Leaving Airbnb: the Impact Sabbatical

There’s a reason why some companies are called “unicorns” and after you work at one, your career is kind of “screwed”.

I’ve had the luck of being at Airbnb since its early stages and when I started to think about leaving, the question I asked myself was: how can I replicate such an incredible experience?

Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question to answer. 

Airbnb has a meaningful mission and a strong company culture. There’s a very innovative product, plenty of resources and a business large enough to make an impact at a global scale.

Combine that with a talented and passionate team, then working feels more like being part of a movement. Everyone cares so much and the amount of drive, energy and commitment within the team is huge.

In comparison, no other job stands a chance.

Airbnb all-hands meeting back in 2011

In my case, it kept Airbnb at the centre of my life for almost ten years. As everything else though, things don’t last forever.

Recently, I had started to feel too comfortable in my role and that is never a good sign. My learning curve was decelerating significantly.

Despite my senior role, I was only in my early thirties and I wanted to explore the world, looking for deeper meaning.

I also didn’t want to lose what I had. So how could I replicate it somewhere else?

I knew I wanted the moon. The question though wasn’t so much about how to find the next “unicorn”. What I really needed was a company which mission I cared for, with an innovative product and a passionate team.

I could join such a company or try to build it on my own. Either way, it felt like a very hard nut to crack.

I wanted to dedicate myself to this problem but it was impossible to do that with my General Manager job. I was way too busy. That’s when the idea of the “Impact Sabbatical” started to take shape.

A sabbatical is usually any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something, such as writing a book or getting in shape. It can last from a few weeks to a year, as long as you have enough time to achieve your goal.

For me, the goal was to find my own mission and purpose, going on a quest to re-calibrate the compass of my life and career. The main question I wanted to answer was: how do I apply what I learned at Airbnb to a problem I care about and make a positive impact on the world?

At the beginning of the year I started to make plans. After a few months, I was ready to commit.

I left Airbnb at the beginning of April 2018 and decided to not work for a few months to fully dedicate to the project.

I’ve sold, gifted and donated all I have except a suitcase and a backpack.

I’ll explore different places and cultures to get myself perspective. I’ll be in a different city and continent every few months, starting in San Francisco and then moving to Seoul, Berlin and Cape Town.

I’ll meet with passionate people, experts and entrepreneurs who are already dedicating their lives and companies to make a positive impact on global issues. I’ll get their thoughts and wisdom on the matter, while studying and elaborating my own point of view.

I’ll document my journey and start a dialogue online, hoping to get insightful opinions and feedbacks, while keeping myself accountable.

I understand how lucky I am to be able to not work for a while and pursue my dreams. But if you are reading this, you are most likely born on the lucky side of the world as well. In other words, we are privileged.

So the question is, what are we going to do with such privilege?

I’m an entrepreneur at heart. So I’ve asked myself, what if I stopped worrying about the problems under my nose and started thinking about the issues of my time?

What if I applied what I’ve learned at Airbnb on these issues and tried my best to make a positive impact in the world?

What if I leveraged technology, innovation and venture capital to achieve this goal?

The “Impact Sabbatical” is my personal and humble attempt to do just that.