Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky was in South Africa today to speak about the “official” launch of the service (it has already been available in the country for a  some time now), as well as appoint Nicola D’Elia as the general manager for Africa and the Middle East.

If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, think of it as Uber, except for your house. As a guest you can find cheaper (when compared to hotels) accommodation, and as a home or business owner you can make some additional income, or attract new business.

You’re probably intrigued at this point, as Uber hasn’t been in the news for the right reasons (except for when we ordered some ice cream from them), and there’s a cloud of ambiguity around this whole “sharing” thing, regardless of the shared commodity being a vehicle or a place to sleep at night.

A lot of statistics and figures were thrown around at the press conference, and while we’re not ones to gawk at big numbers, we can’t help but be reminded of just how quickly these start-ups can go from a clever little idea in a Californian lounge to a billion dollar global business.

The interesting bits:

There are 30 000 listings in Africa, 9 400 of those are in South Africa.

Around the world you can stay in houses from famous architects, tree houses or even castles through the service.

We were shown examples of a “typical, mid-range” overnight stay, using the service in Johannesburg. These range from lofts to what you’d generally call a hotel room. Prices were set at $145 (R1 827).

Around 70 per cent of Airbnb users leave a rating of their experience.

There are no plans to create a brick-and-mortar office on the continent, as of yet, like Facebook recently did. 

Chesky believes Airbnb isn’t a disruptor in the established hotel industries, but rather to the practice of people staying with family members during travel.

The company is looking for ways to update tax laws so they can pay their fair share of taxes in any given country.

The charge of the service (that is, the price of the accommodation) is entirely determined by the person/business offering the accommodation. Once payment is made, Airbnb takes 13 per cent of it; 10 per cent from the host and 3 per cent from the guest.

Airbnb will soon implement a system where hosts and guests can be compensated for damages to themselves or their property while using the system. The “Host Guarantee” part of the system will cover up to $1 million (almost R13 million) in damages to host property.

When questioned about host and/or guest safety, or if Airbnb was facing the similar opposition to Uber locally, Chesky was adamant that his business model is based on a sense of community and that the 4.5 million people who have used the service, if looked at as data points, do not support the notion of harm towards his users.