While 2019 turned out to be a rough year for unicorns that went public, 2020 could still see some high-profile IPOs with Airbnb perhaps the most prominent prospect to go public this year. The popular lodging marketplace that grew into the hotel industry’s biggest nightmare in recent years has raised more than $4.4 billion in funding to date and is currently valued at more than $30 billion.
Founded as AirBed & Breakfast by three schoolmates in 2008 to offer affordable, short-term living quarters as an alternative to traditional hotels, Airbnb quickly evolved into much more than that, revolutionizing the travel industry and changing the face of many metropolises around the world (not necessarily for the better some would argue). While critics argue that Airbnb has turned the city centers of popular tourist destinations such as Barcelona or Lisbon into theme parks for international travelers, crowding out locals by driving up rent prices, fans of the company’s service value it as an affordable and often more attractive alternative to hotels.
The following chart, based on data shared by Airbnb and reported by journalist Jon Erlichman on Twitter, illustrates Airbnb’s blockbuster growth by showing the estimated number of guest stays on what is arguably the biggest night of the year for the hospitality industry, New Year’s Eve. In 2019, the company expected 4.5 million guests to stay at an Airbnb on New Year’s Eve, up from just 540,000 five years earlier.