. What a rare treat it was to be able to escape the day to day routine and have a few minutes of thought provoking discussion to remind me of all the reasons I became a designer. Bruce Nussbaum, writer The truth is, I did not know Linda personally but professionally. She was my only real competitor covering the juncture of business and design, and I followed her work obsessively (because she kicked my butt consistently). So much written about Linda focusses on her warmth and humanity, and I'm sure that's true. But the Linda that was in my life was the killer journalist who had the best sources and wrote the deepest analyses of the most important design issues of the moment. She saw design in terms of relevance to people and tools to solve social problems. I saw Linda's immense humanity through the lens of her work. She made me a better journalist and a better person. Clive Roux, CEO, The Society for Experiential Graphic Design Few people from the media understand the role of design like Linda did. That's a fact. However, what is perhaps less understood is the role Linda played FOR designers. She was trusted. We're ideas and picture people. Words escape us usually. Linda had our back there. What made her stand apart was that she did not view design as another topic to be milked. She really believed in the power of good that it could do in the world. Danielle Sacks, senior editor, Inc. The first time I encountered Linda Tischler was through her words. I was 25, and had just started my first journalism job as a lowly fact checker at Fast Company. I was fact checking a colorful profile on Howard Dean’s campaign manager, Joe Trippi, written by a senior writer at the magazine—Linda Tischler—who I had yet to meet. I was taken with the story’s attitude, its writerly flair. I needed to meet this Linda woman. Little did I know that Linda and I would soon become fast friends, despite the years between us. She became the person I decided I wanted to become when I "grew up." As a young writer, she always took me seriously as a peer, even though I was learning what she had already been doing for decades. When she began immersing herself more deeply in the design world, she let me pick up the pieces of the advertising beat, which she had once carved out for herself. But she graciously relished in watching me take it on, and we’d gab endlessly about stories and reporting strategies and industry scuttlebutt. She was able to do what very few writers can—she wrote just as she spoke. When you read her work, you could hear her whispering in your ear—her sharp sense of humor, her wit, her word choices, her energetic voice always filled equally with edge and compassion. She’d pluck a word out of thin air that wouldn’t reveal pretension, but her dimension, her worldliness, her many selves as a lover of language, of culture, of the arts. And she was timeless, ageless. Her stories had the hipness and energy of a twentysomething, with the depth and perspective of a much wiser soul. She could go head to head with anyone—and you’d want to be a fly on the wall to watch. Thirteen years since we first met, Linda is still the woman I want to be when I grow up. She managed to raise two children whom she was fiercely protective of, become a grandmother (albeit, too briefly), a domestic goddess and a feminist, and a successful career journalist who left the field different than she found it. She has helped me navigate my journalistic career with two young kids, just as she did. She has been an incredible friend, making me laugh even during her darkest days with cancer. From a hospital bed, she managed to turn the most mundane, ugly moments into a rollicking, laugh out loud story. It’s hard to imagine a world without another Linda Tischler conversation. Chuck Salter, senior editor, Fast Company For years, I had the best seat at Fast Company’s New York offices: the one next to Linda Tischler. Our friendship traced back to the magazine’s early years, when we bonded over our newspaper backgrounds. But we had always worked out of different cities. In New York, we became next-desk neighbors. Hearing Linda do countless interviews gave me a deeper appreciation of her craft—how she tirelessly developed and worked her design beat, how quickly she thought on her feet to dig another layer deep, and how she treated people. No wonder her subjects trusted her enough to open up: She was fearlessly human—candid, curious, funny, empathetic. Long before facing cancer herself, she wrote memorably about the professional and personal impact of the disease on the designer Michael Graves and IDEO’s Tom Kelley. Linda was a generous spirit in a business that’s often competitive and territorial. She shared sources, story ideas, an honest critique — and so much of her time. Her gushy emails when she connected you to a source could make you blush. As anyone who knew her will attest, Linda was a force. A veteran journalist wired with the energy of a 25-year-old. A critical and creative thinker. A prolific and elegant writer. A devoted friend. My inbox is filled with emails that start more or less, "How are you?"