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Airbnb’s Chesky: We Weren’t on the Ballot, the Hosts Were

A day after San Francisco voters rejected a proposition that would have restricted short-term rentals, Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky described how the company is changing its tactics amid regulatory battles across the world.

“We try to go city by city to explain who we are,” Chesky told the audience at Fortune‘s Global Forum on Wednesday in San Francisco. “If we can drown out the noise and [get people to] realize that this is a way to allow people to make ends meet, I think that’s a really, really important thing.”

To help educate the masses and push for regulatory acceptance, Airbnb recently hired Chris Lehane, a former White House crisis manager, as its global policy chief. In addition to going city by city and explaining Airbnb’s mission, the goal is to turn the discussion away from Airbnb and Chesky and towards the hosts who rent out their homes.

“Airbnb was not on the ballot yesterday, the hosts were on the ballot,” said Chesky, who says he got the idea for the company, now valued at $25 billion, when he couldn’t afford to pay his own rent. “What we really want to do is not make me and the company the face of every fight.”

That won’t be an easy feat. San Francisco’s Proposition F, colloquially referred to as the “Airbnb initiative,” became synonymous with the Bay Area-based vacation rental site. The company reportedly spent upwards of $8 million fighting the proposition, which would have kept hosts from renting their homes for more than 75 days a year. In the end, 55% of voters rejected the initiative. But as Airbnb expands abroad–the company’s fastest growing markets are China, Japan and Korea–its regulatory battles are also multiplying.

“I’m from Albany, New York, and I remember thinking I’m not sure that France or Korea will love this idea,” said Chesky. “But I can guarantee that my home town will love this idea.”

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