On May 5, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky cried into his video camera while addressing staff about how the pandemic had decimated the industry and the business. Within a few hours, a quarter of Airbnb’s work force were told they were out, a total of 1,900.

This article discusses how ‘commitment culture companies’, of which Airbnb is the ideal, are exposed in economic downturns and run the risk of turning from a family of like-minded and supportive employees to a job like any other, in the face of layoffs, redundancies and retrenching.

It contrasts the platform’s sharing economy peers Uber as built on ruthless competition, and WeWork favouring a partying culture, while Airbnb stood for earnest idealism. New employees were screened for empathy in job interviews, and were welcomed “home” and told: “You belong here”, so the rupturing of the “Airfam” was particularly painful.

Even though the co-founders offered a standing ovation to the employees they had let go, more than a dozen current and former Airbnb employees have given anonumous interviews in which they describe experiencing a sudden disillusionment when the carefully crafted corporate idealism cracked.

Chesky’s plans for the future, what he calls a “second founding”, will focus on its core home rental business, expecting fewer customers to book international travel, or flock to crowded cities, and more taking local trips and making more long-term stays.