How AirBnB stole the startup spotlight

logoNow that Groupon has filed its IPO, the geo-social-e-commerce scene needs a new favorite. And AirBnB is ready and willing to claim that spot. The site combines social media with vacation rentals to create a community of home owners and travelers who want to make renting a space easier. Its simple interface and focus on renters’ reputations make it user friendly without being unprofessional, and investors are taking notice. The company recently led a $100 million round of funding that has skyrocketed it to a $1 billion valuation. It’s growth can’t be stifled, and the Washington Post reports that “on any given night in New York there are more people staying in homes via AirBnB than there are rooms in the biggest hotel in Manhattan.” It didn’t get there off luck and prayer: AirBnB has clawed its way to this position, with some less than ethical practices and plenty of business savvy.

It beat Craigslist at its own game

Let’s be honest, it’s looking a lot like AirBnB has Craigslist to thank for some (maybe a lot) of its success. The media has picked up on that fact that the hot new startup farmed the listings site to gather its own clients. Dave Gooden, a real estate exec, recently blogged that he believes AirBnB created multiple Gmail accounts to spam users posting their own vacation rentals on Craigslist and convince them to use AirBnB instead.

AirBnB scamIt’s plainly obvious that there are a slew of identical postings on Craiglist and AirBnB, and that those on Craiglist encourage viewers to check them out on the alternative site. Tnooz reports that the social vacation rentals site has copped to the unsavory business tactic, saying “rogue” salesmen were to blame. AirBnB also claims this team’s methods were “largely ineffective.”

Whether or not this is true or just a quick cover-up, AirBnB has definitely infiltrated the vacation rentals section of Craigslist and apparently found itself a good foundation for its listings. It can say it’s sorry for how some of its sales team acted and protest innocence – either way, it was truly effective and no one is going to stop using or keep from investing in AirBnB because of these actions.

Aggressive international plans

In a Groupon-like move, AirBnB isn’t settling for national exposure. “This year is about international growth. I mean, some of our biggest cities are in Europe and South America, and they are just starting to emerge. China and Asia are really interesting to us. It’s about localizing the site and making it really easy, bringing the simplicity that we brought for people in the United States to these other countries,” co-founder Joe Gebbia recently told GigaOm. And the company isn’t wasting any time making good on those promises: TechCrunch reports that just this week, AirBnB acquired Accoleo, a German website that provides vacation rentals. The fact that many international travelers go the way of hostels when hoofing it across the globe doesn’t hurt either. The site is becoming a viable alternative to this.

This is exactly what AirBnB needs to do if it’s serious about having a significant international reach. There are some serious competitors here, including 9Flats, which has a remarkably similar UI to AirBnB. But this type of aggressive strategy, coupled with the site’s 800-percent growth and impressive fundraising, could easily pay off.

Doing social right

socialAirBnB, like generally every e-commerce site, has social features. But it’s doing them right instead of just throwing Twitter integration on its site or letting you comment on photos. It’s not a vacation rentals site that also happens to have a social network. It’s a vacation rentals site that uses social networking to involve users and keep them invested. Your profile is what makes you an attractive option to those looking to rent as well as those renting, and your reputation becomes important, thus making users more involved in the site. Wanting those good recommendations means consumers are more likely to build some sort of loyalty to AirBnB when it comes to your rental needs. It’s this type of peer-to-peer e-commerce site that’s doing so well: GetAround is a great example, which is a similar service that rents cars.

Mobile

The Pixel 3 is just another phone. But the A.I. brains inside are unrivaled

The idea that artificial intelligence in smartphones will transform our lives has been heavily hyped, but the reality often disappoints. Google may not know how to make a beautiful phone, but its A.I. features are truly useful.
Computing

Afraid that Bitcoin could be a bubble? Here's how to sell what you've got

If you're investing in cryptocurrencies, it's important to have your exit strategy in place if prices start to crash. If you've decided it's time to get out or just want to learn how to sell Bitcoins, here's how to get started.
Computing

Here's how to download a YouTube video to watch offline later

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.
Home Theater

Time for a TV upgrade? Here’s what you need to know about 4K Ultra HD TV

Ultra HD 4K has quickly taken over the world of TVs. But what is Ultra HD 4K, how does it work, and most importantly, should you upgrade, or keep your old TV? We explain it all right here.
Mobile

2018's 10 best dating apps to help you find the perfect companion

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Computing

Google to shut down Google+ after exposure of 500,000 users’ data

After Facebook revealed that 50 million users may have been exposed as a result of a security vulnerability, Google announced it discovered a bug that left 500,000 Google+ users exposed. It will also shut down Google+.
Social Media

Instagram says its A.I. can track down bullying in photos

Instagram is turning to artificial intelligence to help it root out bullying on its platform. Following similar efforts to target bullying in comments, the company now has systems capable of detecting bullying in photos, too.
Social Media

Sick of Facebook privacy scandals? Here's how to protect your personal data

With a number of security scandals in 2018, it has us questioning if we should get rid of Facebook. Here's how to protect your personal data without deleting your account, as well as how to just nuke the thing altogether.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make an animated GIF

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.
Social Media

Snapchat is using VR to let you step inside its new original shows

Tuning in to your favorite shows not enough? Snap Originals will allow viewers to set into a virtual set. The new exclusive shows debut today with three different shows. Snap Originals are vertical, short, and exclusive to the platform.
Social Media

3D Facebook photos jump out of the newsfeed, no glasses needed

You're not seeing things -- that photo in your Facebook newsfeed is 3D. Launching today, 3D Facebook Photos use the depth maps from dual-lens smartphones to add dimension to an image as you move your phone.
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?
Computing

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Photography

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.