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Airbnb reached full-year profitability for 2017, and it’s adding a former Amex CEO to its board

It’s a small $100 million in cash-flow profitability, but it sets up the short-term home rental company for an IPO in 2018.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky onstage in front of a sign reading, “Cultivating the art of taste and style.”
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky
Mike Windle/Getty Images for Airbnb

Airbnb will show $100 million in cash-flow profitability for the full year in 2017, according to sources close to the situation, as the company said high-profile exec Kenneth Chenault will join its board.

The addition of the former American Express leader, as well as a solid stretch of profitable quarters, sets up the short-term home rental company for what many expect is an initial public offering in 2018.

Airbnb showed its first quarterly profit in 2016, but its fortunes have improved with expansion to China and also with the addition of new products like additional travel experience offerings.

In a vision memo to its superhosts, CEO Brian Chesky reflected on the decade-long journey of Airbnb. “I am absurdly lucky even to be writing this email,” he wrote. “Ten years ago we started Airbnb. Joe and I couldn’t pay rent, so we created the first AirBed & Breakfast and invited three people we’d never met to stay in our home.”

He outlined an “infinite time horizon” and a commitment to “serve all of our stakeholders.” Lofty goals, to be sure, but probably important to get right given all the negative incoming that the tech industry is receiving for its less-than-admirable performance in 2017.

Much of the ire aimed at tech has little to do with Airbnb’s business — its battles are largely around rental regulatory issues — but Chenault will certainly add some burnish and experience to Airbnb, after what has been a long and successful career at the finance company. He also just joined the Facebook board, making him the go-to fancy director of the moment.

But Chenault’s addition does not meet another goal of Chesky’s, which he and I have discussed many times: To add more women to the board.

When I asked the company about that promise, spokesman Christopher Nulty said it was coming soon. “We are in serious discussions with a number of incredible people about joining our board,” he said. “The next member will be a woman, and she’ll be joining later this year.”

Among the names rumored include political types like Condoleezza “Condi” Rice and Valerie Jarrett, former GE exec Beth Comstock and former Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman (who is now a Hollywood mogul). But all of them are not the ones under consideration, said sources.

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