Airbnb wants hosts to own equity, is asking SEC for a rule change

Airbnb wants its hosts to own a stake in the company, and it’s asking the Securities and Exchange Commission for a rule change to make it legal.

“Airbnb believes that twenty-first century companies are most successful when the interests of all stakeholders are aligned,” the company said in a letter to the SEC on Friday. “For sharing economy companies like Airbnb, this includes our employees and investors, but also the hosts who use our marketplace.”

The home-sharing platform runs on so-called “gig economy” workers, similar to Uber or food delivery services like GrubHub. Airbnb hosts are closer to paid contractors than employees or investors, who would be eligible for stock options and equity ownership under current SEC rules for private companies.

Airbnb’s argument in a nutshell is that changes to Rule 701 — the relevant SEC rule governing equity awards of private companies — would maintain existing liquidity levels of early-stage private companies while including a new type of worker as stakeholders.

“Our community model is different than a business with a traditional hierarchical structure and we are excited to have the chance to work with the SEC to consider reforms that could make more economic opportunities available to more people,” CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement.

Airbnb has been flirting with a 2019 IPO, saying in May the company would be ready to go public then but isn’t sure that it will.

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