Airbnb

Airbnb, Inc. (pronounced /ˈɛərbɛnb/ AIR-bee-ehn-bee[4] and stylized as airbnb) is an American company that operates an online marketplace for lodging, primarily homestays for vacation rentals, and tourism activities. Based in San Francisco, California, the platform is accessible via website and mobile app. Airbnb does not own any of the listed properties; instead, it profits by receiving commission from each booking. The company was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia. Airbnb is a shortened version of its original name, AirBedandBreakfast.com.

Airbnb, Inc.
TypePublic
Nasdaq: ABNB
IndustryLodging
FoundedAugust 2008 (2008-08) in San Francisco, California
FounderBrian Chesky
Joe Gebbia
Nathan Blecharczyk
HeadquartersSan Francisco, California
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
  • Brian Chesky (CEO)
  • Joe Gebbia (CPO)
  • Nathan Blecharczyk (CSO[1])
ServicesLodging
Hospitality
Revenue $3.378 billion (2020)
-$4.584 billion (2020)
Total assets $10.491 billion (2020)
Total equity $2.901 billion (2020)
Number of employees
5,597 (2020)
SubsidiariesLuxury Retreats International Inc.
Tilt.com
Accomable
Aibiying
Trooly, Inc.
Deco Software Inc.
Trip4real Experiences, S.L.
Lapka, Inc.
Airbnb UK Limited
HotelTonight
Websiteairbnb.com
Footnotes / references
[2][3]
Airbnb's headquarters at 888 Brannan Street, in San Francisco, California

The company has been criticized for a direct correlation between increases in the number of its listings and increases in nearby rent prices,[5] and creating nuisances for those living near leased properties.[6] The company is regulated by many jurisdictions, including the European Union[7] and cities such as San Francisco and New York City.[8] It is viewed as a competitive threat by the hotel industry.[9]

History

After moving to San Francisco in October 2007, roommates and former schoolmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia came up with the idea of putting an air mattress in their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast.[10][11] In February 2008, Nathan Blecharczyk, Chesky's former roommate, joined as the Chief Technology Officer and the third co-founder of the new venture, which they named AirBed & Breakfast.[10][12] They put together a website that offered short-term living quarters and breakfast for those who were unable to book a hotel in the saturated market.[10] The site Airbedandbreakfast.com officially launched on August 11, 2008.[13][14] The founders had their first customers in town in the summer of 2008, during the Industrial Design Conference held by Industrial Designers Society of America, where travelers had a hard time finding lodging in the city.[15]

Computer programmer Paul Graham invited the founders to the January 2009 winter training session of his startup incubator, Y Combinator, which provided them with training and funding in exchange for a small interest in the company.[16][17][18] In January 2009, the company received $20,000 in venture funding from Y Combinator.[19] With the website already built, they used the Y Combinator investment to fly to New York to meet users and promote the site. They returned to San Francisco with a profitable business model to present to West Coast investors. By March 2009, the site had 10,000 users and 2,500 listings.[18]

In March 2009, the name of the company was shortened to Airbnb.com, and the site's content had expanded from air beds and shared spaces to a variety of properties including entire homes and apartments, private rooms, and other properties.[20]

In April 2009, the company received $600,000 in seed money from Sequoia Capital, with Youniversity Ventures partners Jawed Karim, Keith Rabois, and Kevin Hartz participating.[21] In November 2010, it raised $7.2 million in financing from Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital in a Series A round, and announced that out of 700,000 nights booked, 80% had occurred in the previous six months.[22]

At the March 2011 South by Southwest conference, Airbnb won the "app" award.[23]

In July 2011, it raised $112 million in financing led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other early investors included Digital Sky Technologies, General Catalyst Partners, and A Grade Investments partners Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary.[24][25][19]

In October 2011, Airbnb established an office in London, its first international office.[26]

Due to the growth of international end-users, in early 2012, Airbnb opened offices in Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Moscow, and São Paulo.[27] These openings were in addition to existing offices in San Francisco, London, Hamburg, and Berlin.[28] In September 2013, the company announced that it would establish its European headquarters in Dublin.[29][30]

