Airbnb acquires AI startup Gameplanner.AI for nearly $200 million, its first acquisition as a public company

Airbnb, in its first acquisition as a public company, has acquired AI startup Gameplanner.AI in a deal valued at nearly $200 million, the company announced on Tuesday. The startup has been operating in stealth mode since its inception two years ago.

Gameplanner.AI, which has been operating in stealth mode since its inception in 2020, was co-founded by Adam Cheyer, one of Siri’s founders. Having previously collaborated with Steve Jobs after Siri was acquired by Apple, Cheyer later played a key role in establishing Viv Labs, laying the groundwork for Samsung’s voice assistant.

Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, envisions generative AI as a transformative force for the platform, aiming to create a “travel concierge” that evolves with user interactions, enhancing travel experiences by, for instance, intelligently matching users with ideal accommodations. Gameplanner.AI’s acquisition will help to accelerate Airbnb’s AI initiatives, Airbnb said in a news release.

“What makes GamePlanner.AI so special is that they combine expertise in AI, design, and community,” said Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky. “AI will rapidly alter our world more than any other technology in our lifetime, but we need to ensure that it augments humanity in a positive way. Airbnb is one of the more humanistic companies in technology, and I believe that, together with Adam and his team, we can develop some of the best interfaces and practical applications for AI.”

This move marks Airbnb’s first acquisition since 2019 and could prompt speculation on Wall Street regarding potential shifts in Chesky’s M&A strategy, potentially making Airbnb a more appealing acquisition target. The company, boasting profitability on a GAAP basis, held $11 billion in cash and liquid assets as of the end of September.

In the broader landscape, news of Airbnb’s acquisition coincides with reports of Google’s discussions to invest substantial sums in another AI startup, Character.AI. The startup, valued at $1 billion in a funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz, enables users to create virtual characters and engage with AI versions of celebrities such as Elon Musk or Albert Einstein.

Founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb is an online community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book accommodations. Since its inception, Airbnb has raised a total of $6.4 billion in funding over 22 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Jun 3, 2020, from a Secondary Market round. The company has been privately valued at $31 billion.