Airbnb acquires AI startup for just under $200 million

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Airbnb has made its first acquisition as a public company, in a deal valued at just under $200 million, sources familiar with the deal told CNBC.

The startup is called Gameplanner.AI, which has been in “stealth mode” since its founding in 2020. Startups in stealth mode operate out of the public eye for various reasons, such as to protect intellectual property or avoid distractions. Gameplanner.AI will accelerate some of Airbnb’s AI projects, according to Airbnb.

Gameplanner.AI was cofounded by Adam Cheyer, one of the founders of Siri. When Siri was acquired by Apple, he worked alongside Steve Jobs. Cheyer later co-founded Viv Labs, which would become the foundation for Samsung’s voice assistant.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has said that generative AI will radically change the platform and that he wants to use it as a “travel concierge” that learns about users over time and enhances their travel experiences — for example, matching users with the right rooms or homes. 

This deal is Airbnb’s first acquisition since 2019 and could pique some interest on Wall Street as to whether Chesky’s M&A strategy is shifting, potentially making Airbnb a more attractive acquisition. The company is profitable on a GAAP basis and held $11 billion in cash and liquid assets as of the end of September.

Airbnb’s news follows reports that Google is in talks to invest hundreds of millions into another AI startup, Character.AI, which in March raised a $150 million at a $1 billion valuation in a funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz. The startup lets people create virtual characters or chat with AI versions of celebrities like Elon Musk or Albert Einstein. 

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