AIRBNB

[Connecting] with one million hotels is a super daunting task that would require huge investments in technology, personnel, know-how, B2B marketing and consumer advertising.

Quote from Max Starkov, president and CEO of HEBS Digital, in an article on PhocusWire this week on the long road ahead of Airbnb following its HotelTonight acquisition.

Airbnb could have easily continued its strategy of around three years ago – namely, providing a mechanism for home-owners to share rooms and properties to travelers.

But like most companies, especially those in the modern digital realm, it became extremely ambitious. There is nothing wrong with this, of course.

On the contrary, companies with ambition can often drive change around an entire sector and, a factor that gets scant mention in headlines, create jobs and establish the bright thinkers of the future in the industry.

Airbnb decided in late-2016 that it was time to get into the tours and activities sector and, in early-2018. took its biggest step to-date: including hotels on the platform and, in particular, stating its intention to battle the online travel agency giants.Get a daily dose of travel tech

There is much to admire with its ambition, signaled further last week with its deal to buy HotelTonight.

Yet the sombre perspective provided by Max Starkov illustrates how difficult the path ahead is for Airbnb, not least – in his analysis – because HotelTonight doesn’t really give the company much to work with.

Putting that perspective to one side, forging ahead with a particular strategy by any company is obviously fraught with as many challenges as there are opportunities. 

“Build or buy?” is a well-known conundrum that ambitious companies have to contend with, especially when their core product, processes and skill sets are often programmed differently to achieve the desired outcome.

But it is often a cultural step that is also required to reach a goal.

Airbnb will have thought of this, for sure, as do countless other travel companies that have set themselves a challenging path to walk on.

There is always discussion within startups about maintaining the vibe, culture, spirit – call it what you like – when they start scaling up.

But this applies equally to established brands that are not necessarily “pivoting” but expanding on multiple fronts.

It seems unfathomable that youthful Brian Chesky and his co-founding team, to continue the Airbnb example, would have considered in the late-2000s that they would eventually be working alongside an airline veteran such as Fred Reid.

Coordinating the integration of new people, styles and practices into a business as it forges ahead, often at break-neck speed, should be considered as an important part of the plan as all the other elements needed to grow.