In November 2012, Airbnb opened an office in Sydney, its 11th office location, and announced plans to launch the service in Thailand and Indonesia.[31][32] In December 2012, Airbnb announced its strategy to move more aggressively into the Asian market with the launch of an office in Singapore.[33]

In November 2012, Airbnb launched "Neighborhoods", a travel guide of 23 cities that helps travelers choose a neighborhood in which to stay based on certain criteria and personal preferences.[34][35][36][37]

By October 2013, Airbnb had served 9,000,000 guests since its founding in August 2008.[38] Nearly 250,000 properties were added in 2013.[39]

In April 2014, the company closed on an investment of $450 million by TPG Capital, with the company value estimated to be approximately $10 billion.[40] Additional funding was provided by Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, T. Rowe Price, Sean Grusd and Sherpa Capital.[41]

In July 2014, Airbnb revealed design revisions to the site and mobile app and introduced a new logo. The logo, called the, Bélo, is intended to serve as a symbol of "belonging", and consists of four elements: a head which represents people, a location icon that represents place, a heart to symbolize love, and a letter "A" to stand for the company's name.[42][43]

In April 2015, following the Obama administration's easing of restrictions on U.S. businesses to operate in Cuba, Airbnb expanded to Cuba, making it one of the first U.S. companies to do so.[44][45]

In June 2015, Airbnb raised $1.5 billion in Series E funding led by General Atlantic, and joined by Hillhouse Capital Group, Tiger Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GGV Capital, China Broadband Capital, and Horizons Ventures.[46][47]

In the summer of 2016, at the request of three members of the United States Senate, the Federal Trade Commission began investigating how Airbnb affected housing costs. In October 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill charging Airbnb fines for violations of local housing laws. The New York Times reported that these events were related and part of a "plan that the hotel association started in early 2016 to thwart Airbnb".[48]

In September 2016, Airbnb raised $555.5 million in funding from Google Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures, valuing the company at $30 billion.[49] In March 2017, Airbnb raised $1 billion in funding, bringing total funding raised to more than $3 billion and valuing the company at $31 billion.[50]

In January 2017, Airbnb led a $13 million investment in restaurant reservation-booking app, Resy, along with serial entrepreneurs Gary Vaynerchuk, Ben Leventhal and Mike Montero.[51] In May of that that year they released their magazine, co-published with Hearst Communications, under then-Hearst COO Joanna Coles.[52]

Airbnb first became profitable during the second half of 2016. Airbnb's revenue grew more than 80% from 2015 to 2016.[53][54] After a $200 million profit in 2018, Airbnb posted a loss of $322 million in 2019.[55]

In February 2018, the company announced Airbnb Plus, a collection of homes that have been vetted for quality of services, comfort and design,[56] as well as Beyond by Airbnb, which offers luxury vacation rentals.[57] By October 2019, two million people were staying with Airbnb each night.[58]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb suffered a significant drop in bookings, estimated at between 41% and 96%.[59][60] In response, the company lowered its internal valuation from $31 billion to $26 billion, and considered delaying plans for an initial public offering.[61] On March 30, CEO and Head of Community Brian Chesky penned a letter to hosts, pledging $250 million for widespread guest cancellations.[62][63] The slowdown in bookings and broader economic fallout led Airbnb to raise $1 billion in a capital from private equity firms in April 2020.[64]

In April 2020, Airbnb raised $1 billion in another round of funding from private equity firms Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners.[65][66][67][68]

On May 5, 2020, Brian Chesky sent a memo to all employees announcing the layoff of approximately 1,900 employees, or about 25% of its workforce in the Americas, Europe, and Asia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[69]

On December 10, 2020, the company became a public company via an initial public offering, raising $3.5 billion.[70][71][72][73][74]

Acquisitions

On May 31, 2011, Airbnb acquired a German competitor, Accoleo.[75] This takeover, as well as other similar acquisitions, launched the first international Airbnb office, in Hamburg.[76][77] Before the 2012 Summer Olympics, Airbnb acquired London-based rival CrashPadder,[78] subsequently adding 6,000 international listings to its existing inventory. This acquisition made Airbnb the largest lodging website in the United Kingdom.[79][80] In November 2012, Airbnb acquired NabeWise, an online city guide that aggregates curated information for specified locations.[81] The acquisition shifted the company's focus toward offering hyperlocal recommendations to travelers.[82] In December 2012, Airbnb announced the acquisition of Localmind, a location-based question and answer platform.[83]

