Airbnb’s Brian Chesky Tells Us What He’s Doing With His Billion-Dollar Payday

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Skift Take

Brian Chesky’s pay package leaves a lot of money to potentially give away. With an Obama Foundation scholarship, he’s hoping to use his money to go beyond Silicon Valley.

We reported last month that Airbnb Co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky’s compensation package could top $1 billion over a decade. It’s a lot, no doubt, but he’s also said he plans to give a lot away.

In a recent interview with Skift, we asked Chesky about his donations so far. He has said he plans to give $100 million in shares to the Airbnb Host Endowment to support hosts. He has also put up money to help house refugees from Ukraine. 

One donation he feels strongly about: “The big thing I did was I donated $100 million — $20 million a year over five years — to the Obama Foundation. He and I created the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, which I’m really, really proud of,” Chesky said.

What inspired it?

“I remember [Obama] telling me that he had student debt until he wrote his book ‘Audacity of Hope.’ So basically he had student debt almost up to the point he ran for president,” Chesky said. 

He said Obama knew not every student could pursue public service for financial reasons.

“[Obama] told me: I could have gone to corporate law, but I became a community organizer. But a lot of people don’t become community organizers, and then don’t go into public service, because they feel like they can’t afford to,” Chesky said.

This spurred the Voyager Scholarship, also known as the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service.

What do scholarship recipients get?

Along with up to $50,000 to cover remaining college expenses, scholarship recipients get a stipend and free Airbnb housing to cover a work-travel experience, according to the Obama Foundation’s website. Winners also get a total of $20,000 in Airbnb travel credit over 10 years for future travel.

“I feel like a lot of people are getting more and more tribal, more and more insular,” Chesky said. “If you’re gonna serve others… the best education is travel.”

The website says the program also hosts coaching and networking opportunities.

Why look beyond Silicon Valley?

Chesky saw the scholarship as an opportunity to look outside already steep Silicon Valley investments, offering a chance for youth to explore other careers.

“There’s tons of money in the Valley. So I wanted to create, based on this conversation, a scholarship for kids who want to go into public service, but feel like, ‘Well, college is really expensive. I just don’t know if I can afford to,’” Chesky said. “My parents were social workers — and so I was really passionate about that.”

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