Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky hints at 2018 IPO

Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb, speaks to the Economic Club of New York at a luncheon at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. March 13, 2017.
Mike Segar | Reuters

For Airbnb, getting ready to go public has always been thought of as a "two-year process," and the company is about halfway through that process, Chief Executive Brian Chesky said at a luncheon hosted by the Economic Club of New York on Monday.

That would imply an initial public offering in 2018, although Chesky said investors are patient and not pressing the company.

"We are working on making sure the company is ready to go public, and I've said it was a 2-year project. We're probably about halfway through that project, as far as just being ready to go public. But at that point, our investors are very patient. None of them are anxiously waiting for us to go public," he told the audience.

The company announced last week that it closed on a more than $1 billion round of funding, upping its valuation to $31 billion. Airbnb turned profitable on an EBITDA basis for the first time during the second half of 2016, a person close to the company confirmed.

For now, Airbnb wants to be considered "robust," Chesky told the room of economists at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. "When someone hits you, you want to be able to stand up." Chesky said he's seen too many companies "fall over" after trying to rush going public too soon.

Unlike other private companies that are eager to go public, Co-founder Chesky said Airbnb "doesn't need" money right now, and it's been able to acquire smaller companies without the need for another currency to do so. His main reason to go public would be to establish immediate liquidity for shareholders, Chesky said.

The past December the company settled a lawsuit it filed against New York City, which challenged a bill signed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The bill called for fines of as much as $7,500, for illegally listing properties on a rental platform such as Airbnb or HomeAway.

The company agreed to drop the lawsuit as long as New York City enforces its law only against hosts and does not fine Airbnb directly. The city hopes to crack down on people who rent out multiple homes, saying it makes it harder for individuals to find affordable housing.

New York is Airbnb's largest U.S. market, according to data from Beyond Pricing.

Airbnb's economic and political agenda

On Monday Airbnb also announced its "economic empowerment" agenda. The plan includes goals such as guaranteeing an hourly wage of at least $15 for all U.S. contractors and vendors who provide a "substantial amount of service" for the company, doubling the size of Airbnb's host communities in underserved areas around the U.S. by 2019 and supporting more jobs.

In a report, Airbnb said that through increased spending by out-of-town guests who stay in one of the company's facilities, Airbnb is supporting more local businesses. Airbnb found hosts are spending more, too, when they have more income from their own bookings.

An Airbnb host made $6,100 from bookings, on average, in 2016, according to data obtained from the company.