In February 2017, the company acquired Luxury Retreats International, a Canadian-based villa rental company, for approximately $300 million in cash and stock.[84][85] In February 2017, Airbnb acquired Tilt.com, a social payment startup.[75]

On November 16, 2017, the company acquired Accomable, a startup focused on travel accessibility.[86][87] In March 2019, the company acquired HotelTonight, a website for booking last-minute hotel rooms, for over $400 million.[88][89]

In August 2019, Airbnb acquired Urbandoor,[90] a global online marketplace[91] that offers extended stays to corporate clients. The terms of this deal were not disclosed.[92][75]

Overview

Airbnb provides a platform for hosts to accommodate guests with short-term lodging and tourism-related activities.[93] Guests can search for lodging using filters such as lodging type, dates, location, and price, and can search for specific types of homes, such as bed and breakfasts, unique homes, and vacation homes.[93][94][95] Before booking, users must provide personal and payment information.[93] Some hosts also require a scan of government-issued identification before accepting a reservation.[96] Guests can chat with hosts through a secure messaging system.[94] Hosts provide prices and other details for their rental or event listings, such as the allowed number of guests, home type, rules, and amenities.[93][94] Hosts and guests have the ability to leave reviews about the experience.[93]

Airbnb Plus designates hosts who provide a verified level of conditions, including a clean refrigerator, full cooking equipment, stocked toiletries,[97] fast Wi-Fi, and strong water pressure.[98] Airbnb Plus listings are marked with a badge to differentiate from standard listings.[97] Airbnb Collections includes Airbnb for Families, Airbnb for Work, and home venues for weddings and other gatherings.[95]

In addition to lodging, Airbnb includes listings for specific services on its platform, as Experiences; members may book both virtual and live activities with guides, including cooking classes, tours, and meetups.[99]

As of 2019 the website is localized into 62 languages.[100]

Terms of use and guest review system

In 2014, linguist Mark Liberman criticized the extreme length of the legal agreements that Airbnb members are required to accept, with the site's terms of service, privacy policy, and other policies amounting to "55081 words, or about the size of a short novel, though much less readable".[101]

Airbnb features a review system in which guests and hosts can rate each other after a stay. Hosts and guests are unable to see reviews until both have submitted a review or until the window to review has closed, a system that aims to improve accuracy and objectivity by removing fears that users will receive a negative review in retaliation if they write one. However, the truthfulness and impartiality of reviews may be adversely affected by concerns of future stays because prospective hosts may refuse to host a user who generally leaves negative reviews. The company's policy requires users to forego anonymity, which may also detract from users' willingness to leave negative reviews. These factors may damage the objectivity of the review system.[102][103][104][105]

In August 2017, Airbnb cancelled numerous bookings and closed accounts belonging to attendees of the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, citing its terms of service in which members must "accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age."[106] The move was criticized by Jason Kessler, organizer of the rally.[107]

Deposits

Since January 2018, Airbnb makes it easier for guest to book a reservations. It allows guests book with a deposit, and make installment payments, instead of requiring to pay the full amount in advance.[108]

Regulations

Hundreds of cities have restrictions for short term rentals. Requirements can include acquiring business licenses, payment of hotel taxes and complying with building, city and zoning standards including limits to the length of stay.[109]

Europe

Cities in Europe that have imposed restrictions include Barcelona,[110][111] Amsterdam,[112] Paris, and Venice.[113][114] In Paris, for example, hosts can rent their homes for no more than 120 days a year[115] and must register their listing with the town hall.[116]

In Ireland, landlords are restricted to renting a short-term let for a maximum of 90 days per year for primary residences and requiring registration by landlords with local authorities. Despite this, only a minority of landlords offering properties on Airbnb actually registered by the end of 2019, prompting calls for stricter enforcement.[117]

United States

Cities in the United States that have imposed restrictions include Washington, D.C.,[118] Los Angeles,[119] Santa Monica,[120] San Francisco, Charleston, South Carolina, and New York City.

