The Airbnb Host Endowment wouldn't turn hosts into investors in the IPO. But by earmarking 9.2 million shares to fund the endowment, it may counteract the feeling among a few hosts that going public would only benefit elite investors and employees. It's a clever and creative move by Airbnb, but more fundamental host issues remain.
Airbnb is creating a host endowment fund, which is an effort to mend host relations, and to assure them that the company’s pending initial public offering would not just be benefiting investors and employees with stock options.
Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky announced Friday that it plans to fund the endowment with 9.2 million Airbnb shares, and it would start investing the endowment in educational and financial support for hosts when the fund breaks the $1 billion mark.
“With the Airbnb Host Endowment, we want you to share in our success – not merely at a single moment in time, but for as long as Airbnb exists,” the company said.
Airbnb has taken a series of steps since the spring, when it initially alienated many of its 4 million hosts by unilaterally refunding guest monies during the Covid crisis, leaving many hosts empty-handed. The company subsequently created several funds to benefit hosts, and co-founder and Chesky vowed to mend relations.
Airbnb will create a diverse host advisory board to provide input on how the endowment gets spent, with the names of advisory board members to be publicized before the end of the year. Airbnb, though, will control where the money goes.
There was one piece of fluff at the end of the announcement.
“Last month, I met with a host named Dorian from Oakland, California,” Chesky wrote. “Dorian is a jewelry designer, and she and her husband host guests in the extra bedrooms in their home. Their favorite part of hosting is meeting their guests and discovering the commonalities they share. Dorian told me, ‘I love the feeling that the world is not that large of a place after all.'”
Chesky thanked Dorian and the company’s 4 million hosts “for making this world feel smaller.”
The anecdote about the couple renting out extra bedrooms belies the fact that the host ecosystem on Airbnb has gone increasingly corporate — and that’s one of the company’s customer-experience challenges in the run-up to its expected initial public offering.
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Photo credit: Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky (center) posed with some San Francisco hosts after breakfast on June 3, 2015. Airbnb is creating an endowment fund to benefit hosts. Kevin Krejci / Flickr.com