It’s no shock that Benchmark general partner Bill Gurley is talking up the benefits of high-flying startups going public. The powerful venture capitalist has done so many times in recent years. But his most recent comments Thursday at a travel industry conference were pointed toward Airbnb, according to Skift. His main argument seemed to be that Airbnb can’t defend itself right now because it’s not public. Airbnb is “getting hurt right now” and “taking the brunt of these blows” from competitors like Booking Holdings and Expedia. He also pointed to a recent survey from Morgan Stanley that said the company’s growth was slowing. “The war of words is coming at you. And if you choose to be quiet, it’s going to be told by other people,” said Mr. Gurley, who isn’t an Airbnb investor.
Airbnb likely isn’t an IPO candidate until 2020 or so. (Mr. Chesky has said the company will be “ready” to go public by mid-2019.) It hasn’t filled its CFO position, which has been vacant since February. While Airbnb stands out among other mega-startups like Uber, Lyft and WeWork for the profits it has already posted, it needs a couple big initiatives to work out to prove solid growth to potential public investors. These include selling “experiences” to customers, attracting more business travelers, and cracking the China market.