—after a big story, the birth of my son, my mom’s heart surgery. Being friends with Linda made you almost like another beat that she followed with the utmost attention. I will miss her terribly. Fortunately, her voice remains, not just in her stories, but in our wonderfully rambling email conversations over 16 years. In recent years, although I knew she was often struggling with chemo or pain, she sounded as vibrant and irreverent as ever. In December, she joked that the implant she was getting for pain might let her stream the new season of "Transparent." Cancer took her life but not her soul, and definitely not her humor. She wouldn’t let it. That much was clear from one of her earlier notes to me following her diagnosis: And later, from another note: That was, and to my mind, will always be, Linda. Ravi Sawhney, founder, RKS Linda Tischler was such an incredible person, one of the truly inspirational, loving, insightful and passionate ones. There was a certain spirituality in Linda that I always wanted to be close to and valued dearly. She showed incredible strength and optimism as she battled her cancer, never giving up. I feel blessed to have crossed paths with her, to have become friends, and to have had many conversations about life, design, politics, and mortality. There are those who not only touch your life but somehow become part of the fabric of your world. Linda was such a person, as all her friends and family would tell you. She’ll be so dearly missed. Leslie Smolan, founding partner, Carbone Smolan Agency Linda Tischler was my design hero. She could also be called a design aficionado, advocate, supporter, inquirer, explorer, groupie, devotee, maniac, evangelist and connoisseur. She loved design and designers. And she loved to tell the world about us — what we do, why we do it, and why it matters. Losing Linda means we’ve lost an incredibly important voice in the ongoing dialogue about design. And we’ve lost an incredibly kind and generous friend. Bill Taylor, cofounder, Fast Company I’m sure that many of the tributes to and remembrances of Linda will focus on her wit and smarts, her mastery of design, and the legacy of articles and books she left behind. But as I have reflected over the last two days, saddened and stunned at her passing, I thought back to that often-repeated quote from Maya Angelou: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I will never forget how Linda made me, and all her colleagues in the early days of Fast Company, feel. She was an essential part of Fast Company during the crazy boom times, she was there for the dark and challenging down times, and she was my office next-door neighbor for a chunk of that time. Every single day, she was one of the few grown-ups in an organization filled (professionally speaking) with gangly adolescents. To many of the young people on the staff, she was a mentor and a sounding board. To me, she was a peer, a pal, a trusted colleague to whom I looked for advice and reassurance. Linda exuded a sense of quiet strength, of emotional and intellectual maturity, that is all-too-rare in the world in general, and in the world of media in particular. Those times when I would stroll into her office, pull up a chair, and say, simply "Do you have ten minutes to talk through something?" were some of the best times of my week. Truth be told, I can’t remember much of what she said in those conversations so many years ago, or what I did as a result of them. But I remember like yesterday how they made me feel. And I feel so blessed to have known and worked with Linda. Rick Tetzeli, editor-at-large, Fast Company When I came to Fast Company in 2010, I arrived with one question: Why does this magazine spend so much time on design coverage? It didn't take me long to figure out the answer, thanks to Linda. Editing her stories, and listening to her patient, humorous, skeptical, and good-natured explanations, I came to understand that the best design writing shows readers how gnarly problems get solved creatively. Linda had been doing this for years—she was a real pioneer. But she was wide open to telling those stories in new ways. One of my favorite experiences with her was working together on a story about architect Bjarke Ingels. As we discussed Ingels, she talked about his energy, his intellectual agility, his almost superhuman capacity for complex projects across the world. We decided that the best way to tell the story was through a comic strip, and the result was one of the freshest things I've worked on at Fast Company. The story delighted Linda, who loved the challenge of continually expressing herself—and highlighting work she deeply admired—in new ways. At its best, Fast Company encourages original thinking across creative enterprises. Linda lived this. My daughters attend a school that's just a couple of blocks from Ingels' recently completed apartment complex on West 57th Street in Manhattan, which was featured in our comic strip. In the midst of that dreary neighborhood of glass blocks, Ingels' building stands out for its angular optimism, a bold, light and unusual burst of energy. Kind of like Linda. We will all miss her deeply. She had spirit to spare, and we are lucky she shared it with us. Alissa Walker, writer, Gizmodo (via Facebook) Even if you didn't know Linda Tischler you very likely read one of her stories in Fast Company over the years. She was a true champion of the design industry, introducing this sometimes complicated world to the mainstream press and explaining its importance in an incredibly accessible way. She was also a great friend and mentor to me in those early days of my writing career. I will never forget her pulling me aside at one of Fast Company's first design events—after she had moderated a panel with her signature quick wit—and telling me that us ladies in design had to stick together. I will miss reading her work and knowing she was always on my side. Alan Webber, cofounder, Fast Company Everyone knows that magazining is a team sport. That’s even more true in the early days of a magazine, when it takes everyone on the team to figure out what it is you’re trying to do, not only in the pages of the magazine when it comes out, but also in the creation of the ideas that go into the magazine, the culture of the office where there’s no substitute for good energy, all the things that create magic and sustain it. That was Linda. She got it. She relished it, for the very first moment of the