Even Airbnb is joining the AI arms race by acquiring GamePlanner.AI, a secretive new company created by the co-founder of Siri. Sources familiar with the matter told CNBC that the AI startup was bought in for a total of $200 million.
Created by Adam Cheyer and Siamak Hodjat, the AI startup was created in 2020 in “stealth mode”, which means it operates outside of the public eye. This is typically done to protect the company’s intellectual property or to avoid distractions.
Both Cheyer and Hodjat are known for their work on virtual assistants for tech giants like Apple and Samsung. Cheyer helped launch the Siri startup, which was later acquired by Apple to create its popular AI-powered virtual assistant for iPhones, Siri. Hodjat and Cheyer have also worked together at Viv Labs, which was bought by Samsung and used to create the virtual assistant for Galaxy phones, Bixby.
Since the startup is completely secretive, it is unclear what GamePlanner does, but Airbnb says that it will be used to accelerate some of its own AI projects. Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky suggested in a pre-prepared statement that the 12-person startup leverages its collective proficiency in AI and design to create AI-driven experiences, resembling a consultancy with a focus on AI.
He envisions that generative AI will profoundly transform the platform, intending to utilize it as a “travel concierge” that evolves by learning about users over time and elevates their travel experiences. This could involve tasks such as matching users with the most suitable rooms or homes.
Chesky said: “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.”
GamePlanner is Airbnb’s first acquisition since 2019 and it could stir curiosity on Wall Street about whether Chesky’s approach to mergers and acquisitions is evolving, potentially rendering Airbnb a more appealing acquisition target.