The home rental company, which was privately valued at $31 billion, is trying to go public after its business was crushed by the pandemic.
Airbnb said on Wednesday that it had confidentially filed to go public, taking a key step toward one of the largest public market debuts in a generation of “sharing economy” start-ups.
A public offering by the company, which lets people rent out their spare rooms or homes to travelers, would cap a volatile year in which its business was devastated by the spread of the coronavirus. Airbnb had been privately valued at $31 billion before this year, and the company must now convince investors that it can thrive and turn a profit in a new era of limited travel.
Airbnb’s offering would signal the end of an era for the first wave of highly valued start-up “unicorns,” many of which were founded in the recession of 2008 and then rode a wave of growth fueled by smartphones, gig work and copious amounts of venture capital. In recent years, many of Airbnb’s well-known “sharing economy” peers have gone public (Uber and Lyft), sold themselves (Postmates), or unraveled spectacularly (WeWork).
Its debut will most likely be helped by an ebullient stock market, which has remained robust despite the economic destruction caused by the pandemic. On Tuesday, the S&P 500 hit a new high as investors focused on signs that the worst might be over, and on Wednesday, Apple became the first U.S. company to hit a $2 trillion market value.
Airbnb’s initial public offering plan shows the resilience of the tech industry in the pandemic and an investor appetite for tech stocks, said Ted Smith, president of Union Square Advisors, a tech-focused financial advisory firm.
“There’s going to be some choppiness in the short term until we get through the pandemic,” he said. “But I think it mirrors the overall faith that the market seems to have in the long term.”