San Francisco's Radius Cafe is one of those places where "local" is the rule—all the food is sourced within a 100-mile radius of the restaurant. So it's a touch ironic to meet there with Brian Chesky, the hoodie-wearing 32-year-old co-founder of Airbnb, whose game plan is global. 

Airbnb is a Web service that lets travelers book couches, beds, rooms, houses, boats and even castles on a nightly basis. In six years Airbnb has become a company valued at $2.5 billion, with 500,000 properties available in more than 190 countries—a stand out in what is often called the sharing economy. Airbnb could do to hotels what Amazon has done to bricks-and-mortar bookstores. By year's end, Airbnb says it will have booked more overnight stays than the Hilton and InterContinental hotel chains. 

As might be expected, hoteliers and hospitality-industry regulators are suspicious of the Airbnb model. In October, New York state sued the company for violating a law passed in 2010—just when Airbnb was picking up steam—barring private citizens from renting an entire apartment for less than 30 days. 

"I want to challenge the status quo, but in a way that's constructive," Mr. Chesky says. "There were laws created for businesses, and there were laws for people. What the sharing economy did was create a third category: people as businesses. . . . They don't know whether to bucket our activity as person or a business."
That the New York lawsuit was issued from Albany hit Mr. Chesky close to home: He grew up just outside the city, the son of social-worker parents. To hear him tell it, disrupting the hospitality industry—let alone working on the Web—couldn't have been further from his ambitions growing up. Back then he was a fidgety doodler. His interest in art led him to the Rhode Island School of Design, where he majored in illustration, later switching to industrial design.

"Industrial design teaches empathy," Mr. Chesky says....MORE
I usually side with the upstart against the incumbent but this guy sounds seriously manipulative.