From airbed to $100 billion IPO: The 12-year growth story behind Airbnb


Airbnb co-founders Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky. Source: Airbnb Newsroom.

Airbnb, the global behemoth of the short-stay tech space, has finally gone public, with its share price spiking a massive 115% on its first day of trading.

It seems as though Airbnb has been hinting at an IPO for years. And, while the eventual float follows a tough year for the business, it also comes amid a flurry of tech businesses going public for the first time.

From humble beginnings more than 12 years ago, here’s a brief history of how Airbnb went from a scrappy startup to a US$100 billion business.

October 2007

Back in 2007, founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia famously rented out an airbed on their living room floor to make some extra cash, effectively hosting the first-ever Airbnb guests and sparking the idea that would revolutionise the way we holiday.

Soon, Nathan Blecharczyk came on board as the third co-founder.

August 2008 launched. That has a ring to it, don’t you think?

November 2008

To get their idea off the ground, the founders raised $30,000 by selling Obama O’s and Cap’n McCains cereal boxes.

January 2009

The fledgling startup was accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator startup accelerator program, receiving $20,000 in additional funding.

March 2009

The team made the wise decision to rebrand to the Airbnb we know today. By then, it was starting to gain some traction, with about 2,500 listings and 10,000 registered users.

April 2009

The startup secured US$615,000 in seed funding from Y Ventures and Sequoia Capital

November 2010

The founders secure US$7.2 million in funding, adding a host of additional backers, including Greylock Partners. At this stage, it reportedly had a valuation of $70 million.

February 2011

Airbnb reached the milestone of 1 million bookings made through the platform.

Shortly afterwards, it acquired a Hamburg-based competitor, effectively expanding into Germany.

July 2011

The business raised a massive $115 million, from existing and new investors.

October 2011

Airbnb opens its second office, in London.

January 2012

The platform hit the 5 million bookings mark. It later announced it was expanding to six additional European cities: Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Moscow and São Paulo.

July 2012

Within six months, the total number of bookings doubled to 10 million.

October 2013

The cash kept rolling in, this time with a $200 million Series C round.

April 2014

Airbnb’s Series D came in at just shy of $520 million, giving the startup a valuation of US$10.5 billion

October 2014

San Francisco’s so-called Airbnb Law came into effect, officially legalising short-term rentals.

June 2015

Another fresh funding round. This time, Airbnb secured $1.5 billion, giving it a valuation of $25.5 billion.

November 2016

Airbnb launches its ‘experiences’ feature, allowing hosts to offer tours and events, as well as places to stay.

December 2016

The business settles a lengthy lawsuit with New York City, over proposed rules that would make it illegal for Airbnb to show homes being rented out illegally. Ultimately, the city agreed any fines would fall to the hosts, not the platform.

March 2020

After a few years of steady growth for Airbnb, COVID-19 brought international travel to a grinding halt, and put domestic trips on hold for a period too.

Airbnb postponed its much-anticipated IPO and laid off 25% of its staff — about 1,900 employees.

Revenues were reportedly down to $2.52 billion for the nine months ending September 2019, down from $4.81 billion in the whole of 2019.

Airbnb also reported losses of $696.9 million during that time, compared to losses of $322.8 million in the same period last year.

An emergency $2 billion debt funding round also reportedly saw the tech company’s valuation dip from $31 billion to $18 billion.

December 2020

After a tricky year, Airbnb finally listed on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange.

The share price was initially valued at US$68, but fierce initial bidding meant it started trading at $150.

By the end of the trading day, it was sitting comfortably at $144.7, giving it a market valuation of more than US$100 billion.

That’s reportedly more than the valuation of the seven largest US hotel chains, combined.


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