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Airbnb CEO: Companies that talked about crypto last year and AI now 'probably don't understand either'

Airbnb (ABNB) CEO Brian Chesky sounded off on AI on March 6 at Morgan Stanley's Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, referring to its as a historic paradigm shift.

"Who knows what's going to happen, but what appears to be true is that we're experiencing a platform shift, that's what we typically call this," he said. "This platform shift is probably larger than mobile. It's probably akin to the Internet. Some would argue that it's larger than the Internet, akin to the Industrial Revolution."

However, Chesky's not convinced that companies will optimize the AI wave equally.

"So, let's ask the question, which companies got left behind by the internet, and which companies kind of rode the internet? I think the best way to understand AI is actually so simple, it's just culture," Chesky continued.

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"The companies that will ride AI are the companies with innovative cultures, and the companies that will have them pass this by are the companies that use AI – the same companies that were talking last year about crypto and the metaverse," he said.

"If a company talked about crypto last year and they talk about AI now, they probably don't understand either," he added.

Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb, speaks to the Economic Club of New York at a luncheon at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb, speaks to the Economic Club of New York at a luncheon at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar (Mike Segar / reuters)

'I think we can bring a lot of that technology to Airbnb'

As it applies to his own company, Chesky added that AI has the potential to help Airbnb better utilize and personalize its data.

"I think that we can bring a lot of that technology to Airbnb, basically to comb through our half billion reviews, to be able to summarize them to do better matching," he said. "I actually have this vision that our app one day is less like a store, and more like the most powerful travel concierge you could ever imagine."

What Chesky seems to be suggesting is that AI can develop monetization opportunities at Airbnb, which are especially important for the company right now – the company's stock is down nearly 20% over the last twelve months.

AI is, of course, far from the only monetization opportunity Airbnb hasn't yet fully locked in on. Another that's often been talked about is sponsored listings.

"My CFO is from Amazon, and he used to use that Jeff Bezos quote, that you want to focus on the most perishable opportunities first," he said. "The great thing is that sponsored listings aren't perishable, and the bigger the platform gets, actually the more interesting monetization gets. Monetization is great at scale, so you want to get as much scale as possible. We still feel like we're in land grab mode. That's not the number one most perishable opportunity, but it's absolutely on the horizon."

Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks and on LinkedIn.

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