Airbnb Emerges from the Pandemic: Lessons for Stakeholder Governance (B)
As the COVID pandemic spread in early 2020, global travel ground to a halt. For Airbnb, the San Francisco-based platform for renting accommodations, the impact was both swift and severe as revenues plummeted more than 70% over the prior year. Responding to the sudden downturn was a challenge for CEO Brian Chesky and his leadership team because the firm had adopted a stakeholder model with five key constituents: guests (renters), hosts (landlords), employees, communities and shareholders. While all five groups could benefit in the long-term if the firm succeeded, it was less clear how they should balance the potentially conflicting demands in the short-term particularly given the mounting losses. For example, in the face of travel restrictions, Airbnb could support guests by requiring hosts to refund deposits or could support hosts by allowing them to keep deposits. Similarly, should Airbnb use existing cash to maintain employment levels or downsize to protect capital providers? In the highly uncertain environment that existed in April 2020, Chesky and his team had to make many critical decisions with little precedent and limited information to guide them. As one of the first Silicon Valley "unicorns" to adopt a stakeholder business model, the world would be watching to see what they did, how they did it, and why.