Monday, July 22, 2013

So Much for Airbnb

Reading Thomas Friedman's column about airbnb and our new "sharing economy", I was looking forward to a discounted stay in a Bethesda mansion with access to a giant swimming pool, perhaps even a guided tour of the grounds in a Lexus SUV (hybrid, in case you were wondering) driven by my host. Given the owner's self-described sacrifice, buying up 7.5 acres and building a giant mansion in order to save the rest of us from having that land redeveloped into a subdivision that could house many families, you might think he was also interested in sparing the area from a Holiday Inn.
More than 50 percent of Airbnb hosts depend on it to pay their rent or mortgage today, Chesky added: “Ordinary people can now be micro-entrepreneurs.” Jamie Wong, co-founder of, a platform through which locals anywhere can become custom tour guides of their area, told me: “I moved out of my apartment in central San Francisco, rented a cheaper annex in a friend’s home, and ‘airbnb-ed’ my apartment for $200 a night and earned about $20,000 in a year. It enabled me to bootstrap my start-up. Airbnb was our first round of funding!” And just think how much better all this is for the environment — for people to be renting their spare bedrooms rather than building another Holiday Inn and another and another. ... The sharing economy — watch this space. This is powerful.
Alas, as powerful as the "sharing economy" may be, it seems to be one in which people at the margins do the sharing - people who can't pay their mortgage, or have to save up for a full year to be able to afford even one Rolex marginally bootstrap their business ideas.

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