In May 2019, Airbnb, Inc. v. City of Boston, enforced limitations on the types of properties eligible for use as short-term rentals, also restricting how many days per year a property may be rented out temporarily.[121] In August 2019, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the City of Boston and Airbnb have mutually agreed to strengthen the registration of short-term rentals, as well as removing illegal units from the Airbnb website.[122]

After a November 2019 referendum in Jersey City, New Jersey, originally supported by Airbnb, was approved, the city enacted regulations for short-term rentals considered to be the most stringent in United States, allowing for only 60 rental days per year.[123][124][125][126][127][128][129]

New York governor Andrew Cuomo proposed for the 2021 budget that people booking vacation rentals through home-sharing companies, such as Airbnb, would be required to start paying sales taxes. Taxes would be collected by the platform.[130]

Despite growing efforts to regulate short-term rentals in the U.S., a general difficulty with enforcing restrictions is that Airbnb resists sharing its listings data with regulators, often citing privacy protection as the reason for such noncooperation.[131]

Japan

In 2018, Japan enacted regulations requiring hosts to register their Airbnb with the government and limiting the numbers of days a home can be rented to 180 per year.[132]

Controversies

Fair housing implications and discrimination

In July 2016, former Attorney General Eric Holder was hired to help craft an anti-discrimination policy for Airbnb after the company faced many complaints related to racism, including a study by Harvard Business School that showed widespread discrimination by hosts against guests whose names suggested that they were black.[133] The platform has also faced complaints of racial discrimination in listings in China, particularly against Uyghurs.[134]

Housing affordability

Airbnb has been criticized for allegedly resulting in increased housing prices. Since the company's globalization, many governments have passed various regulations limiting operations of short-term housing rental companies, such as Airbnb.

In San Francisco, the issue led to protests in November 2015.[135][136][137][138][139][140]

Several studies found that rental prices in many areas increased due to Airbnb, as landlords kept properties off the longer-term rental market and instead get higher rental rates for short-term housing via Airbnb.[141] Landlords have been accused of illegally evicting tenants in order to convert properties into Airbnb listings.[142]

A study published in 2017 found that increasing Airbnb listings in a given neighborhood by 10% leads to a 0.42% increase in rents and a 0.76% increase in house prices.[143]

A study found that on Manhattan's Lower East Side, full-time listings earned hosts an average of two to three times the median average rent.[144]

A study by the University of Massachusetts Boston Department of Economics found that with every 12 Airbnb listings per census tract, asking rents increased by 0.4%.[145]

Similar concerns have been raised in other parts of the world such as Scotland, where, in 2017, an increase in Airbnb listings alarmed the local community.[146] Airbnb has carried out extensive lobbying of Scottish politicians to oppose a law which would restrict short-term lettings.[147]

In late 2019, Airbnb delisted thousands of listings in Boston in preparation for new city rules in December which requires all rental units be registered and limited to 90 days a year. Boston has some of the toughest short term regulations in the US. These new regulations are meant to preserve housing availability by limiting investor units [148][149]

In October 2020, the Italian online newspaper Creatoridifuturo.it published an article in which it demonstrates the presence of advertisements published by housing rental professionals disguised as private individuals, in open circumvention of European tax regulations.[150]

Negative guest experiences

In 2017, travel blogger Asher Fergusson analyzed 1,021 incidents of negative experiences reported by guests. He found that there are ways for hosts to use fake information to circumvent Airbnb's background checks. He noted several reported incidents including last-minute cancellations, moldy or rodent-infested lodging, theft, invasion of privacy, and even rape and murder. Airbnb responded that the 1,021 incidents are statistically insignificant compared to 260 million check-ins at the time and that the company tries to remedy any problems.[151][152][153][154]

Despite pledging to verify all listings on its platform for accuracy by December 15, 2020, a number of Airbnb's 7 million listings are fraudulent.[155] Airbnb doesn't require a listing address for hosts to bill guests and in cases phones were disconnected after reservations posted.