first day. It was like she’d been invited to be one of the hosts of the very best party you could ever hope to throw or attend. You could see it in her smile, her enthusiasm for the whole venture/adventure. Infectious energy, unstinting generosity, unlimited colleagueship—and of course, remarkable talent, curiosity, work ethic, and heart. One of the early tenets of Fast Company was that a great organization needs leaders at all levels. Linda was a leader—without seeking a leadership role. Sure, she was smart and able and good at her job. But the thing about Fast Company was, it never was all that clear what your job was, except to demonstrate every day that we were all in it together, and that none of us was as smart as all of us—and she was one of the people who lived that and made it happen. A magazine is the people who put it out. We were incredibly fortunate to have Linda to help put it out. I loved her then and I will always love her. If you'd like to share a story about Linda, email slabarre at fastcompany dot com.
The Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro formed an impressive backdrop for the Recharge Thought Leaders Roundtable Recharge’s latest Thought Leaders Roundtable in Rio de Janeiro brought together 45 leaders of the local and international wind industry at the city's Museum of Modern Art, setting the tone for the following three days of debate at the Brazil Windpower Congress – the largest wind event in the country.
News Article | December 11, 2015
Welcome to our second special Friday Tabs. Today, Kyle Chayka is here to fill us in on the world of the arts. Kyle is a freelance writer for places like Businessweek and The New Republic, and he started a journalist co-working space called Study Hall, which you should definitely check out if you’re a freelancer in NY, or maybe anywhere. Every December the art world gathers in Miami for a bacchanal of capitalism called Art Basel Miami Beach, which is not just one art fair, but a metastasizing crowd of them, with more tents than a souk. Over the past few years, the commercial art world kept it fairly quiet, while auction prices at Christie’s and Sotheby’s escalated. This year, however, the enthusiasm has bubbled over. Miami 2015 was marked, ‘80s-style, by "people openly doing lines of cocaine in the bathroom," according to Artnet. Like any large gathering of people today, Art Basel is slowly being overwhelmed by brands, transcending "fine art" and approaching the broad cultural singularity of "creativity." WeWork held an event with the Andy Warhol Museum! Target sponsored a bunch of Target-branded art! Adrien Brody had an exhibition! Then, a woman was brutally stabbed by an Upper East Side architecture student with a X-Acto knife in the main fair tent. The incident was inexplicable, the injuries weren’t life-threatening, and no one else was hurt. But it took on a strange sheen as onlookers mistook the attack for art: "A guy walked up to me and said, ‘I thought I saw a performance, and I thought it was fake blood, but it was real blood,’" one dealer told The Miami Herald. It’s hard not to take the surreal stabbing as a metaphor, or a Franzen-worthy (Franzenian? Franzenesque? Birdlike?) event rife with obvious symbolism, so who am I to resist? The celebrity-brand-art bubble will pop. The crop of young artists whose prices have blown up under collectors like Stefan Simchowitz will deflate. Miami will shrink, and the Museum of Modern Art will fail to build its glittering tower. Meanwhile, Damien Hirst is straining to retain any shred of credibility by opening his own gallery, but then when wasn’t he trying too hard? And Shia LeBeouf is still trying to attract the art world’s attention by doing bad riffs on Marina Abramovic, whose art also consists of doing bad riffs on Marina Abramovic, so maybe Shia is just being authentic after all. If you want to go see some art in New York City over the holidays, I would suggest Picasso’s sculptures at the Museum of Modern Art or Jim Shaw’s explosion of pop-cultural cynicism at the New Museum. Oh yeah, and an NYPD sketch artist has a show up too. While media companies were busy engineering new levees around the raging streams of venture capital this year, some pretty weird things have also happened in art media. Art in America magazine, founded in 1913, was sold to ARTnews magazine, founded 1902. Is there any media more heritage? The ARTnews-AiA conglomerate will be listed on the Polish stock exchange and owned by Sergey Skaterschikov, the Russian CEO of art market advisory company called Skate’s, who once attempted a hostile takeover of Artnet, an auction data company and news site. And you thought VoxBCUniversalFeed was complicated. (It gets worse when you realize that these are most of the major industry publications covering the art world as "news.") But if you’d like to read some good recent art writing, Ben Davis wrote on Greece’s art scene in crisis for Frieze. Orit Gat investigated whether the Internet has changed art criticism: "Criticism generates cultural capital, which in turn is translated into capital." Teju Cole’s ongoing New York Times Magazine column "On Photography" is a major bright spot in mainstream publications, which have either forgotten they have had the same art critic for decades, or have abandoned art criticism completely. The main feeling I have about "the Arts" lately, or maybe about everything, is that they are composed of an ever-contracting loop of hype and commerce and hot takes with little room left for sincere appreciation. That’s why Dayna Evans’s meditation on what the DSM might someday call Content Exhaustion feels so relevant. "A digital loop-the-loop," indeed. My survival strategy for this cultural excess is to embrace boredom—the absence of engaging content rather