Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky was very open with me in the interview I did with him earlier this week, where he tantalizingly hinted at how Airbnb will change in the next year, much of it predicated on AI.
In it, here are the few long range things he talked about: “We’re going to launch a whole bunch of new things in the next couple years…Basically the short answer is next May you’re going to see a whole new Airbnb. AI’s going to be at the center of it…The real vision is what if there Airbnb app could be almost like the ultimate host, the ultimate concierge… Each thing is going to get bigger and bigger. November will be pretty big. A year from now will be huge, it’ll be really big.” He told me that in the short term, Airbnb will focus on improving customer service and summarizing reviews using AI, and by next year a conversational AI interface will come to the Airbnb app.
But what is coming beyond these somewhat obvious changes at Airbnb? Chesky elaborated on some of these in a podcast interview with Jason Calacanis on “This Week in Startups” including the hint that Airbnb is planning to move beyond its core of travel, in the next few years, though the timeline is fuzzy, at one time he said in the next year and later in the podcast he said next 3-5 years. Some extracts from the rough auto-transcript that leads me to believe the expansion of Airbnb beyond travel will be in the connection, matching and personalization realm, though exactly how is of course unclear for now.
“We have some big ideas coming. We have some really huge ideas that I think will expand Airbnb way beyond travel way beyond our core. It’s gonna launch next year…AI’s gonna unlock so many of them, but we don’t have permission to do new things things until people love our core service. So we’re gonna basically create a blueprint of every single thing people are complaining about.”
“The third, and this is more on the opportunity, is monthly stays. That’s a growing part of our business. People think of us as a travel company, but 20% of our businesses now housing and Airbnb, there’s a lot of problems with monthly stays.”
“And If you and I both ask ChatGPT a question, we mostly get the same answer and we mostly get the same answer because it doesn’t know who you or I am. And that’s great for some questions like what was the like, you know like how far is the moon from the sun or whatever. Like there’s one right answer, but if you ask like, where should I travel? Your answer and my answer are probably different. And so some problems are search problems, some problems are kind of matching and personalization preferences, problems….so what we wanna do is we wanna be one of the best companies for AI personalization. So we wanna develop really good tune models to do that. We have to change our business. And actually one of the questions that Johnny Ive told me when we brought him on the team is he said you need to switch from beyond “where and when.” Right now you ask where are you going and when are you going? And we need to shift to who and what. Who are you and what do you want? And that’s really the vision. And so who we wanna do is we want to build these robust profiles. I want to start to learn Jason, who you are, build really good rich customer information. And then I can understand and personalize like where do you want to go? And also what do you want in your life? Like you looking for inspiration, what are you, what are you looking for?”
“Do you like want to get healthy? Do you, you know, and you start to learn about people. And then we’re also pretty good interfaces and the application layer and I think that Airbnb, that’s where we’re really, really gonna focus. We’re gonna focus on the tuning of the models, the most personalized AI interface and then really good application interfaces. Now I think as far as interface, I don’t think they’re all gonna be just text-based…Like Charles Eames, one of the greatest in our 20th century said the role of designer is that of a thoughtful host anticipating needs of the guests. So that’s what we should do. And we understand who are you, what do you want, where do you want to go?”
AND this is the most interesting thing Chesky said: “And maybe it, we could even go beyond travel if we get there, right? And the part of that means you have to trust us to give us your personal information. It means we have to be a marriage of art and science. It means we have to understand a lot about like human psychology and know what you want. It’s not just a technical problem. We have to design unique AI interfaces that are probably richer than just text inputs because you know like, like you want to, you want to see and feel things, right? And, and and I think it’s much more immersive. So that’s where I think it goes. That’s like the long-term vision in the interim. And that’s probably long-term is in three to five years. I mean that’s not even that long term. Yeah. In the next year what we’re gonna do is three things.”
“You come to Airbnb and it looks the same as it did the last time you came. Yeah. And we’re like a marketplace and everything’s a transaction and we assume you’re like we don’t know anything about you and you just walked into a store and we got a bunch of stuff on a shelf. Yeah. And I think that’s a very 1990s, two thousands Amazon paradigm of commerce. And I think the future of commerce is more like somebody’s showing you around and they understand you deeply and you have so much more control and it’s significantly more personalized and everyone has a unique experience. And so that’s where I think it goes. And I think that we don’t have a search problem in the future. We have a matching problem. So we are gonna use AI to match you to whatever you want.”
“I think in the age of artificial intelligence, the other thing people want is authenticity. And authenticity is whatever’s real and whatever’s authenticated. So I think our brand is kind of authenticity. Like we’re not gonna ever be the most digitally immersive company that’s gonna be social media or entertainment. Our value is really the physical world. We get you online, offline with people different from you all over the world. And that comes with starting with knowing who you are, authenticating your identity.”
Watch the full podcast interview, here: