Wired recently published a long read called, “I stumbled across a huge Airbnb scam that’s taking over London.” Apparently the people who do these sorts of things on the platform (things that are both illegal and questionable) call it “systemizing.” This is the process of trying to create scale. Secure lots of units. Create a bunch of fake/duplicate accounts. And try and maximize revenue.
This obviously runs counter to Airbnb’s mission of “authentic places”, “community”, and “local hosts.” But as Benedict Evans points out in his latest newsletter, “where there is money and people, there will be scams.” And Airbnb is obviously doing everything it can to quash this kind of activity, especially as it prepares for a possible IPO this year. The company has a policy of zero tolerance.
Fraud and government regulation are likely to be the two biggest kinks to work out as the company gets ready for public consumption. I am sure an equilibrium will be found; it’s just going to take some time and a few lawyers. It goes to show you just how challenging startups can be when you combine digital (tech) and physical (real estate).