Online breadcrumbs illustrate AirBnB’s IPO preparation playbook - Outside Insight
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Online breadcrumbs illustrate AirBnB’s IPO preparation playbook

Online breadcrumbs indicate AirBnb is preparing for an IPO, offer insights into their strategy and areas of focus

Key takeaway

It’s no surprise that AirBnB is rumored to have an IPO in the works, especially following CEO Brian Chesky’s public claims that the company will be ready in one year’s time. The global hospitality company has been steadily growing essentially since launch, and recently carved out new areas of focus through experiences and stories content. However, following their recent trail – from open job listings, to patent applications, to new employee compensation announcements – those looking out can determine their strategy leading up to the date they file.

Following the online breadcrumb trail

As we saw with Sonos a few months ahead of their recent listing, there are a number of clues to be found online that can indicate when a company is preparing to go public. From moving operations to new markets, to bringing on experienced public company resources, there are a number of provisions that must be put in place well in advance of a successful IPO.

For AirBnB, the preparations have already begun. TechCrunch reports that recent chatter around the introduction of new employee compensation packages is the latest in a series of indicators that the firm is gearing up for a public listing. “[The company] has created a bonus program that will provide cash bonuses to employees in 2018 and 2019; and it has eliminated the one-year vesting cliff for those who have received equity grants for previous service to the company. On top of this, Airbnb will now give all employees more choices with future compensation.”

This move, reports The Information, will quell rising contempt over the fact that it has not yet gone public, in hopes of retaining the talent they have for the future. With these employees in mind, they’ll aim to list before some stock grants expire in 2020 and accelerate the vesting schedule for others.

Other forward-looking indicators

Press

In February, AirBnB released a press announcement re: CEO Brian Chesky’s open letter containing his strategy for positioning AirBnB as a “21st century company”. As well, its new program designed to provide housing to those affected by crisis, has put the brand in the public’s – and local governments’ – good graces

Transparency

Chesky also announced they would be releasing an annual stakeholder letter – something that’s not required of private companies, but points to a move toward greater transparency

Ramping up Board of Directors

The firm appointed outgoing American Express CEO Ken Chenault as the first unaffiliated independent member of its Board of Directors

Profitability

In the same announcement, Chesky noted that the company is now profitable on an EBITDA basis. Those watching for the IPO announcement will want to keep an eye on any changes in their financial success

Repositioning

Through the addition of more high end offerings and the new experiences arm, AirBnB is working to appeal to a broader customer base and increase the stickiness of its platform, potentially securing more promising growth projections

Expanded offering

From adding a Plus unit for higher end travelers, to experiences, to the introduction of Stories, a way of capturing user content, the company has steadily been growing its offering over the past few years, solidifying its place as the leader in the travel space as a whole

Patents

The company has been steadily growing its patent database for the last few years, most recently filing a patent in China and Cuba for “a system to compress cellular data, allowing people to more easily go online in areas of limited internet connectivity” in a clear indicator that it intends to expand its offering in developing markets. While it has 15 patent applications under its belt, additional investment in R&D via the firm’s new innovation unit, Samara, will potentially pave the way for a fruitful IPO 

Hiring

In March, the firm poached Amazon’s VP of Prime & Delivery Experience Greg Greeley, to lead their Homes unit. Job openings for a CFO and CMO are active, and those looking closely can evaluate desired requirements to determine what the firm is looking for when it comes to future senior leadership   

Other tech IPOs

We’ve seen Spotify, Dropbox and Docusign IPO this year, with Sonos recently announcing theirs. Stakeholders will undoubtedly watch the performance of these stocks closely to determine the best timing. With Uber, the other elephant in the room, also rumored to announce a listing in the near future, correctly orchestrating the announcement will be key

A close look at the online breadcrumbs organizations like AirBnB are leaving behind will prove valuable to potential investors, stakeholders, competitors and even employees, to help them better predict next steps and make informed decisions proactively.