San Francisco, CA – Airbnb has announced its first acquisition as a public company, buying artificial intelligence (AI) startup Gameplanner.AI in a deal valued at just under $200 million. The acquisition signals Airbnb’s increasing focus on leveraging AI to enhance its platform, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Gameplanner.AI was founded in 2020 and has been operating in “stealth mode” to protect its intellectual property. The startup was co-founded by Adam Cheyer, one of the creators of Apple’s Siri voice assistant. Cheyer previously worked with Steve Jobs after Apple acquired Siri, and later co-founded Viv Labs, which became the foundation for Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant.
With the acquisition, Airbnb gains Cheyer’s expertise in natural language processing and AI. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has stated that generative AI could radically transform Airbnb’s platform, essentially acting as a “travel concierge” that learns users’ preferences over time to customize and elevate their travel experiences. For instance, AI could match users to ideal accommodations or curate personalized itineraries.
Strategic Move to Bolster AI Capabilities
The acquisition of Gameplanner.AI appears to be a strategic move by Airbnb to bolster its in-house AI capabilities. With Cheyer’s experience building some of the most widely-used voice assistants, Airbnb gains invaluable talent that can accelerate its AI projects.
Additionally, the ability to leverage AI and machine learning will be key to Airbnb providing a more seamless and customized experience for users. Services like enhanced recommendations and personalized trip planning powered by AI could give Airbnb an edge over competitors.
As Airbnb’s first acquisition since 2019, the deal also signals a potential shift in the company’s M&A strategy under CEO Chesky. Airbnb has been profitable on a GAAP basis since Q2 2021 and held over $11 billion in cash and liquid assets as of Q3 2022. This acquisition could spark interest on Wall Street as to whether more deals are on the horizon for the profitable travel platform.
Tech Giants Race to Lead in AI
Airbnb’s acquisition comes amidst surging interest in AI across the technology sector. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Meta are racing to lead in the AI space, which is expected to revolutionize industries from transportation to healthcare.
Earlier this year, Google invested in Character.AI, a startup that creates AI-powered virtual companions modeled after celebrities and fictional characters. Google reportedly invested hundreds of millions into the startup, which raised $150 million in March 2022 at a $1 billion valuation.
Microsoft has developed its own conversational AI system called Sydney, which can maintain multi-turn conversations on a range of topics. Meta, meanwhile, is leveraging its vast troves of data to train AI systems to improve recommendations and ads.
As tech giants pour resources into AI, Airbnb’s acquisition of Gameplanner.AI ensures the travel platform also has top talent working on cutting-edge AI. It reflects a recognition that excelling in AI will be critical for staying competitive.
Unlocking a More Personalized Travel Experience
The integration of Gameplanner.AI’s technology presents an opportunity for Airbnb to unlock a more seamless and personalized travel experience for users. CEO Chesky has outlined a vision for AI that acts as a “perfect co-pilot” during travel.
By understanding customers’ unique preferences and previous behaviors, Airbnb’s AI could curate ideal travel itineraries complete with lodging, transportation, activities and dining recommendations. This would alleviate the stress of travel planning for Airbnb’s users.
Further, AI could schedule meetings or make last-minute changes on behalf of users, resolving pain points like flight cancellations or missed connections. As an always-available virtual concierge, AI may provide a new level of convenience for travelers.
Over time, Airbnb’s AI could become an integral part of each customer’s journey, learning about their priorities and habits. This could strengthen brand loyalty as users come to rely on AI for its unmatched personalization.
Bridging Online and Offline Experiences
As Airbnb expands beyond just accommodations into a broader travel platform, AI can also help bridge the gap between digital and in-person experiences.
Once travelers arrive at their destinations, AI could provide location-based recommendations on nearby attractions, restaurants or transportation. This helps Airbnb own more of the travel journey rather than just the accommodation booking process.
Additionally, AI-powered cameras and sensors within homes could enable interactive features that enhance on-site experiences. For instance, users could verbally ask questions of an AI assistant to learn about their rental, control smart home devices or get recommendations on local activities.
By blending digital conveniences with real-world experiences, AI may help Airbnb stand out from competitors as an end-to-end travel solution.
The integration of Gameplanner.AI serves as Airbnb’s first major step toward realizing its AI ambitions. With the startup’s expertise and Airbnb’s resources, the travel titan is well-positioned to lead the next era of tech-enhanced hospitality.