Valued at a mouthwatering $31 billion, Airbnb is now hinting that it might not IPO this year after all—but sometimes it’s better to wait to iron out a few kinds when you’re a startup that is responsible for nothing short of revolutionizing travel.
"We have already said that we are taking the steps to be ready to go public in 2019. That doesn't mean we will go public in 2019," Nathan Blecharczyk, an Airbnb cofounder, told Business Insider in an email interview.
Just like Uber has been plagued with stories of rape, murder, theft and the like, Airbnb has its share of unfortunate events.
There are always problems in the evolutionary chain, and in this case, expanding your travel options means sacrificing a layer of security, safety and accountability that would have with a hotel.
The most recent upset was the publicity around the confession of the murder this week of a guest by an Airbnb host in Melbourne, Australia in 2017, when the host realized he was short $149 to pay his bill. The host, 42-year-old Jason Colton, has been sentenced to prison for 11 years after copping to manslaughter and testifying that he hadn’t meant to kill his guest; rather, he had sought to render him unconscious. The guest, 36-year-old Ramis Jonuzi, was attacked in the home by Colton and two others who beat and strangled him to death.
Airbnb has over five million listings on offer, and it’s not feasible to do security-related background checks on every property owner, especially when those listings span the globe. All you can rely on for accountability is user reviews. It’s an evolutionary leap of faith—and one that we really should be able to take.
Still, the stories of murder and mayhem don’t help when a startup is so close to going public.
In December 2018, a security guard at an Airbnb villa in Costa Rica was arrested for the murder of a Florida woman who had been staying there. Her body was found in the woods near the villa, with evidence that the cause of death was blunt force trauma.
The month before, a couple vacationing in Mexico died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their Airbnb rental thanks to a faulty heater.
This latter incident is less likely to happen in the U.S. because Airbnb hands out free carbon monoxide detectors to anyone who asks for them, and the laws in the U.S. require all homes to have these detectors, so Airbnb requires all property owners to have them in order to be listed.
In the meantime, investors are growing increasingly anxious at the prospects of an Airbnb IPO, and many are likely still holding out for that to happen this year.
But Airbnb still has a few things it wants to do, apparently, before going public.
This year already, Airbnb has acquired Gaest and HotelTonight.
The HotelTonight acquisition will give Airbnb another chance to increase growth and diversity because it adds an app for selling last-minute, unused inventory at boutique and independent hotels. Valued at $463 million in March 2017, HotelTonight is believed to be worth far more now.
What’s up next? Possibly an investment in India.
Reports have emerged this week that it may be planning to back an Indian hotel startup called Oyo to the tune of up to $200 million. The Indian startup is tearing it up lately—it’s even backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
So, what about the IPO? Airbnb clearly has more acquisitions in mind to bolster its position before going public, so the overriding sentiment is that it’ll wait until 2020.
By Michael Kern for Safehaven.com