Airbnb confidentially files to go public

The filing comes amid a brutal year for the travel industry in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
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Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky


Airbnb, the home rental company, on Wednesday said it filed paperwork to go public, a milestone for a Silicon Valley pioneer that has faced a rocky year as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the travel industry.

The company said in a blog post that the amount and price range of its shares "have not yet been determined." Airbnb took advantage of a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that lets companies keep their paperwork confidential until closer to the public offering. The company declined to comment beyond its initial announcement. 

Airbnb's filing was long-anticipated, though the company's plans for an IPO became uncertain as the pandemic took hold. Airbnb, which was privately valued at $31 billion at one point, was particularly battered as the world's economies shut down, prompting people to cancel trips and hunker down in their homes. 

In May, the company said it was laying off 1,900 of its employees -- a quarter of the company -- one of the largest mass layoffs for a Silicon Valley company since the pandemic began. At the time, CEO Brian Chesky told employees that revenue this year would be less than half of what the company earned in 2019, which was reportedly $4.8 billion.

But the company's business appears to be on the mend as people begin to travel again, seeking private countryside rentals where they can avoid big groups of people. Last month, Airbnb said hosts in rural areas across the US earned over $200 million in June of this year, up more than 25% from the same period in 2019. 

Founded in 2008 by Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, the company quickly became a darling of the Silicon Valley startup scene. Airbnb first began to gain traction with consumers during the Democratic National Convention that year in Denver, where people flocked to see the historic nomination of then-candidate Barack Obama but couldn't find hotel rooms. The company eventually joined the elite club of startups known as unicorns, valued at $1 billion or more.

Airbnb played a key role in popularizing the so-called sharing economy, in which people would list their homes, cars or services for use, via tech platforms. Uber and Lyft, other marquee players born out of that model, went public last year. 

Like many of its peers in the sharing economy, Airbnb drew scrutiny for battling with regulators and courting safety controversies. Last year the company said it would verify all its listings and make other safety improvements, following a shooting during a Halloween party at a California rental, which left five people dead.

CNET's Dara Kerr contributed to this report.