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Through the frenzy, sleep deprivation, and anxiety of prepping to take his company public on Thursday, Airbnb’s Nathan “Nate” Blecharczyk, the guy dubbed the “engineer” among the trio of founders, is fixating on one number, above all others, to keep himself grounded now and into the future.
That’s 825 million.
It’s not one that many have read about among the reams of numbers in connection with this historic IPO, the largest ever in travel. It’s the number of guest arrivals booked through the Airbnb platform since the company was formed 13 years ago. “To me, 825 million isn’t just a number,” the 37-year-old Blecharczyk told Skift on Thursday morning from his home in San Francisco, where he lives with his two young kids and his wife, Elizabeth, a neonatologist who did, in fact, take the day off for the IPO.
“Those guest arrivals signify meaningful experiences, and we helped facilitate connections,” said Blecharczyk, who owns more than 69 million shares of Airbnb that when priced at $68 makes their value on paper $4.7 billion.
Blecharczyk on Thursday didn’t want to discuss his own gains, but what the IPO allows for the many investors who can now take part in the success of the company he built with two art school students, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia.
In Blecharczyk’s mind when he thinks of the company chronology, he delineates the first dozen or so years at Airbnb — and then the last year. Everything they learned in terms of crucial build mode in those first years was put the test in a year shattered by the pandemic, when in March, Airbnb’s revenues dropped by 80 percent.
“To think back to March and April, that we would be here today (with the IPO), is incredible,” he said, explaining how the company raised new capital and short-term rentals recovered with lots of domestic travel. “Today is a real milestone.”
Airbnb won’t become a different company now that it’s public, Blecharczyk stressed. The scrutiny, Airbnb executives are used to that, he said, and living quarter to quarter is already built in the “operating muscle,” having already reported financials internally for years.
Coming off a year where so many suffered financial and personal pain, and a growing divisiveness rose up in the U.S, Blecharczyk said he’s excited for Airbnb to play a helping hand in years to come as travel recovers.
“I see a blurring of travel and living. This past year was an accelerant for that,” he explained, with so many people having greater access to travel through remote work, and with those hosting these new travelers seeing new opportunities to make a living.
As he rushed to the next Zoom press interview his team had set up for him on IPO day, Blecharczyk is asked about the days when he and his co-founders found it hard to scrape together coffee money compared to the prospect he may sit atop a company on Thursday night with a larger market caps than travel titans like Marriott and Delta.
“It’s surreal. Let me say that,” he said. “But we are always grateful.”