Airbnb Is Shifting Its Strategy So It Doesn't Crash And Burn

Online home and apartment sharing startup Airbnb is one of the most anticipated tech IPOs.

It’s valued at $2.5 billion and recently raised a $150 million round, The Wall Street Journal reports.

But it doesn’t want to become the next overhyped startup that tries to fly before it can walk. (Some would like it to file for an IPO — but that seems premature.)

That’s why it’s slowing down expansion of its international operations. Instead of hiring more people, Airbnb is reassigning current employees to new positions and moving them to a new hub in Europe. There have been a small number of layoffs, too.

Sources familiar with the matter tell the WSJ that the hub may be in Dublin. 

Airbnb is trying to avoid growing too quickly abroad. It has a lot of competition abroad, mostly in Europe and Asia, which previously forced Airbnb to ramp up its international operations in 2011. 

It started calling potential hosts and encouraging them to list on Airbnb with the goal of getting more listings. That could have been achieved through purchasing its major competitor Wimdu, but Airbnb’s management team was reportedly uncomfortable with Wimdu’s culture and tactics. 

When Groupon was in a similar situation in 2010, it decided to purchase its rival Citydeal to fuel growth in Europe. Now, its CEO is out and the company is struggling to revive itself.

Today, Airbnb is in more than 30,000 cities and 192 countries. With a pretty good stronghold on the international market, Airbnb is putting its resources to customer retention: For instance, Airbnb is stepping up its efforts to monitor rentals and ensure that hosts don’t return to a trashed home, Liz Gannes of AllThingsD reports

Airbnb has a team of 50 investigative agents focused solely on trust and safety. It’s led by former U.S. Army intelligence officer Phil Cardenas and former government investigator Anna Steele.

The team closely monitors rentals and looks for keywords like “western union,” which could indicate a scam. Sometimes the team calls large groups of guests to wish them a fun time, but also remind them to be respectful of the host’s home.

Airbnb has also set up a $1 million host guarantee program to cover any damages that may occur. Last year, only 400 out of 3 million Airbnb stays resulted in a case.

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