NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you're dying for the insider perspective on billion-dollar social room-swapping service Airbnb -- yes, friends, the hipsters really do call it "airbeeandbee," as if a bed-and-breakfast were falling out of a plane -- you might want to sit down for a chat with Marty Bauer. Bauer is no high-profile insider with ties to Paul Graham's Y Combinator, the next-gen biz incubator in Mountain View, Calif., that spawned Airbnb. His name will not be found in last week's SEC filing that confirmed the service raised more than $117 million. And the 27-year-old is definitely not among the A-list investors such as Ashton Kutcher and Peter Thiel swirling up a monstrous $2.5 billion valuation for the company.
Bauer's critical insight into Airbnb is this: Sure, matching those who have spare rooms with those who have spare change is sexy as all get-out. But the business boils down to the intricate process of managing trust between strangers. Bauer, like Airbnb, is betting the reputation-building technologies at the heart of social media can be adapted to make folks feel safe. He can't succeed unless users are sure when they climb into a RidePost booked ride that they're not climbing in beside a psycho. "We are trying to provide low-cost rides, but without the sketchiness factor," he said. And for such social bartering markets, small turns out to be a beautiful thing.