From the sleeping place exchange to the tourism giant: Airbnb turns 10

“Forget Hotels” Airbnb announced confidently at the start ten years ago. Nobody could have guessed at the time that the established hospitality industry would be the source of a major rival that would revolutionize the tourism industry. But the San Francisco-based company grew rapidly and became one of the world’s most valuable startups. On Saturday, Airbnb celebrates its tenth birthday.

Today Airbnb is valued by investors at about $ 31 billion (27 billion euros) and would have the right to go down one of the largest tech IPOs in financial history. It all came from a fixed idea of ​​company founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia: Because they could not afford their apartment in San Francisco, they simply put three air mattresses in the living room for rent to visitors to a design conference.

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The three Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky (Photo: AirBNB / Peter Yang)

The price included breakfast. So the name “Air bed and breakfast” – air mattress and breakfast – with which it started on 11 August 2008. Later he was shortened to Airbnb. At first, the idea of ​​community was still in the foreground, so Chesky at least describes it in interviews. “We had no idea that Air bed and breakfast could be big.”


Originally, he, Gebbia and the third founder Nathan Blecharczyk wanted to build a platform for roommate hunting. After four months of work, they noticed that this service already exists. So it came to Airbnb – or, as Chesky says amusingly, “The worst idea that ever worked.”

IPO is in no hurry

Today, the company has more than five million listed properties in 191 countries and around 81,000 cities worldwide. For comparison: The world’s largest hotel group Marriott had around 1.3 million rooms by the end of 2017 with its around 30 brands. Airbnb has developed from a sting in the meat to a dangerous competitor. With the service “Trips”, which arranges excursions, events and other holiday experiences, the company is also competing with tour operators.

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The Airbnb app is one of the most popular places to go for travelers (Photo: dpa Picture-Alliance / Jaap Arriens)

From the air mattress Image Airbnb has adopted, breakfast is barely even – now it is more about rich clientele in the luxury segment. No wonder that Wall Street is looking forward to the IPO. But Chesky is in no hurry: “Let me address it directly: We will not go public in 2018,” he said in February. At the beginning of 2017 he spoke of a “two-year project”.

Airbnb brings tourists and trouble to the world’s metropolises

That Chesky, who is only 36 years old, but already multiple billionaire, plays for time, has its reasons. Although Airbnb – unlike Uber, the world’s second-largest heavyweight in the “sharing economy” – has so far made no major scandals, there is much criticism and anger around the globe. Complaints about commercial and reckless users who make noise and stress have accompanied the rapid rise for a long time. Airbnb is also accused of increasing the lack of affordable housing. In addition, authorities complained that taxes were often not paid on Airbnb revenues and that many advertisements are illegal.

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The apartments are less soulless for budget travelers than a hotel room, here is the view from an Airbnb apartment in Moroccan Algiers (Photo: laif / Le Figaro Magazine / Eric Martin)

In big cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam or Madrid, the rules for Airbnb have been significantly tightened. In the German capital it was even forbidden to advertise holiday apartments on the portal. Also in Paris and New York, two of the most lucrative locations, there have been conflicts for years. Airbnb, meanwhile, strives for diplomacy and emphasizes that it is against black sheep. Since 2016, there is about a complaint function for angry neighbors.

Meanwhile, it is apparently running quite well financially: the company should have 2017 made its first annual profit. Before taxes, interest and depreciation Airbnb earned around $ 100 million (81 million euros), reported the Financial Times earlier this year, citing an insider. The bookings had increased by 150 percent, the turnover has reached over 3.5 billion dollars.

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Digitalisation is bringing more and more people the happiness of being able to combine their travels with the job and thus to discover the world from new perspectives. Some earn with innovative ideas on the desire to travel others – such as the start-up Hotelbird – one of the protagonists of the current LEAD.

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