As thieves check in, Airbnb meets reality check

August 1, 2011

It’s a good thing San Francisco-based accomodation business Airbnb wrapped up its latest round of fundraising last week, just days before its reputation shifted from hipster accomodation service to crashpad for thieves and meth addicts.

The site announced last Monday it had raised $112 million in a round led by heavyweight venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Just two days later, a woman who had rented her San Francisco apartment through Airbnb in June blogged about returning to a ransacked home. She described missing heirloom jewelry, burned sheets, and a stolen Mastercard in a story that went viral online. On Sunday, another Bay Area renter told TechCrunch about his return to a home littered with meth pipes– and short  his birth certificate. 

Airbnb issued a statement last week calling “trust and safety are Airbnb’s highest priorities” and stating it was implementing “improved safety processes.”  The San Francisco Police Department said Friday it made an arrest in the case.

Press like this calls into question how Airbnb is doing today compared to the 25,000 bookings a night it told the New York Times about when it raised its latest financing. (A spokesman hasn’t returned our phone call.) The company is going to have to scramble to restore hosts’ comfort levels– and to get growth back to the levels that won it the $112 million in the first place.

UPDATE: Airbnb just sent me a link to a newly posted community letter– they’re offering a $50,000 insurance policy for hosts, and a 24-hour support team.

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