Thousands of Airbnb hosts received an email invitation to buy company stock ahead of its initial public offer. Many, though, didn't take the email seriously.



OK, the email began, hosts like you are a foundation of our company. Airbnb sent it to thousands of its hosts. It was an invitation to buy company stock ahead of its blockbuster initial public offering this past week. Problem is, it kind of looked like spam. So many of them ignored it and missed out on what could have been a golden ticket. NPR's Bobby Allyn has the story.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: We've all had an important email get buried under the daily deluge of messages. Just ask Sara Shea. She's an Airbnb host based in Asheville, N.C. When she got Airbnb's note, she didn't really absorb it.

SARA SHEA: Whatever. I get out of spam and a ton of stuff, and I saw it. And I said, this is something I need to go back and take a closer look at. But I didn't read all the details of it.

ALLYN: In Austin, Texas, Tom Krones was really busy when he got the email last month.

TOM KRONES: Part of it was I just kind of figured I'll do it later.

ALLYN: Airbnb had set a deadline of just a few days later. So by the time Krones remembered...

KRONES: You know, I should probably buy, like, a couple shares just for fun. And I pulled up the email again, and it was too late.

ALLYN: To be clear, many Airbnb hosts jumped at this chance, and for some, it paid off handsomely. Los Angeles-based Airbnb host Jino Cabrera says he was thinking about it.

JINO CABRERA: I've never even bought a single share of stock in my life.

ALLYN: But he took a gamble, bought 200 shares. It cost him about $14,000. Once the stock started trading, his money doubled. He quickly cashed out.

CABRERA: I sold my stocks yesterday (laughter).

ALLYN: Cabrera is now celebrating in Las Vegas. He is not alone in being surprised. Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky was on Bloomberg TV when an anchor told him the price of the stock had doubled.


BRIAN CHESKY: That's the first time I've heard that number. That is - that's a - you know, when we...

ALLYN: Krones was watching this from his home in Austin.

KRONES: That's the one thing that makes me feel a little bit better about the whole thing - right? - is seeing his face and being like, OK, well, if he didn't know, then I can't be expected to know either.

ALLYN: Of course, it's cold comfort since he is not a dollar richer today than he was before the IPO. The same cannot be said of Chesky, whose net worth went up $7 billion.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News, San Francisco.