One of the most hotly awaited tech IPOs of a generation is inching closer to reality. Airbnb CEO Brain Chesky says the company will be “ready as absolutely soon as we can.” But don’t take that to the bank just yet. Chesky insists the company isn’t rushing to market. We sat down with the unicorn exec to discuss Airbnb’s IPO planning, why the timing isn’t set in stone, and how the company is treading carefully with its next moves.
This is an edited excerpt of a longer conversation. Read more about Airbnb’s expanding Experiences business here and Chesky’s take on the changing role of Silicon Valley here.
Fortune: What can you tell me about the latest on your plans for an IPO? What’s happening there?
Brian Chesky: Well, I think I told you at the New York Stock Exchange [in March 2017] that we were halfway through a two-year project. I guess that makes us slightly more than halfway through a two-year project. But to make it very clear, because some people read that as we’re going public next year, it just means we’ll be ready. And I do think it’s responsible to be ready as absolutely soon as we can. That is incredibly responsible. Everyone says we should be ready. I can also tell you that the vast majority of people are saying that you should take your time and do whatever you need to do on your timeline. Because companies have struggled [in the public markets], and it’s a defining thing. So they’ve all said be responsible, take it slow.
So you’re taking a more measured approach going forward.
I had told you the story [a few years ago] about Warren Buffett [advising me] to “get rich slow.” Nothing about Airbnb was slow. It’s only nine years old. But I do think that it’s been helpful for us to be able to go a little slower and take a little bit of a breather and be a little more thoughtful. I think that’s what we’ve done with Experiences, that’s what I’m trying to do with new businesses. It’s very hard when you’re in hyper-growth, things might not be managed well. Also it happens so fast you’re not considerate of issues, you’re not stopping to look. And that can become quite dangerous. And then it turns out it’s a lot more work on the back end. And so getting rich slow isn’t actually slower. It’s just the horizon. Like, it’s slower in year one, but it might be faster in year seven.
And your investors are on board with that?
We’re lucky that we have investors and partners that allow us to be, I think, thoughtful and methodical. The other thing I’d say is it’s all in your time horizon. Like, I’m 36 and I hope to be doing this for a few more decades. And on that time horizon, we’ve got a lot of time to do a lot of things. It’s not going to take three decades but I think that long-term compounder of growth, [who’s] really thoughtful, is I think going to ultimately win the race.