An executive shake-up at Airbnb today is underscoring the company’s priority on a longterm strategy. On Thursday, Airbnb’s chief counsel, Belinda Johnson, was promoted to the title of COO, more formally becoming the company’s “Sheryl Sandberg,” as she’s sometimes known. Johnson has long been considered Airbnb’s No. 2 executive.
Meanwhile, Laurence Tosi, CFO at the home-sharing company, is leaving to focus on the many other company boards he sits on. The news of Tosi’s departure follows a report from the Information detailing discord between the CFO and CEO Brian Chesky over the company’s future. Where Tosi allegedly wanted to reign in costs and make partnerships, much the way online travel agencies do, Chesky was more eager to invest in his grand visions for the future of travel. Tosi has been at the company for two and a half years and helped turn it profitable. Chesky confirmed reports that Airbnb is cash-flow positive with $5.5 billion on its balance sheet.
Airbnb is losing its CFO as rumors swirl that the company will go public this year. While Airbnb is still planning a public offering, it may not be as immediate as some have hoped.
“We are not going public in 2018,” Chesky said in a prepared statement. This is something the Airbnb cofounder seems to reiterate constantly–that he’s more focused on building an array of robust products than an eventual exit.
Chesky has big ambitions to create new travel channels within Airbnb. He has said he wants to build a platform that doesn’t lean solely on its Homes offering for revenue, but instead benefits from other travel products, as well. In the last year, the company has launched a foray into travel activities with Experiences. It also launched in-app restaurant reservations, piloted new hotel-like apartment-sharing complexes like Niido, and ventured into premium homes with its acquisition of Luxury Retreats and the development of a related product called Airbnb Select. In addition to its formal announcements, Chesky has casually mentioned interest in air travel and now seems to be mulling over a loyalty plan for members.
If Airbnb had a guest membership program, what benefits would you want?
— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) January 14, 2018
Johnson has been with the company since 2011, heading up global policy for the company as it was still a fledgling startup. Not only has she grown teams, she’s credited with Airbnb’s friendly approach to dealing with municipalities–something that contrasts it with more regulation-averse gig-economy companies like Uber. No doubt, she will play an important role as the company grows beyond its base home-sharing product and into other ventures.
“We are a company with an infinite time horizon, and I will work to ensure everything we do takes the long view,” Johnson said.
The stir-up inside Airbnb shows the company is doubling down on innovation rather than focusing on short-term financial goals.