San Francisco based bitcoin microtipping service ChangeTip, was just acquired by home rental company AirBnB in a talent deal according to Quartz.
In the article, Quartz indicated that people familiar with the deal said that Airbnb has “acqui-hired” the majority of the team behind ChangeTip, however, since it was an acquirhire deal, the ChangeTip closed source code is still being shopped around.
What this means for ChangeTip users is uncertain at this point. If the majority of developers and staff were acquired by AirBnB, it’s still unclear what will happen to the ChangeTip platform and service. Not only does ChangeTip provide a microtipping service, but they are also an exchange for customers to buy bitcoin from their service, for example easily being able to purchase small amounts of bitcoin with a credit card.
AirBnB has been looking at a few bitcoin and blockchain startups, according to two sources, to study what the technology could do for its services. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are built on their ability to manage supply and demand, which could be aided by a powerful, open ledger system like blockchain.
Quartz speculated the reason for the deal could be to have AirBnB use the blockchain which might allow them to share its user profiles with other companies. If Airbnb can figure out a way to make its user profiles immutable and universally readable, they could become a trusted form of digital identity, a bit like the profiles that credit bureaus create for individuals. If these identities can be “exported” to other platforms, they could become hugely valuable. An Uber driver, for example, might know if his next passenger came with a history of leaving Airbnb properties damaged.
This isn’t the first time that ChangeTip private user data has come into question about being sold to the highest bidder. In 2014 ChangeTip CEO Nick Sullivan, who was part of the acquirhire, said “we won’t sell user data.” ChangeTip has also been the target of users on social media who have claimed that some of their staff have been foraging customer data for their own personal use.