Business Startups Venture

As Airbnb Acquires Another Startup, A Look At The Travel Startup Market

About $1.4 trillion dollars are spent on corporate travel every year. So, as they often do, scrappy startups and eager founders are working to tackle the pain points within the industry, from expensing to 24/7 support in case your hotel key doesn’t work. 

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If you’re the last minute booker? LastRoom. Want easier expensing? Upside. Crave a tech-enabled, amenity-rich hotel? Mint House. And if you’re the manager that needs to streamline all your employees travels together? Lola. Or TravelPerk. Or TripActions. Or Upside, again. 

As you can see there’s no shortage of startups in the travel space. And behemoths like Airbnb are taking notice. Just yesterday, the online travel company acquired Urbandoor, a platform that offers short term corporate rentals. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

And a few months before this acquisition, Airbnb scooped up HotelTonight, a San Francisco startup that helps corporate travelers make last-minute bookings. The company, which claims it will go public eventually, has bought more companies this year already (4) than it did in total last year (1). 

The chart below shows the acquisition pace Airbnb has been on in the last year. 

Beyond acquisitions, Airbnb investment history shows a keen eye. The company has put money into Oyo, a hotel startup in India that manages budget hotels, as well as The Wing, a coworking service targeted toward women. 

I have two bets regarding Airbnb’s startup appetite. First, it may be able to scoop up smaller startups but it needs to diversify as its late stage competition grows. Last month, for example, San Francisco based company Sonder raised $210 million to make hospitable short-term rentals. And China’s Mafengwo raised $250 million a few months before that to offer global travel services. And we haven’t even brought up other rivals like HomeAway and VRBO.

Long gone are the days that Airbnb was just a platform that connects people to a sweet cottage amidst the olive trees. So Airbnb’s play to tap into a market like business travel, which will only grow as the global economy strengthens, makes sense. For competitive reasons, it’s logical that Airbnb is investing time and money into acquiring smaller, corporate-travel focused competitors. 

My second, and final wager stems from Airbnb’s potential IPO. If it ever does choose to go public, the company is slowly adding new brains and more revenue to its operations. 

And if these bets work out in the company’s favor, its public debut will be a little more hospitable.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.