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Silicon Valley has changed how people plan travel, how they pay for it, and how they find out what to do when they get to a destination. Tech companies learned a lot about travelers and their data in the process and in many cases let third parties get too close for comfort to that data. It’s not a question of whether more regulation is needed on companies like Facebook and Uber, but rather how soon and to what extent it will happen.
That’s the view of Max Levchin, a serial entrepreneur, investor, and CEO and co-founder of payments technology company Affirm, who spoke at Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley in June. “I think [the tech backlash] has the possibility of being destructive of what’s good about Silicon Valley,” said Levchin. “We are not immune to the behavior of governance that goes well or goes awry.”
Companies like Airbnb and Uber have rapidly expanded worldwide but in many cases decided to establish a foothold and worry about the local culture and regulations later.
“I think more regulation is coming, and it will slow things down and be harder to innovate but will also ensure protections,” said Levchin. “Affirm is not a bank but the FDIC talks to us through our partners exactly like one would be. I think regulators are very much engaged with Silicon Valley and certainly parts of Silicon Valley that take on hard problems.”
Hard problems are typically in markets that touch people’s lives and those areas are likely regulated, said Levchin. “You can partner and put your best foot forward, or duck and hide and maybe 20 years ago you could but today you cannot,” he said.
Being more transparent with consumers is a black and white decision, said Levchin. “You have to decide if you’ll truly give ownership of data to your customers and you can’t charge hidden fees of you say you won’t,” he said. “A lot of what you see in the media is paying lip service to these decisions and not really following through.”
Unlike many other payments companies, Levchin said that Affirm keeps the risk of every loan it issues and services the loans itself to maintain direct relationships with its customers. It’s a promising model that has helped Affirm slowly establish trust with some travelers who probably couldn’t afford to take a dream vacation any other way.
You can watch the entire interview above, or consider reading more coverage of Skift Tech Forum.
At Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley, travel tech executives gathered for a day of inspiration, information, and conversation.