Amazon exec Dave Stephenson tapped to lead Airbnb to the public markets

Startups

Airbnb has completed a much-needed hire ahead of its rumored 2019 initial public offering.

The hospitality giant has brought on Dave Stephenson, a long-time Amazon vice president and former president of Big Fish Games, as its chief financial officer. Stephenson replaces the company’s head of global financial planning and analysis, Ellie Mertz, who served as interim head of finance as Airbnb searched for its former CFO Laurence Tosi’s replacement.

Tosi, who had previously led finance at The Blackstone Group, left Airbnb in February to focus on his investment firm, Weston Capital Partners, amid a report from The Information that he and Airbnb co-founder and chief executive officer Brian Chesky had disagreed over “how to balance the financial stability needed to go public.” The Wall Street veteran was focused on financial discipline, while Chesky wanted to invest in innovation and “areas that might not yield profits for a while.”

Tosi was credited with leading the company to profitability quicker than many of its fellow technology ‘unicorns.’ Airbnb says it’s profitable on an EBITDA basis and cash flow positive with a $5.5 billion balance sheet. It reportedly recorded upwards of $3 billion in revenue in 2017.

Stephenson joined Amazon in 1999 and ended his tenure at the e-commerce powerhouse as the vice president and CFO of its worldwide consumer business. He left Amazon for a brief stint between 2011 and 2013 to head up the Seattle-based game developer Big Fish Games.

“In the years ahead, [Stephenson] will be Airbnb’s quarterback for long-term growth, driving us to be even more efficient and leverage what makes Airbnb unique to create new businesses and continue to expand,” Chesky wrote in a blog post this morning.

Stephenson is the second Amazon executive to jump ship to San Francisco-based Airbnb this year. He follows Amazon’s former VP of prime & delivery experience Greg Greeley, who was hired as the home-sharing company’s president of homes in March. Greeley similarly spent nearly two decades under Jeff Bezos and was credited with helping build Amazon Prime, as well as Amazon’s European business.

The well-funded company now employs more than 4,000 and boasts a $31 billion valuation — making it one of the most valuable private companies in the world. Since it was founded by Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk in 2008, it’s raised $4.4 billion in venture capital funding, most recently securing a $1 billion Series F from Capital G, TCV, Temasek, Bracket Capital and others.

Airbnb is expected to bring liquidity to its investors via a highly-anticipated IPO as soon as June 30, 2019. It will likely chase Uber to the public markets, giving 2019 two of the largest IPOs of the decade.

Uber, in a similar fashion, recently hired a CFO, too — a role crucial for any company eyeing an IPO. The ride-hailing businesses’ choice was Nelson J. Chai, the former CEO of insurance and warranty provider Warranty Group.

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