How Big Is Airbnb, Really?

Airbnb, the peer-to-peer apartment and house rental website, is rumored to be raising $100 million in a new round of funding that values the company at $1 billion.
Such large numbers may seem shocking considering the startup’s relatively modest past — the three-year-old company launched out of its founders’ living room in San Francisco, and has since raised $7.8 million from a variety of investors including, most recently, Ashton Kutcher. But the valuation may not be unreasonable in light of Airbnb’s future prospects.
Airbnb is on track to take in more than $25 million in net revenues on $500 million of flow-through sales in 2011, and the rumors of a new round are on target, according to a source with knowledge of the company’s operations. If all goes according to Airbnb’s larger plan, those figures could just be the beginning.
Airbnb is becoming an increasingly popular site for listings abroad, even though the company has thus far targeted its development primarily within the United States. A major focus in the months ahead will be on customizing the site to better facilitate that international growth, co-founder Joe Gebbia told me in a video interview at our Green:Net 2011 conference last month. You can watch the embedded video below.
“This year is about international growth. I mean, some of our biggest cities are in Europe and South America, and they are just starting to emerge. China and Asia are really interesting to us,” Gebbia told me. “It’s about localizing the site and making it really easy, bringing the simplicity that we brought for people in the United States to these other countries.”
I tried to press him on whether Airbnb is driving toward an IPO or sale, but Gebbia hewed close to the standard company line. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’re just focusing on making a really long-term business.” That’s a response that would make any investor proud.
You can watch my interview with Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia below. The bit where he talks about international growth and the company’s IPO and M&A prospects begins at around 2:45: