Biography In Conversation

Vlad joined Airbnb in 2012 when the entire tech team would pack a mid sized meeting room for a weekly standup. He started as the first growth product manager and went on to partner closely with Brian Chesky to build Airbnb for the next 10 years, most recently as VP of Product and GM of the core hosting business. Vlad was fortunate enough to lead product teams across nearly every part of the marketplace in his tenure. Earlier in his career, Vlad built games at Zynga, founded a social survey company, and realized that derivative trading at Morgan Stanley wasn’t his life’s calling.

He graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Business Administration and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University. In his free time, Vlad is an avid gamer, sci-fi enthusiast, and an aspiring pianist. Vlad resides in San Francisco with his wife and has three startups of his own at home – two very passionate toddlers and a goofy labradoodle. His dream is to one day be selected for the reality show Survivor.

How has your experience as an immigrant shaped how you view the world?

VLAD – First, I’m just thankful for how things turned out for us. Things don't stress me out. Because at the end of the day, whatever happens, I know things will be fine.

I’ve been an outsider for a long time. As an immigrant, you’re basically stuck between cultures. You never quite fit in. I never fit in with the Russian community, and I never fit in with the American community either. Being an outsider your whole life, at some point you stop trying to fit in. You realize the only thing that matters is being accepted for who you are.

The other thing you learn is how to survive. It was tough when we got here, but you do what you need in order to survive. Everything around you is changing all the time, and you have to learn to adapt at all costs. You have to show up every single day and work your ass off and put yourself in a position to take advantage of opportunities.

If you’re lucky, you meet people along the way who help you, who take a chance on you. And you never forget. You realize how important it is to help other people when they’re in need, especially when they’re most vulnerable. Because that was yourself, not too long ago.

What was your experience like at Airbnb? What are some of the most important lessons you learned there?

VLAD – When I joined Airbnb in 2012, all the technical functions would get into a single room and have a standup where everyone goes around saying what they did last week and what they’re going to do this week. You could see almost the entire company in that single room. Every six months, I got to reinvent myself because we were growing so fast. The learning was incredible.

Number one, I learned how to simplify. Fundamentally, as organizations get larger and businesses scale, complexity creeps in, and you lose sight of what’s important. There’s a temptation to create complex roadmaps, solutions and these huge documents full of information for every meeting. It gets hard to untangle. Simplifying things to their core essence is a real skill that takes a long time to develop. At Airbnb I learned that it can take many passes to simplify an idea, but eventually you get to very clear and simple reasoning that can facilitate constructive conversation.

The second thing is the value of seemingly unachievable goals. People may disagree, but in my experience setting ambitious goals pushes us outside our comfort zone and helps us tap into a creative part of ourselves we wouldn’t have found otherwise. If you can suspend disbelief, suspend constraints, it’s possible to do things you never thought were achievable.

How are you excited to support founders? Where do you think you can provide the most value?

VLAD – Entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster. Every part of the journey has its own challenges. At a certain scale, the hardest thing about building a company tends to have something to do with getting everyone to work well together and figuring out how to inspire people to do the impossible every day. For many founders and operators, during that rollercoaster, it's really important to regulate your own emotions and remember that the highs aren’t as high as they seem and the lows aren’t as low as they seem.

I’m excited to help founders however I can. Whether it's building an initial growth gameplan, diving deep into product, helping build a world-class team, jumping into a Figma file together, or stepping back to look at the big picture, I think my experience will help me support founders in many areas of building, scaling, and leading a business.