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Airbnb Is Facing a Trustworthiness Crisis

December 20, 2019, 2:36 PM UTC

It’s safe to say 2019 has been the year of the IPO, but there’s still one Silicon Valley darling yet to make its public market debut.

Airbnb. The home-sharing platform is a rare type of unicorn: It’s been a company generally well-liked by the public, run by a CEO who’s done things differently than fellow uber-aggressive founder types who started companies around the same time. Airbnb, which is valued at $35 billion in the private markets, boasts more than 7 million home listings in roughly 100,000 cities and towns across almost every country on earth. 

But its road to an initial public offering has also been full of hurdles. A company whose business is built on mutual trust between hosts and guests, Airbnb is now facing a trustworthiness crisis. My colleague Aric Jenkins went inside the company as it tries to implement safety changes and stake its claim as the ultimate one-stop shop travel company.

From his feature:

In an interview on Oct. 23, [Brian] Chesky, [founder of Airbnb] told me he had wanted to wait to pursue an IPO until the company could give investors “a sense of the future.” His goal is to build an end-to-end travel service with varied revenue streams—where customers can book lodgings, transportation, meals, and excursions, all under one corporate umbrella. Experiences are a key element of this push, but hardly the only one. Over the past few years, Airbnb has expanded into luxury homes and conventional hotel rooms, while taking steps toward offering museum and landmark tours—bolstered by acquisitions of companies with relevant expertise. But the expansion won’t succeed if consumers, investors, and regulators mistrust Airbnb—so the once-humble startup finds itself at a crossroads. 

… Looming over this struggle is a philosophical question: As Airbnb scales up and commits itself to monitoring users more closely, does the company risk abandoning the “Live like a local” mantra that attracted independent-minded travelers in the first place? Kristin Luna, a Nashville-based journalist who’s been a high-­standard “superhost” on Airbnb for almost six years, says she’s already seen changes for the worse: “It feels like a big corporation where you’re just another number.”

With Airbnb under even more scrutiny in the public markets following the meltdown of WeWork and the underwhelming performances of Uber, Lyft, and Slack, we have yet to see if Silicon Valley’s tech darling can win the validation of the public investor.

Read the full feature here.

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Polina Marinova
Twitter: @polina_marinova
Email: polina.marinova@fortune.com 

VENTURE DEALS

- Levelset, a New Orleans, La.-based platform helps contractors and suppliers with payments, raised $30 million in funding. Horizons Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including S3 Ventures, Altos Ventures, Operating Venture Capital, Michael Gollner, and Darren Bechtel of Brick & Mortar Ventures.

- Snackpass, a Berkeley, Calif.-based app that allows users to order food ahead of time to pick up at local restaurants, raised $21 million in Series A funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round, and was joined by investors including First Round, General Catalyst, YCombinator and Inspired Capital.

- HaptX, a Seattle-based maker of sensor-packed glove for VR and robotics applications that simulates haptic and resistance feedback for enterprise users, raised $12 million in funding. Investors include Mason Avenue Investments, Taylor Frigon Capital Partners, Upheaval Investments,  Votiv Capital, Keiretsu Forum,  Keiretsu Capital, NetEase  and Amit Kapur of Dawn Patrol Ventures.

- Osano, an Austin, Texas-based company building a platform for data privacy transparency, raised $5.4 million in Series A funding. LiveOak Venture Partners and Next Coast Ventures co-led the round. 

- Leapfin, a San Francisco-based revenue management software, raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Bowery Capital led the round. 

- Xilis, a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based developer of microfluidic organoid technology, raised $3 million in seed funding. Felicis Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Liquid 2 Ventures, Pear and 8VC. 

PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS

- Webster Equity Partners acquired Santa Monica Fertility Center, a provider of vertically integrated reproductive services offering egg donation, surrogacy and IVF.

- SFW Capital Partners recapitalized Micromeritics Instrument Corporation, a manufacturer of materials characterization analytical laboratory instrumentation and services. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

OTHER DEALS

- IAC (NASDAQ: IAC) acquired Care.com (NYSE: CRCM), a Waltham, Mass.-based online marketplace for finding and managing family care, for $15.00 per share in an all-cash transaction of $500 million. 

EXITS

- F5 Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ: FFIV) agreed to acquire Shape Security, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of defense against malicious automated cyberattacks on web and mobile applications. The deal values the company at approximately $1 billion. Shape Security had raised approximately $183 million in venture funding from investors including C5 Capital, HPE Growth, Kleiner Perkins, Venrock, Norwest Venture Partners,

- Culture Genesis acquired All Def, a Los Angeles-based multi-platform media company. Financial terms weren't disclosed. All Def raised approximately $15 million in funding from investors including Third Wave Digital, Greycroft, e.ventures, and WPP Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz. 

FIRMS + FUNDS

- Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, a New York-based private infrastructure investment team within Morgan Stanley Investment Management, raised $5.5 billion for North Haven Infrastructure Partners III.

- Volition Capital, a Boston-based technology and consumer growth equity firm, raised $400 million for Volition Capital Fund IV, L.P. and $200 million for its Capital Select Fund I, L.P.

- Graycliff Partners LP, a New York-based private equity firm, raised $350 million for its fourth private equity fund, Graycliff Private Equity Partners IV LP.

PEOPLE

- DFJ Growth promoted Jocelyn Kinsey to partner. 

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