Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky told CNBC he was “really proud” of what one of the company’s first software engineers has done since retiring from the online home rental market.
This former Airbnb employee is Brian Armstrong, Co-Founder and CEO of Coinbase. The cryptocurrency exchange went public and rose in a direct listing on Wednesday. This was an important milestone for the emerging digital assets industry.
“Brian is actually one of the original architects of our payment platform and fraud detection system, so I’m very, very proud of what he does,” Chesky said in an interview that aired on Tech Check on Friday.
San Francisco-based Airbnb, which had its own high profile IPO in December, was founded in 2008. Armstrong worked for the company for a little over a year. Shortly after he left in 2012, Armstrong founded Coinbase with Fred Ehrsam, a former forex trader at Goldman Sachs.
Chesky said he “stayed in touch” with Armstrong.
At the time Coinbase was founded, Bitcoin was only three years old and cost around $ 6. Ehrsam continues to serve on Coinbase’s board of directors, but stepped down from his daily duties in 2017. Today he is a managing partner at Paradigm, a crypto-focused investment firm that he helped found.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like ether have gotten a crack in the past few months.
One factor cited in Bitcoin’s price spike – from under $ 11,000 in early October to over $ 61,000 as of Friday – was institutional adoption. Bitcoin, which accounts for more than half of the $ 2 trillion cryptocurrency market, hit an all-time high of $ 65,000 on Wednesday.
Two major Wall Street banks – Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs – are taking steps to allow wealth management clients to get exposure to Bitcoin, and companies like Tesla have bought the digital coin with cash on their balance sheets. The electric vehicle maker also started accepting Bitcoin as a means of payment for its products.
Billionaire Rick Caruso’s real estate company also recently invested in Bitcoin and will give tenants in its residential and retail properties the option to pay rent using the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market value.
Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase (L), and Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb.
When asked by CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa whether Airbnb has any plans related to launching crypto, Chesky said he “has nothing to announce at the moment. But I can tell you we’ve been looking at this for sure.”
However, Chesky enjoyed talking about Bitcoin and the role Armstrong’s Coinbase has played in building a security-focused crypto exchange.
“I think one of the lessons here is when you give people power, it gives you more economic empowerment and more access,” Chesky said. “But in order to give people more power, they have to be able to trust each other.”
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are underpinned by blockchain technology, a decentralized digital ledger in which transactions are recorded. Proponents assume that the adoption of blockchain will increase in the coming years. Some people compare the disruptive potential to the early days of the internet.
“Obviously, cryptocurrencies have their own trust system. Airbnb, our trust system based on our reputation system, has released a lot of profitability in my opinion,” said Chesky. “I think these general trends of unlocking trust systems that allow more people to participate in the economy are a great boon to the world economy.”
Coinbase’s shares rose about 5% to around $ 340 per share on Friday, about $ 12 more than two days ago when the company closed its debut session. Coinbase’s market cap is nearly $ 67 billion.
Since closing 112% on its IPO debut late last year, Airbnb shares have risen roughly 20%. The stock was trading at around $ 177 on Friday, giving Airbnb a market cap of over $ 106 billion.
Airbnb’s business is benefiting from the recovery following a slowdown caused by the Covid pandemic. Chesky told CNBC that the company believes it will need “millions more hosts” to keep up in the years to come. It currently has 4 million hosts.