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Airbnb is gearing up for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and is making major changes to their organization in preparation for the event. Brian Chesky (CEO & co-founder) claims that Airbnb won’t be going public in 2018 but recent moves indicate that an IPO could be closer than he is letting on.
Most recently, Belinda Johnson (Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer) was named Chief Operating Officer ahead of Laurence Tosi (Chief Financial Officer) who departed Airbnb as a consequence. The COO position is often seen as the “number 2” person in an organization and it is important to have a strong executive team in place ahead of an IPO. Johnson had been acting Chief Marketing Officer after Jonathan Mildenhall left the company last year and was reportedly a very popular choice among Airbnb employees.
According to Fast Company, there was tension between Chesky and Tosi related to different strategic visions for Airbnb and Tosi’s departure is a clear indication that Chesky is still running the show. Tosi wanted to double down on Airbnb’s profitable homes business while Chesky wanted to focus more on high growth areas such as Trips and “Literally Airbnb” - an Airbnb plane. It is important for the executive team to be strategically aligned before pitching to public market investors.
Tosi’s departure secures strategic alignment on the executive team but Airbnb just lost the person they hired to take the company public. Prior to joining Airbnb, Tosi was the CFO at Blackstone Group and has extensive experience managing public companies. His departure leaves a big hole in the executive team that must be filled in the upcoming months.
On a positive note, Airbnb will show full year profitability for 2017 and recently named Kenneth I. Chenault, the departing chief executive of American Express, as it’s first independent board member. Positive cash flow and a strong board a prerequisite to a successful IPO and Chesky can now check those factors off the list.
All the stars seem to be aligning for Airbnb to go public except the executive team which looks a little thin when it comes to public company experience. Johnson’s appointment was a critical first step to securing a strong executive team but it is likely that further changes are coming as the board looks to prep the company to go public. Stay tuned...
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