Airbnb Inc. is close to hiring Blackstone Group LP’s Laurence Tosi as chief financial officer of the home-sharing startup, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Hiring executives from publicly traded companies is often a precursor to an initial public offering for Silicon Valley startups. Airbnb in June was in talks to raise another round of financing at a $24 billion valuation. The company is projecting revenue of $900 million this year, up from $250 million in 2013.
Silicon Valley is also increasingly attracting talent from Wall Street. Ruth Porat in May joined Google Inc. as CFO from Morgan Stanley, where she had the same role. Anthony Noto, Twitter Inc.’s finance chief, joined the company last year from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he co-led telecommunications, media and technology investment banking.
Airbnb hasn’t had a CFO since Andrew Swain left the San Francisco-based company last year. Representatives for Airbnb and New York-based Blackstone declined to comment. Tosi didn’t return telephone calls for comment.
Tosi, 47, has been CFO of Blackstone since 2008. Since then, the world’s biggest manager of investment alternatives to stocks and bonds has doubled assets under management to $333 billion from $119 billion.
The firm paid Tosi $15 million last year in salary, bonus, stock awards and a cut of profits, according to Blackstone’s annual report. He also holds partnership units that gave him $1.4 million in dividends.
Tosi has long been drawn to technology. When he was at Merrill Lynch & Co., he helped create Ipreo Holdings LLC, the financial data provider that Blackstone and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bought last year for $975 million. At Blackstone, he helped start iLevel, a tool for gathering data from an investment portfolio and packaging it for reporting to clients, including on mobile phones and tablets.
Tosi’s closest brush with Silicon Valley came in late 2010, when Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs invited Tosi to his California home to discuss the iPhone maker’s future. There, Jobs offered the then-42-year-old the job of CFO of Apple. Tosi told Blackstone Chief Executive Officer Steve Schwarzman and declined Jobs’s offer.
Schwarzman earlier this year tipped his hat to the success of Silicon Valley startups. At a May conference in New York, the 68-year-old said that if he were 30 years younger, he’d move to California to be an Internet entrepreneur.
“There’s so much disruption and so much amazing value creation,” said Schwarzman, who’s built a $12.5 billion fortune based on Blackstone’s success. “The valuations are really heroic.”