than its Twitter-fed omnipresence. To that end I’ve been reading a three-volume history of the Byzantine empire, which is about as boring a reading experience as you can get (outside of My Struggle, am I right, LOL!). But there’s someone in the granular historical narrative I found myself identifying with. The 10th-century Italian Bishop of Cremona, Liudtprand, traveled to Constantinople to arrange a royal marriage between the Byzantine and Roman courts, but he wasn’t exactly successful, and left Constantinople in a huff. The parting words he left in his travelogue communicate a kind of urbane urban disgust that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever contemplated Saying Goodbye to All That in New York, or San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or Miami, perhaps after getting shanked in an art gallery, or having your writing not go viral enough: Same. He would’ve been so good on Twitter. Thanks Kyle! I think I speak for everyone in the #content industry when I say: it’s reassuring to think that if I get stabbed at work, my coworkers will probably not assume it’s a performance. Today in Tabs will be back next week on Fast Company and in your email. Until then, keep it avant-garde kids.
Recharge’s latest Thought Leaders Roundtable in Rio de Janeiro brought together 45 leaders of the local and international wind industry at the city’s Museum of Modern Art, setting the tone for the following three days of debate at the Brazil Windpower Congress – the largest wind event in the country.
News Article | January 12, 2016
They’d come from 110 countries, including Cuba, New Zealand, Kenya, and even Greenland. They’d spent $295 for three days of talks, parties, and sightseeing as part of the second annual Airbnb Open. On an unseasonably warm November afternoon, they gathered in a tented, football-field-size arena in Paris’s Parc de la Villette, 5,000 wildly enthusiastic hosts who offer apartments and bedrooms for rent on Airbnb. The company’s CEO, Brian Chesky—a compact and well-built 34-year-old with an aquiline face, muscular neck, and square jaw—spoke to them. "Share your homes, but also share your world," he said, explaining how Airbnb’s competitors in the travel industry had lost touch with their customers, boxing up their guests in ticky-tacky hotel rooms and antiseptic resorts, as if the goal were to ensure that nothing remotely interesting happened. He urged his hosts to strive to be different and give guests a real sense of what life in a foreign country is like. Later that evening, Chesky gathered with his parents, his sister, his girlfriend, his cofounders Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk, as well as Airbnb’s first 40 employees, at a rented Airbnb apartment in the 18th arrondissement for a catered dinner to celebrate. The company has more than 2 million listings and a valuation of $25.5 billion, which makes it bigger (at least on paper) than any hotel chain in the world. The nine-year-old brand lost money in 2015 in part because Chesky spent lavishly to attract hosts, but financial documents that leaked last year suggested it was on track to book $900 million in revenue, with projections rising to $10 billion per year, by 2020. (Airbnb collects up to 15% of every booking from guests and hosts. The company expects to be profitable this year.) Chesky counts Jonathan Ive, Marc Andreessen, and Bob Iger as friends. He is reportedly worth $3.3 billion. He recently appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Now he was surrounded by his family and closest friends in one of the world’s most vibrant centers of culture and intellectualism, which also happens to be Airbnb’s biggest market. He glanced at his phone and read a news alert. A shooting had been reported at a restaurant near Canal Saint-Martin, the picturesque waterway two miles south. When he looked again, a few minutes later, there were reports of explosions at the Stade de France, the big soccer stadium, and mass shootings at sidewalk cafés elsewhere in the city. Now everyone in the room was staring at their phones. Chesky glanced at his phone and read a news alert. A shooting had been reported at a restaurant near Canal Saint-Martin. Terrorists, still at large, active shooter, curfew, stay indoors—these words flicked across Twitter feeds as the death toll grew. Gunmen took control of the Bataclan, a 19th-century concert hall a few blocks from the first shooting that also happened to be in the same neighborhood where many of Chesky’s employees were staying. Photos and videos posted to social media sites showed victims fleeing and bodies lying in the street. By the end of the night, terrorists affiliated with ISIS had killed 130 people in coordinated assaults around the city. Chesky breathed. He walked upstairs, through the master bedroom, and into the shower. He shut the glass door, sat down on the tile, and called Airbnb’s security chief. "The one thing I was very focused on was being calm," he tells me several weeks later. "I was trying to basically figure out how to account for 645 employees and 5,000 hosts. The gravity, the responsibility I had in that moment—it hits you." Airbnb staff set about contacting every employee and host who had come to Paris for the Airbnb Open. None had been hurt. Chesky didn’t think about business much that night, but eventually, the implications of what had happened began to sink in. Clearly, the coordinated attacks might put a damper on potential travelers’ wanderlust, which had ramifications not only for his company’s bottom line but for its entire ethos of openness and inclusivity. Plus, the attacks had come at a time when Airbnb was already facing more peaceable challenges such as newly emboldened competitors and ongoing regulatory hurdles. In the months before