Airbnb Buys Tilt, Signaling Its Growing Interest In Group Travel

By Ainsley O’Connell 

Airbnb has closed on its acquisition of Tilt, a startup for crowdfunding and peer-to-peer payments, in what sources describe as an acquihire. Tilt cofounder and CEO James Beshara will join the Airbnb team, as will Tilt employees with expertise in group payments, an area that Airbnb plans to build out.

Prior reports pegged the purchase price as in the $10-$20 million range, but those estimates reflected just one part of the broader deal. The final price, sources say, including employee retention packages, is closer to the $62.1 million that Tilt had previously raised from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Felicis Ventures.

The deal came together through conversations between Beshara and Joe Zadeh, Airbnb’s VP of product, who has been looking to expand the company’s capabilities around group travel. The discussions grew more serious as Tilt started running out of cash.

Founded in 2012, Tilt found early success on college campuses, where its app became a popular way to raise money for frat parties or split the expense of late-night pizza. Overseas, in Canada and Europe, user behavior looked closer to that of Venmo. But Tilt opted to focus on user growth instead of revenue and relied on other payments companies, like Stripe, for significant parts of its technology. When user growth slowed in the U.S., the company started to run out of options.

For Airbnb, the deal marks its second acquisition this month. Last week the company acquired Luxury Rentals, a vacation rental company with a portfolio of high-end properties. With Tilt, Airbnb follows the tried-and-true playbook of combining payments and travel, a strategy that has served American Express well.


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