In 2017, the court case, La Park La Brea A LLC v. Airbnb, Inc, a group of tenants complain about property damage, nuisance, and disturbance that stemmed from Airbnb guests.[156] The building owner incurred costs to preserve safety, repair damages, and evict Airbnb guests.[157]

Bait-and-switch scams

A Vice News journalist reported in October 2019 on a bait-and-switch scam in which a network of fake accounts advertised stays at dozens of properties across eight US cities that once booked was said to be unavailable at the last minute. Substandard alternatives were offered in their place, including to the journalist, refunds were refused, fake positive reviews were left for the fake properties, and negative retaliatory reviews were left for customers who complained. Airbnb closed some of the accounts and the FBI began an investigation in response to the report.[158] A Wired journalist reported a similar scam in London in February 2020 run by a German man, Christian Baumann, and his company Continental Apartments. Airbnb closed the accounts, but Wandsworth Borough Council planning office took no action.[159]

Delisting of West Bank settlements

In 2018, Airbnb announced that it will remove the approximately 200 "listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians".[160][161] Listings in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights were not affected.[160] The move was praised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Palestinians,[162][163] Human Rights Watch,[164][165][166] and Amnesty International.[167] The move was criticized by Israel's Tourism Minister[168] and the Simon Wiesenthal Center,[169] which decried the move as antisemitism.[170][171] A class action suit in the Jerusalem District Court alleging discrimination based on place of residence was filed against Airbnb by affected property owners.[172][173] In April 2019 the company announced that it "will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform" and that "Any profits generated for Airbnb … will be donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world".[174][175]

Failure to provide required information to government

In New York State it is illegal to rent out an apartment for less than thirty days unless the registered tenant is at home.[176] In 2018, New York City passed legislation requiring Airbnb and other short-term rentals/home-sharing services to submit monthly reports to the city.[177] Airbnb contested the law and in January it was blocked from taking effect pending further litigation.[178] In May 2019, Airbnb agreed to turn over some anonymized information for approximately 17,000 listings so that the city could pursue illegal rentals.[179]

Similar cases were settled in Boston and Miami.[180]

Transparency of user data sharing practices with China

In November 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported that an Airbnb executive resigned in 2019 due to concerns about a lack of transparency around practices of sharing user data with the government of China. As with all hospitality businesses operating in China, Airbnb shares information such as phone numbers and email addresses with the Chinese government when a user books a rental. This includes both Chinese citizens and foreign visitors. In 2019, Chinese officials approached Airbnb with an unwritten request for more user data, including more "real-time data". Airbnb said it declined the request and does not share real-time data. Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, who heads the platform's China unit, said, “We’re not here to promote American values”.[181][182]

Double charging in the Netherlands

In March 2020, a subdistrict court ruling in the Netherlands found that instances of Airbnb charging twice once from the renter and once from the client was illegal and that those who had rented as guests have a right for re-imbursement if they file a claim.[183] An Airbnb spokesperson said "this ruling is contrary to the ruling of the highest [sic] European judge, who recently decided that Airbnb is not a real estate agent but an information service."[183] It is estimated that close to 30,000 customers are eligible to make a claim.[184] Airbnb has filed countersuits in an attempt to gain clarity on the ruling.[185][186]

Philanthropy

In November 2012, Airbnb partnered with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to offer free housing for people displaced by Hurricane Sandy.[187] Airbnb built a microsite, where victims registered for housing and property owners offered free housing. Service fees were waived, while the host guarantee was maintained.[188][189]

In 2013, Airbnb launched its Global Citizenship Champion program in cities where its offices are located. The program organizes volunteer activities for Airbnb's employees and hosts, and makes charitable donations to "causes important to their local communities."[190]

In January 2017, the company offered free housing to refugees and any others not allowed into the United States as a result of Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13769, which temporarily banned refugees from the United States.[191][192]

In June 2017, Airbnb launched Open Homes, to connect hosts offering free or low-cost housing to uprooted people, such as refugees and those fleeing natural disasters.[193] In 2018, according to the company, its employees provided "11,000 hours of service to 250 projects worldwide", as a result of its policy to provide employees with paid time off to be used for volunteering.[194]

Other ventures

Airbnb runs Rausch Street Films. Its first release which it produced and financed, Gay Chorus Deep South, premiered in film festivals and through its distributor MTV Documentary Films, had a United States limited theatrical run in 2019 and airing on MTV's flagship US network that same year.[195][196][197]

Sponsorships

Airbnb has been the official sponsor of Australia's national basketball team at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.[198]

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