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Ari Steinberg
Ari Steinberg

Airbnb is establishing a downtown Seattle engineering operation, GeekWire has learned, making the alternative accommodations giant the latest Bay Area company to set up shop in Seattle in a quest for software development talent.

Leading the initiative are two experienced executives: Airbnb engineering manager Ari Steinberg, who oversaw Facebook’s Seattle engineering office before launching a travel startup, Vamo, that was acquired by Airbnb last year; and product director Ian McAllister, who founded and led the AmazonSmile charity program as part of his long tenure at the Seattle-based e-commerce giant.

Ian McAllister
Ian McAllister

Airbnb, which already has about five people in its Seattle operation, confirmed that it is initially setting up shop in the WeWork co-working space at Westlake Tower in downtown Seattle, and seeking to hire engineers in the city.

It’s the type of measured approach that gives the company flexibility to expand in different ways depending on how the office grows, with the potential to establish a more permanent office in the future.

The expansion comes amid reports this week that privately held Airbnb is seeking a new financing round that would peg the value of the company at up to $30 billion. The company plans to raise between $500 million and $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports. A separate deal would allow employees to sell stock to investors, according to the report, relieving some of the pressure for the company to go public.

“We recently kicked off a new initiative of distributed engineering teams at Airbnb,” the company says in a job post seeking engineers in Seattle. “There is much more that we want to build and so much that we could improve. We value strong engineers who are agile enough to jump into projects across all areas of the stack: Frontend, Backend, Machine Learning, or Full Stack. Our second remote engineering office will be in Seattle.”

The San Francisco-based company’s first remote engineering office was established in Portland, Ore., last year.  Posts by Airbnb engineers give a sense for the type of challenges the company’s engineering teams tackle, such as accelerating the process of resolving a customer support ticket and monitoring customer issues at scale.

The expansion in Seattle puts Airbnb within poaching distance of a large number of companies, including one of its competitors, Bellevue, Wash.-based travel giant Expedia Inc., which acquired HomeAway last year and has been positioning the Austin, Texas-based company as more of a direct rival to Airbnb. Expedia is planning its own move to the downtown Seattle waterfront in the coming years.

The new space also gives Airbnb a more meaningful presence in Seattle as city leaders consider new regulations that would limit the ability of property owners to use short-term rental sites Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO to operate what officials say amount to commercial lodging businesses.

All told, more than 70 major technology companies headquartered outside the Seattle area, primarily based in the Bay Area, have now established engineering operations in the Seattle region.

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