Airbnb IPO Filing Mulls Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

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In Brief
  • Airbnb filed its IPO with the SEC on Nov 16, 2020.

  • The document included a future that may include blockchain technology.

  • Airbnb has had a mixed relationship with cryptocurrencies in the past.

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The apartment-sharing and vacation site Airbnb has released a prospectus for its initial public offering (IPO).

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The SEC filing details much about the company, including a possible future with cryptocurrency and blockchain implementation.

Airbnb and the Future of Travel

When COVID-19 first started to grip the world at the beginning of 2020, plans for Airbnb’s IPO looked shaky at best. While in the summer bookings did begin to increase, the future of travel is still up in the air.

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For a while, the travel industry seemed to perk up again. In summer 2020, Airbnb saw an uptick in business and re-vamped its plans for an IPO. But then came autumn, and with it, a new spike in Coronavirus cases.

Now, record daily cases in the U.S., shutdowns, and travel restrictions are putting the tourism industry in jeopardy once more. Despite the announcement of potential vaccines, the short term future may bring the worst surge in cases seen yet.

Nonetheless, Airbnb filed the prospectus for its initial public offering on Nov 16, 2020. Included in the SEC document were mentions of cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology.

Authentication of the Future

Despite pitching its service as a contemporary way to travel, Airbnb has not wrestled much with Bitcoin. Surprisingly, the prospectus mentions the possibility of using blockchain technologies for authentication. This includes a “future success,” depending on, “[Airbnb’s] ability to adapt to emerging technologies such as tokenization, cryptocurrencies… and new authentication technologies.”

The document also notes that it may use distributed ledger and blockchain technologies for purposes of biometrics. Alongside those, the accommodations giant said it was looking into artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and cloud technologies.

What Are the Risks?

Though these cryptocurrency-related items are mentioned in the 443-page document, they are not the main attraction. Indeed, the information related to authentication is part of the document’s “Risk Factor” section.

Likewise, the document mentions that pursuing different security and technology lines of research may be more costly than is worthwhile.

Airbnb has not accepted Bitcoin in the U.S. as a payment method, despite buying crypto company ChangeTip in 2016.  However, this is technically possible through some third-party applications. PayPal, for example, recently added cryptocurrency support and is accepted by Airbnb.

The company Bitrefill, which sells gift cards for crypto, also allows users to purchase Airbnb gift certificates.

With Bitcoin reaching $18,000 this week, cryptocurrencies remain in the spotlight and may stay on Airbnb’s radar.

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Harry Leeds is a writer, editor, and journalist who spent much time in the former USSR covering food, cryptocurrencies, and healthcare. He also translates poetry and edits the literary magazine mumbermag.me.

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