If Airbnb has its way, hosting travelers won't just get you some spending money -- it'll get you a stake in the company's future. Axios has discovered that Airbnb sent a letter to the SEC asking for the regulator to permit offering equity to hosts. Airbnb primarily supported changes to Securities Act Rule 701 that would allow offering shares to gig economy workers, not just investors and staff. CEO Brian Chesky characterized it as vital to rewarding the company's supporters.
"We would be nothing without our hosts," he said in a statement to Axios. "We would like our most loyal hosts to be shareholders, but need these policies to change in order to make that happen."
This isn't the first time a gig-oriented online service has petitioned the SEC. Uber met with the Commission more than once to ask about the possibility. Airbnb is pushing for a direct policy change, however, where Uber was more interested in how it could offer shares under the existing framework.
The SEC hasn't outlined how it will respond, if it does at all. A rule change wouldn't be a simple matter of flicking a regulatory switch, at any rate. Airbnb might have problems offering shares outside the US, and even then would have to register if it wanted to have more than 2,000 shareholders (or 500 who aren't accredited US investors). That's not including the tax implications, either. And there's a certain political element involved. You might be more likely to back Airbnb's political stance if you benefit from the overall growth of the company.