Airbnb – the self-described vacation rental service that operates over the internet and through smartphone apps – is reportedly in talks to buy Tilt, a company more well known for its payments management and crowdsourcing application. However, the deal under consideration has been speculated to be more about Tilt's expertise in money management, cross-currency payments, and bill-splitting than about the company's own application. While a healthy amount of skepticism about the implications of the deal is recommended until an official announcement is made, any deal that does get made could bring some significant changes to Airbnb.
Airbnb and Tilt are not companies that one would normally associate with one another. Airbnb is a well known and trusted means to rent a house, apartment, bed and breakfast room, etc from the web for vacation or business trips. It is essentially a service-as-a-product system which connects prospective renters to property owners and their properties. It also thrives on its reasonably strict policies and rules for both renting out a location to users and reserving a location from the site – in addition to being heavily review-driven. If the deal between Airbnb and Tilt goes through, the latter's expertise could be utilized in various ways. Most obviously, Tilt has created a system to split bills between users. As Airbnb's current system stands, it is possible to send an email invitation to other people who may be sharing a rental with the primary customer but not to ask for any kind of payment from those other renters. Acquiring Tilt could give Airbnb customers a way to split the bill – which becomes due before staying at any location through the service – in advance.
Beyond the obvious implication of such a deal, Airbnb could simply use Tilt's knowledge to build up and improve its own payment services outright. Payments to property owners already go through Airbnb first as part of the aforementioned policies – with specific clauses about not paying any property owner outside of the system. While the specifics of the way in which Airbnb operates are not known, there are almost always ways for any system to be improved and optimized. Tilt's expertise in cross-currency purchases could come into play, as rentals through Airbnb are available in countries across the globe. Sources close to the deal have reported as of Jan. 24 that the price of the buy is currently being negotiated between $10 million and $20 million, with Tilt's most recently reported valuation resting at around $400 million.