Entrepreneurs

Airbnb CEO isn’t rushing to IPO: Warren Buffett told me to ‘get rich slow’

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
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.

Airbnb has raised almost $4.5 billion in 12 rounds of funding. The online travel platform has a lot of investors who are expecting a payout. That has made Airbnb's impending IPO one of the most hotly anticipated.

But Airbnb CEO Brain Chesky is taking the advice of legendary investor Warren Buffett, who told him "get rich slow," the co-founder tells Fortune.

So far, building Airbnb has been a start-up sprint. In the fall of 2008, Chesky owed about $25,000 in credit card debt, which he used to launch the business. ("You know those binders that you put baseball cards in? We put credit cards in them," he told LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, on his podcast, "Masters of Scale.") Just eight years later, the company became profitable (in the second quarter of 2016), and its most recent $1 billion round of funding valued the company at $31 billion.

"Nothing about Airbnb was slow. It's only 9 years old. But I do think that it's been helpful for us to be able to go a little slower and take a little bit of a breather and be a little more thoughtful," Chesky says to Fortune.

"Nothing about Airbnb was slow. It's only 9 years old." -Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO

And he's going to make sure he is good and ready before venturing into the public markets.

"Everyone says we should be ready. I can also tell you that the vast majority of people are saying that you should take your time and do whatever you need to do on your timeline," says Chesky. "Because companies have struggled [in the public markets], and it's a defining thing. So they've all said, 'Be responsible, take it slow.'"

Indeed, both home-cooking delivery start-up Blue Apron and social media platform Snap have had painful, buffaloed IPOs.

Though taking his time, Chesky says he is readying his company for the eventuality of going public. It's a two-year timeline, which he says Airbnb is "slightly more than halfway through."

But "to make it very clear, because some people read that as we're going public next year, it just means we'll be ready," says Chesky. "And I do think it's responsible to be ready as absolutely soon as we can. That is incredibly responsible."

See also:

Airbnb just closed a $1 billion round and became profitable in 2016

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky hints at 2018 IPO

How the co-founder of Airbnb went from $25,000 in credit card debt to running his $30 billion company

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