A senior executive at Airbnb today said the company could raise $1 billion (£650 million) if it wanted to as speculation mounts that the San Francisco-headquartered firm is on the cusp of a huge funding round that would value it at $20 billion (£13 billion).

“I believe we could raise a billion dollars if we wanted to," said Mike Curtis, VP of engineering at Airbnb, at Mobile World Congress on the 4YFN [Four Years From Now] stage.

Airbnb VP of engineering Mike Curtis was interviewed on stage by Techcrunch editor Mike Butcher ©Techworld/Sam Shead
Airbnb VP of engineering Mike Curtis was interviewed on stage by Techcrunch editor Mike Butcher ©Techworld/Sam Shead

The company, whose platform can be used to list, discover, and book accommodation around the world, is understood to have already secured approximately $500 million (£325 million), according to sources cited by Techcrunch that are familiar with the matter. 

Airbnb is understood to be in talks with Asian investors and private equity firms about raising the other half. 

A valuation of this size would put the seven-year-old company in the same league as Twitter, which stands at $25 billion (£16 million), but some way off Uber, which is valued at  $41 billion (£27 billion). By way of comparison, Google and Facebook are worth $221 billion (£144 billion) and $381 billion (£248 billion) respectively, while Apple is out in front at $748 billion (£486 billion). 

While Curtis didn't want to comment on what he described as "rumour" and "speculation", on the topic of a billion dollar funding round, he did say: "Boy, that would be exciting." 

Techcrunch editor Mike Butcher asked Curtis whether he thought today’s fast growing technology companies warrant their multibillion dollar valuations. 

Tech bubbles

Curtis responded: “I think that the revenue model behind some of the companies that are commanding really high valuations right now are much more sustainable. There’s a clearer business model. 

“In previous times when we’ve seen inflated valuations there was not a lot a of revenue behind them. That seems to be changing now."

Airbnb started its shared economy business in San Francisco but today more than 58 percent of Airbnb listings can be found in Europe.

Despite this, Curtis said that his army of engineers will remain on the other side of the Atlantic for the foreseeable future.

The company, which opened its European headquarters in Dublin's "Silicon Docks" last year announced last Friday that it intends to recruit a further 200 people in the Irish capital, bring the workforce in the office to 500 people. 

The new posts will be in the customer service, human resources, finance, trust and safety and IT divisions.

Curtis has been VP of engineering at Airbnb for two years. Prior to that he held roles as director of engineering at Facebook and VP of engineering at Yahoo.