Airbnb, Alphabet Eye Homebuilding

Last year, employees in Airbnb’s experimental design studio explored ways of manufacturing small homes for people’s backyards, to provide extra space for guests. But the effort, which hasn’t previously been reported, was mostly scuttled for now, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

Airbnb senior executives worried that the business model wasn’t proven and could cause a political backlash, if neighbors complained or it flouted zoning laws. Airbnb eventually could get into the financing of backyard homes, said a person close to the company.

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“Maybe you can build an interesting business that way because maybe you’re partnered with Airbnb or Google so it can still be a great business. But at the end of the day, what provides value besides best materials at lowest cost will be creating a brand,” Ms. Goldberg said.

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Innovating in the real estate and construction world long has tantalized tech companies, many of which operate in some of the priciest cities in the world.