the Paris event, Chesky had been forced to spend more than $8 million campaigning against a San Francisco ballot measure, Proposition F, that would have severely limited the ability of Airbnb hosts to rent out their apartments—and similar political fights are simmering in New York, Berlin, and Barcelona. "We are on this brink of greater legitimacy," Chesky had told me at the start of the conference. "But we’re not there yet." On the other hand, Chesky had recently begun to mobilize what had long been a largely underutilized asset: the hosts themselves. There are more than a million of them around the world, many of whom regard Airbnb with an almost religious devotion. Chesky plans to turn this group of believers into active participants in his business, as well as spokespeople for a new vision of travel. It’s a wildly audacious marketing project that will determine the future of his company—and its culture-bridging ideology. The Airbnb headquarters takes up three floors of a former battery factory in San Francisco’s SoMA neighborhood and houses roughly 1,100 employees, but its secondary function hits you as soon as you walk in: The place is a museum. Chesky, an art school graduate, designed the conference rooms as exact replicas of more than a dozen of the most significant Airbnb listings, including the nearby apartment where he and his cofounder Joe Gebbia were living when they rented out three air mattresses during a design conference to help pay the rent. (Chesky still lives there, periodically offering the couch to travelers for $40 a night.) Dollhouse-like dioramas of well-known listings greet guests near the lobby, and framed artwork lines the walls throughout, accompanied by museum-style didactic panels that offer an interpretation. An entire wall is dedicated to exploring the creative origins of Airbnb’s new logo, and another exhibit attempts to imagine what Airbnb’s flag might look like if the company were a country. One possibility: AIRBNB IS THE NEXT STAGE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION, overlaid on a scientific illustration that shows our progression from apes to cavemen to humans. None of this is done with much of a sense of humor, and as I mull the March of Progress, I wonder if there has ever been a company with such an expansive sense of its own importance. Even Coca-Cola’s famous "Hilltop" ad—"I’d like to buy the world a Coke / And keep it company / That’s the real thing"—had a certain sense of proportion. As idealistic as this is, it’s also the point. "How could you be cynical about humanity and join Airbnb?" Chesky asks during an employee orientation. "When we started this company, people thought we were crazy. They said strangers will never stay with strangers, and horrible things are going to happen." This is no exaggeration: During Airbnb’s first year in business, every venture capitalist Chesky pitched turned him down, and few guests were willing to risk staying with people they’d never met. Chesky and his cofounders relied on storytelling to make the idea seem friendly and, crucially, safe. It was a tall order, but Chesky is a gifted storyteller. "He’s incredibly charismatic," says Jeff Jordan, a board member and general partner with Andreessen Horowitz. "He just draws you in. There’s this elegance in how he describes the business and how he envisions the future." Chesky grew up outside of Albany, New York, and spent most of his childhood shuttling between two different worlds—ice hockey and art. Hockey came first: His parents had him on skates at age 3 and playing in a tyke league by kindergarten. He was small for his age, but he made up for it with skating skills and general toughness. Deborah Chesky, Brian’s mother, remembers Brian suffering a collarbone fracture when he was 15 years old, after getting thrown into the boards violently during a game. Chesky was still in pain when he returned to the ice, six weeks later, in time for the state hockey playoffs, and broke his collarbone again. "He was going to be the next Wayne Gretzky," she says. "And if that didn’t work out, there was art." By middle school, he was spending whatever time he had off the ice sketching paintings at the Norman Rockwell Museum, an hour’s drive from his house. "Guests are looking for experiences where they connect with people and connect with the culture," Chesky says. "You can’t automate hospitality." The dissonance between one of the most physically demanding pursuits and one concerned with emotions and beauty went unremarked by Chesky’s parents and teachers—in upstate New York, everyone loves hockey—but Chesky noticed it. He didn’t talk sports when attending figure-drawing classes on Saturday mornings, and he left the sketchbook full of nudes at home when he went to practice. "They were fairly incompatible worlds," he says when I meet him for lunch at the Modern, Danny Meyer’s upscale restaurant inside New York’s Museum of Modern Art. "I basically had these two lives." At first this made him uncomfortable, but by the time he got to the Rhode Island School of Design, he’d learned to own it. He took up competitive bodybuilding, becoming possibly the first art school student to make it to the finals of the Collegiate National Bodybuilding Championships. He also dedicated himself to improving RISD’s moribund hockey team. The Nads, as the team was called, was, technically speaking, a club hockey team, with the name a joke designed to make fun of the machismo of sports. (The team’s cheer: "Gonads! Gonads!") Chesky thought it was hilarious, and he eventually became captain. "The first thing we did was brand the Nads," he says. With an irrepressible smile, Chesky tells me that as part of this, he created a new mascot, Scrotie, a 6-foot-tall, anatomically correct penis with a red cape. He