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Brian Chesky explains the $100 million donation to the Obama Foundation

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Brian Chesky’s pay package leaves a lot of money to potentially give away. With a grant from the Obama Foundation, he hopes to use his money to go beyond Silicon Valley.

– Elizabeth Casolo

We reported last month that Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky’s compensation package could top $1 billion over 10 years. 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 donate $100 million in stock to the Airbnb Host Endowment to support hosts. He has also made money available to help house refugees from Ukraine.

One donation he values: “The most important thing I did was I gave $100 million – $20 million a year for five years – to the Obama Foundation. He and I created the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, which I am 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 up until the time he ran for president,” Chesky said.

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

“(Obama) said to me, I could have studied business law, but I became a community organizer. But a lot of people don’t become community organizers and then work in the public sector because they feel like they can’t afford it,” Chesky said.

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

What do scholarship recipients get?

In addition to up to $50,000 to cover remaining college costs, scholarship recipients will receive a stipend and free Airbnb housing to cover a work-travel experience, according to the Obama Foundation website. Winners will also receive a total of $20,000 in Airbnb travel credits for 10 years toward future travel.

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

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

Why look beyond Silicon Valley?

Chesky saw the fair as an opportunity to look beyond the already high investments in Silicon Valley and give young people the opportunity to explore other careers.

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

Photo credit: Brian Chesky (left), co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, spoke with Skift founder Rafat Ali at the Skift Global Forum in Manhattan on November 21, 2022. Source: Skift