Now, following a remarkable comeback, the home-sharing company is set to make its long-awaited Wall Street debut just as the pandemic worsens and once again throws the state of the travel industry into question.
Airbnb is poised to begin trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday under the stock ticker “ABNB.” The company priced its initial public offering at $68 a share on Wednesday, valuing the company at $47 billion.
In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Thursday, CEO Brian Chesky said he “could have never imagined” the course of the rollercoaster year the company has experienced.
Chesky believes there are “two explanations” for the company’s stronger position today: one is that “people still do yearn to travel,” and the other stems from advice from his father.
“I’m also reminded of something that my dad used to tell me growing up — and I had to tell myself this a lot during the depths of our dark days. He said that things are never quite as good as they seem and as bad as they seem. You kind of have to remind yourself of that to find the midpoint between these highs and lows,” said Chesky.
While DoorDash has benefited greatly from people staying at home, Airbnb stands to benefit from a successful vaccine rollout that helps end the pandemic and allows people to travel more.
Airbnb saw improvement in bookings the following months, driven by those using its platform for long-term stays as well as domestic and short-distance travel.
Then came another surge in coronavirus cases.
Unlike many other highly-valued startups, Airbnb previously said it was profitable, excluding some expenses, in 2017 and 2018. But like other sharing economy startups, Airbnb has faced a number of regulatory battles over the years with local and state governments over how it operates in their jurisdictions. The issue remains an ongoing risk to its business.
In its filing, the company outlined that it is “subject to a wide variety of complex, evolving, and sometimes inconsistent and ambiguous laws and regulations that may adversely impact our operations and discourage hosts and guests from using our platform, and that could cause us to incur significant liabilities including fines and criminal penalties.”
During the pandemic, some cities temporarily cracked down on short-term rentals, and hosts were forced to pivot rentals to 30 days or longer.
As Chesky waited for Airbnb’s stock to officially begin trading on Thursday, he recalled to CNN a piece of advice given to him by former president Barack Obama, one of his many high-profile mentors.
According to Chesky, Obama told him, “It is just really important before you go public that you institutionalize your intentions so that even as a public company you can minimize what conflicts with your vision.” Chesky told CNN that means “trying to be really thoughtful about what kind of company we want to become.”