takes out his iPhone and shows his redesigned logo, a hockey stick with two unfortunately placed pucks. "It was kind of like my first startup," he says. It also introduced him to Gebbia, an industrial design major one year below Chesky who took a cue from the Nads and launched a school basketball team, the Balls. By the time Chesky graduated—as the school’s commencement speaker, he opened his talk by stripping off his gown and flexing his biceps—he had helped endow his alma mater with a whole collection of similarly themed teams: the Jugs (women’s soccer), the Sacs (men’s soccer), the Shafts (lacrosse), the Strokes (swimming). "There’s like a whole franchise now," he says. Chesky’s experience in college may have been his first startup, but it also gave him a taste for testing limits. "Is this too much?" he asks, after sharing these anecdotes. He shoots a look at Airbnb’s communications chief and then shrugs. "I can’t help myself." In the company’s early days, Chesky and Gebbia famously photographed each Airbnb listing personally, which helped strengthen the company’s bond with its hosts while conveying to guests that its listings were trustworthy. More recently, Airbnb has created a set of standards designed to give prospective guests a sense of greater predictability. Hosts who earn good reviews and who respond to booking requests quickly receive a digital badge identifying them as a "superhost" in Airbnb search results. Those who, among other things, include hotel-like amenities—Wi-Fi, a desk, and basic toiletries—are marked "business travel ready." In Paris, Airbnb announced partnerships with a number of electronic lock companies that will allow hosts to check in guests without physically showing up to exchange keys. All of these features, Chesky says, are being developed so that hosts can devote more time to delivering a great experience for guests. "Guests are looking for experiences where they connect with people and connect with the culture," Chesky says. "You can’t automate hospitality." This idea is central to Chesky’s vision of the future. To date, Airbnb’s growth has been driven not so much by "experiences" as by the appeal of its listings, which are generally cheaper than hotel rooms and located in more attractive neighborhoods than the business districts where hotels are usually found. Or, perhaps, where hotels were usually found. Developers are currently building eight new hotels in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for example—a New York neighborhood that is huge on Airbnb but has not traditionally been well touristed. Meanwhile, big hospitality brands, like Accor, have vowed to make their rooms more unique to keep up with consumers’ changing tastes and are trying to evolve their concierge programs to reflect a more local sensibility. "Hotels can compete on price and convenience, but less so on the relationship with the host," says William Carroll, a recently retired clinical professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. "That’s why Airbnb is pushing the mystique of staying in someone’s house." Now Chesky wants to go further. In October, the company emailed users about a pilot program, Journeys, that packages a three-day homestay in San Francisco with an airport transfer, meals, and day trips for $500. Chesky declines to comment on the new offering—"We’re testing a lot of things," he says—but speaking on stage in Paris, he urged hosts to offer their guests extra services for free, such as airport pickups, walking tours, and snacks. "What’s special in your world isn’t just the home you have," he says. "It’s your whole life." Of course, there are limits to this approach. Most Airbnb hosts are not full-timers, and while the idea of sharing their world may hold some appeal, many just want to make the rent and get to work on time. And so Chesky has tried, in addition to helping with practicalities, to convey to hosts (and potential ones) that Airbnb is important even as a concept. The company launched an ambitious rebranding effort in 2014 that scrapped a straightforward text logo for an abstract symbol, endowing it with a weighty name and backstory. Chesky characterized the bélo, a made-up word created with the help of a London branding agency, as "the universal symbol of belonging," and encouraged hosts to display it prominently in their homes. ("We wanted something that transcended language, transcended culture, transcended geography," he said in a video about the rebranding.) He also gave Airbnb a new tagline: "Belong Anywhere." "Cities used to be villages," Chesky wrote in a blog post. "Everyone knew each other, and everyone knew they had a place to call home. But after the mechanization and Industrial Revolution of the last century, those feelings of trust and belonging were displaced by mass-produced and impersonal travel experiences." Many joked that the bélo looked a bit like Scrotie. Chesky laughed off the comparison and pushed the message even harder. "Let me draw something for you," he says when I suggest, ever so gently, that the message seems just a little bit over the top. He grabs my notebook and sketches a simplified version of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Typically represented as a pyramid, Maslow’s hierarchy says that people are motivated both by basic needs (like food and shelter) and more transcendent ones (like "self-actualization," which is found at the very top of the pyramid). "Most of our advertising is here," he says, pointing to the bottom of the pyramid—and noting how Airbnb routinely buys Google ads targeted at people searching for rooms and apartments in specific cities. Airbnb’s more conceptual marketing, he says, is aimed at "the most passionate people," and is intended "to turn on the right people and turn off the