Airbnb admits to gaming Craigslist, blames rogue contractors

Social bed and breakfast startup Airbnb has enjoyed a fair amount of buzzworthy press recently with the announcement of Ashton Kutcher as the company’s new strategic adviser and a $100 million mega-round of investment speculated to close soon.

But the company has admitted that, before gaining the kind of attention that has many calling it the next hot startup, it hired contractors who used unsavory tactics to get people posting property listings on Craigslist to create a listing on Airbnb as well, according to Tnooz.

Entrepreneur Dave Gooden wrote a blog post about those tactics, which he determined to be automated spam accounts used to harvest email addresses (otherwise known as “farming”), according to his own personal tests.

Airbnb blames the actions on a “rogue” sales team it contracted to acquire listings through person-to-person sales. After investigating the tactics used by the sales team, it found no evidence of an automated or data harvesting process and concluded that “their efforts were largely ineffective.” The company also stated that it doesn’t condone the practice of farming Craigslist.

Some believe Airbnb is more guilty than its admitting, such as Business Insider’s Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who points out that plenty of fledgling companies resort to shady tactics to get their startup off the ground. But in Airbnb’s defense, I can’t imagine Craigslist would have an abundance of properties that would provide travelers a “unique experience” similar to a bed and breakfast — meaning there wouldn’t be much benefit from the company’s perspective. It’s much more plausible that an outside contractor did it to satisfy the promotional goals it was hired to accomplish.

Regardless of whether Airbnb is more responsible for gaming Craigslist than it’s leading on, it probably won’t have any impact on the mega-round of funding or its status as the next hot tech startup.

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  1. [...] its market share very seriously — painting lesser-known rivals as deceptive scam artists and hiring an aggressive sales firms that ended up going rogue. But honestly, every piece of news about Airbnb suggests this is one startup that’s anxious [...]

  2. [...] threat of competitors very seriously — painting lesser-known rivals as deceptive scam artists and hiring an aggressive sales firms that ended up going rogue. But honestly, every piece of news about Airbnb suggests this is one startup that’s anxious to [...]

  3. [...] empezar una startup. Y si no que se lo digan a Airbnb. ¿Más? Aquí en San Francisco la gente parece utilizar Craiglist para casi cualquier cosa. [...]

  4. [...] into the spotlight after supposed rogue sales contractors hit Craigslist. VentureBeat’s Tom Cheredar noted that Airbnb “hired contractors who used unsavory tactics to get people posting property [...]

  5. [...] thrown into a spotlight after ostensible brute sales contractors strike Craigslist. VentureBeat’s Tom Cheredar remarkable that Airbnb “hired contractors who used unpalatable strategy to get people posting [...]

  6. [...] Airbnb. First, the company admitted it hired a sales team which used less-than-kosher tactics to farm Craigslist for accommodation listings. Then, in July 2011 a customer had her apartment ransacked by guests who booked a stay through [...]

  7. [...] Airbnb. First, the company admitted it hired a sales team which used less-than-kosher tactics to farm Craigslist for accommodation listings. Then, in July 2011 a customer had her apartment ransacked by guests who booked a stay through [...]

  8. [...] Airbnb. First, the company admitted it hired a sales team which used less-than-kosher tactics to farm Craigslist for accommodation listings. Then, in July 2011 a customer had her apartment ransacked by guests who booked a stay through [...]

  9. Quora says:

    How has Airbnb approached customer acquisition to date?…

    Looks like an early contributor was spamming/farming craigslist email addresses in violation of their policies, according to this VentureBeat article (http://venturebeat.com/2011/06/02/airbnb-admits-gaming-craigslist/) which mentions BusinessInsider’s…

  10. [...] Airbnb. First, the company admitted it hired a sales team which used less-than-kosher tactics to farm Craigslist for accommodation listings. Then, in July 2011 a customer had her apartment ransacked by guests who booked a stay through [...]

  11. [...] site, but stay professional about it. Remember the Airbnb hiccup a few years ago when they were busted posting fake ads to Craiglist that pointed people to their site? They were so laser focused on attracting visitors and gaining [...]

  12. […] companies in order to make your service more easily discoverable. Some famous examples are AirBnB and Craigslist, Zynga and Facebook, and Paypal and […]