Is London stuck on a Silicon roundabout? Airbnb boss claims capital needs a 'billion dollar business' to inspire startups

Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk says London can't compete with Silicon Valley until it starts producing billion dollar businesses
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In their swanky new Silicon Valley offices, which boast meeting rooms decked out like their living rooms available on their service, the Airbnb co-founder talked about London, and explained why the firm has a racoon and a bear's head in its toilet.

London lacks inspiration

One of Silicon Valley’s most successful entrepreneurs has claimed London is being held back by its failure to produce a ‘billion dollar’ online business.

Nathan Blecharczyk, of of the co-founders of room booking service Airbnb, told Stuff that the capital was unlikely to ever rival Silicon Valley - unless it can produce a major success story like Twitter or Facebook.

“You need to be inspired by a success story, because the more common outcome for entrepreneurs is failure - but that is more bearable if you know people have succeeded before you,” he said.

Blecharczyk said the capital still lacked a ‘home run’, citing Twitter’s recent IPO as an example of the kind of success London needs. “The Twitter IPO represents that, it will inspire people to reach that goal.”

Although firms like Moshi Monsters, which has over 200 employees and has propelled founder Michael Acton Smith to the front pages of newspaper have been a success, the Government’s efforts to create a ‘Tech City’ in the East End have so far failed to produce a success story big enough to inspire others, Blecharczyk claims.

“That’s the big issue that London, Berlin and others have.

“There’s mentorship, camaraderie and they are getting over the fear of failure - but what London needs is a home run story, the local guy who made it all the way. London needs a billion dollar business.

“If it can get just one of those, I think it will be followed by a lot more - but Silicon Valley has been producing those since the 1960s.”

Airbnb, set up by Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia in 2008, has now grown to have over 350,000 hosts who rent out rooms, and over 9 million guests have used the service.

It recently moved into a huge new office in San Francisco, which boasts a massive atrium and odd touches like racoons and a bear's head in the toilet, along with in house chefs.

"We had Bill Gates here recently, and he asked why we have them," Blecharczyk admitted.

"We want to make the office a fun place to work."

In London, one of Airbnb’s biggest markets, rooms available include the clock tower at St Pancras stations.

The firm recently unveiled new apps allowing hosts to accept bookings, and its founders pledged to stay with the company.

“We plan to be involved for a long time, and we’re still excited by our plans,” said Blecharczyk. “Every week things that happen here surprise me.”