wrong people." "Let me draw something for you," Chesky says when I suggest, ever so gently, that the message seems just a little bit over the top. What Chesky means by the "right people" are the hosts. They are, as Chesky often says, his company’s product, as well as the key to its growth. "This company is first and foremost about the hosts, not the guests," he says. "We"—that is Chesky and his cofounders—"were the first hosts. We are them." If this seems a bit cultlike, well, that’s the point. Chesky’s head of community is Douglas Atkin, a former advertising agency executive known for his work on JetBlue and for writing a book that draws business lessons from cults like Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and the Hare Krishna movement. "We’re an ideologically led brand," Atkin says. The thing about cults is that they tend to inspire passionate opposition when messages intended for their followers inevitably trickle into the wider world. Proposition F, for example, generated weeks of negative headlines in San Francisco, and at one point Chesky had to apologize for a series of passive-aggressive billboards Airbnb had purchased to try to help defeat the measure by reminding voters that its hosts pay hotel taxes to the city. But Chesky has become a skilled communicator and shown a willingness to compromise. Whereas Uber, another disruptive sharing-economy service, prompted riots in Paris during which cars were overturned and burned, Airbnb has stirred only minor controversy there. In August, Paris officials agreed to allow the company to collect tourist taxes on behalf of its hosts, essentially legalizing the service in the city. In fact, feelings were so warm that deputy mayor Jean-François Martins appeared on stage at the Airbnb Open calling Paris’s status as Airbnb’s biggest market "a special honor." On the morning of November 13, the second day of the Airbnb Open, Chesky’s chief marketing officer, Jonathan Mildenhall, led the audience through a raucous group boogie-down to Whitney Houston’s "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," followed by a screening of the company’s latest television spot—a 60-second commercial that had aired immediately after Caitlyn Jenner’s emotional acceptance speech at the ESPY Awards gala in July. ("Is man kind? Are we good?" asks narrator Angela Bassett, as a toddler waddles toward a window. The viewer is invited to "sit at [Airbnb hosts’ tables] so you can share their tastes; sleep in their beds so you can know their dreams.") The campaign had been called "wildly pretentious" and "existential bordering on absurd" by Adweek. But here in Paris, Mildenhall, a former Coca-Cola executive who has said he was inspired by the "Hilltop" commercial, got a standing ovation. As the crowd erupted, Mildenhall dropped to his knees, as if in prayer. He later called it "the best moment of my career." The hosts I met at the event seemed similarly moved. (This is yet another way that Airbnb differs from Uber. Most Uber drivers seem to look at Uber as a business partner. Airbnb hosts tend to be true believers.) "Airbnb speaks to a big part of who I am," said Michele Martinez, a textile designer and former real estate agent who began renting out rooms in her Brooklyn loft in 2010 and who now has built a life around Chesky’s service. She is close with a group of two dozen hosts who "have drunk the Kool-Aid," as she put it. She also organizes regular meetups, attends city council meetings on behalf of the company, and starred in a political ad designed to rally support in New York for the company. This is a model that Airbnb hopes to replicate. Two days after successfully defeating Proposition F, policy chief Chris Lehane announced that Airbnb would help fund "home-sharing clubs" in 100 cities around the world, essentially formalizing the kind of meetups that Martinez already organizes. In a triumphant press conference, Lehane, a famously pugnacious Democratic Party operative who was Al Gore’s press secretary, noted that Airbnb users represented a robust voting bloc. He compared them to, among others, the National Rifle Association and the National Education Association. The reference to two of the most polarizing and powerful lobbying groups in the country was seen by many as a threat. But in Paris, Chesky again played peacemaker. On stage, he announced the release of a new manifesto, the Airbnb Community Compact, that promises that hosts will pay their lodging taxes and that in cities with a housing shortage, Airbnb will not work with hosts who acquire multiple apartments and turn them into short-term rentals. The moves are aimed at soothing city officials and housing activists (while giving political talking points to hosts) and could help Airbnb gain wider regulatory acceptance, but they won’t do much to address harder questions about how the company is changing neighborhoods. Part of the appeal of Airbnb to travelers is that it puts you in a regular neighborhood rather than a touristy one—you get to "live like a local," as the company often promises—but many people worry that a proliferation of Airbnb listings could take all the charm out of that charming residential enclave. (In August, a New York magazine blogger surveyed pedestrians on a Williamsburg street corner and discovered that only one in every four people lived in the neighborhood.) Moreover, it’s not clear that Airbnb will be able to reconcile its "Belong Anywhere" ethos with the politicalization of its host community. "We want to stick up for our hosts, and we want to do it in a way that’s consistent with our narrative and our values," Chesky had told me after the first day of the Paris conference. But he admitted, with a sigh, "There’s a tension." We were sitting in the back of a minivan, and Chesky let