CNBC Disruptor 50

Airbnb co-founder: We've learned to avoid a 'confrontational kind of stance' with regulators

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With fellow "sharing economy" company Uber under fire, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk said his company is trying to maintain positive relationships with regulators.

When asked if he was following the management mishaps at Uber, Blecharczyk noted that Airbnb has "very good partnerships" with lots of cities.

"I think we've always thought that it's important to have a positive relationships with local government, rather than taking a confrontational kind of stance," Blecharczyk said in an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin that aired Tuesday on "Squawk on the Street" after Airbnb was named the No. 1 company on the 2017 CNBC Disruptor 50 list. "We've always been very clear that we are willing to draw compromises, that we want to be a long-term partner. So it's a little bit of a different strategy."

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Airbnb lets users rent out their homes, while Uber lets owners charge for rides in their cars. But Uber has faced a scrutiny for using software that allegedly allowed them to evade regulators.

While Airbnb hasn't faced the same level of blowback, the hotel industry has vocally criticized Airbnb's practices — as have regulators, who have called for investigations of Airbnb's effect on housing prices and threatened fines for hosts of Airbnb's short-term rentals.

"Some hotels are trying to dig their feet in, and trying to say that Airbnb shouldn't exist —that 'illegal hotels' shouldn't exist. And of course, illegal hotels shouldn't exist. But when they say illegal hotels, sometimes they mean anything that's not a hotel," Blecharczyk said.

Blecharczyk said he doesn't think the hoteliers have to lose to Airbnb, given that the two industries offer "very different things."

"This is the 21st century — I think consumers have spoken," Blecharczyk said. "Hotels should recognize what lessons can be used for our success .... I don't worry about the competition."

Blecharczyk said these issues are "at most are speed bumps." Plus, most of Airbnb's revenue already comes from outside the U.S.

"When you offer consumers choice, let them vote with their wallets," Blecharczyk said.

Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder of AirBnb, in Havana, Cuba on March 21, 2016.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

Unlike recently-public Snap, Airbnb is reportedly drawing a profit. But an IPO isn't a "near-term focus" for the company, Blecharczyk said.

"We don't have any plans for an IPO," Blecharczyk said. "We don't have a need for that capital right now. We've raised a lot of private capital. We have a few billion dollars in the bank. And so it would need to serve a purpose when it comes time to do that."

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Airbnb CEO and fellow co-founder Brian Chesky has said that the company has big ambitions for this year beyond its hallmark short-term room and home rentals. One possibility, he has hinted, is redefining "how we fly."

For example, Blecharczyk said, Airbnb has recently started offering "Experiences," a way for hosts to show guests the local flavor of a location by offering outings.

"We are thinking about the travel experience end-to-end," Blecharczyk said. "The real focus is doing something different .... It's a totally new kind of product that we're incubating. We do think that three to five years ago "

There are also "huge, huge" growth opportunities in the markets for family travel, luxury travel, and business travel, Blecharczyk said. Business travel is already 11 percent of Airbnb's business, according to Blecharczyk, and Airbnb is "just beginning to tap" that market.

"It's particularly good for business travel if you are doing a week or longer business trip," Blecharczyk said. "Or if you're bringing a significant other, something like that and you don't want to be stuck in hotel for that extended period of time."

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It's been a trip to $31 billion. Now Airbnb wants to remake the entire travel industry
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