his normally imposing frame slump into his seat, his head falling toward the window. It was dark, almost dinnertime, and we passed over the cobblestone road in front of the Louvre and crossed the Pont du Carousel. We moved into Saint-Germain, a left-bank district where Chesky and his girlfriend, Elissa Patel, who until recently was a community manager at the photo-sharing startup Frontback, like to stay when they come to town. "This is our neighborhood," he said, after a few moments of silence. "There are artists’ studios everywhere. It’s incredibly cool." His choice of words—our neighborhood, with all the implications of familiarity and home—was deliberate. Everything Chesky says is deliberate. "I think a lot of people, when they travel to a city, they’re made to feel like tourists," he explained. "And I think when you have a great Airbnb experience, you kind of start to feel like you live in the neighborhood. You don’t feel like you’re just wandering around." The following afternoon on stage, Chesky showed the audience a series of snapshots of his parents’ travels through the city earlier in the week. There was a picture of a double-decker tour bus, a cheesy boat ride, and the line at the Louvre. Chesky treated each clichéd scene with comic derision. "Every year, 30 million people go to Paris," he said. "They look at everything, and they see nothing. We don’t need to go to monuments and landmarks to experience a culture. We can actually stay with people." He presented another montage, a second day on the town during which his parents were accompanied by Airbnb’s top hosts as guides. Mom and Dad had coffee at a sidewalk café; they took a walk in a garden; they drank and danced at a cozy Parisian boîte. They looked like locals. "Maybe we should not travel to Paris," Chesky offered. "Maybe what we should do is live in Paris." That night, I sat at a bar eating dinner alone. When the news of gunfire less than a mile away began to trickle in, a young woman in the restaurant asked, desperately, if the manager could bring down the metal gate. But there was no gate, so we locked the glass doors and waited in a state of apprehension. I texted my wife and told her that I loved her. I thought about my 8-month-old daughter. At some point, hours later, the manager started pouring wine, and I fell into conversation with a cook who’d gone to high school in Arizona. Then I walked back to my apartment through an eerily empty city. CNN said that some of the perpetrators were still at large. In the weeks since, I have found it hard to talk about that night, and to write this article. Describing Airbnb’s mission at all in relation to the violence in Paris seems in some sense ridiculous, like writing a story in 1971 about how Coca-Cola would end the Vietnam War with its message of peace and harmony. And yet, Coke’s "Hilltop" ad, which is regarded by many as the greatest TV commercial of all time, did turn out to be sort of true, at least in some small way. "You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the president drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too," Andy Warhol wrote in 1975. "All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the president knows it, and you know it, too." Global capitalism, propelled by big brands like Coke, helped usher in a period of relative calm and unprecedented wealth in America and in many parts of the world. We saw the ads and we believed them; and in believing them, we kind of made them real. More recently, we’ve started turning against mass consumerism. We are not all the same, and no longer do we want to pretend to be. This is evident in millennials’ obsession with social media self-expression and in their preferences for artisanal goods. It’s evident, more ominously, in the growing popularity of nativist politicians and fundamentalist groups like ISIS. Airbnb, which offers travelers an experience that is more unique and localized than the cookie-cutter offerings of most hotels, has benefited from the shift in consumer preferences to smaller, more localized ideas and products. All Airbnbs are emphatically not the same, and they’re not even all good—hence the need for hosts and guests to review one another. But that texture, Chesky argues, makes travel better, and maybe makes us better, too. His message is that by experiencing distinctly local norms and ideas, by coming to the understanding that the world is varied and rough and interesting, we will learn to see ourselves and others with more humility. "I don’t want to suggest that people living together creates world peace," Chesky tells me, a few weeks after returning from Paris. "But I will say that [living in close proximity to people from other cultures] does make people understand each other a lot more. And I think a lot of conflicts in the world are between groups that don’t understand each other." As a longtime user of Airbnb, I have often felt that Chesky’s marketing message—"Belong Anywhere"—can sound a bit naive. My choice of an inexpensive homestay instead of a hotel room won’t make me a local in any meaningful sense, nor, necessarily, will booking a walking tour on the Airbnb of the future. And yet, after Paris—where locals used a social media hashtag, #PorteOuvert ("open door"), to alert frightened foreigners of safe houses; taxi drivers turned off their meters to take people to safety for free; and President François Hollande quickly vowed to take in more Syrian refugees in the coming years—I’ve begun to wonder. That’s the other thing about cults: They stop being cults once enough people believe. Today, Airbnb is a good business with great marketing. But maybe it’s more. Maybe it’s the real thing. A version of this article appeared in the February 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.