Airbnb Joins Race for AI Talent

In a recent bidding war for an artificial intelligence startup, Facebook had an unexpected competitor: Airbnb. Earlier this summer the travel company offered to buy Ozlo, which built systems to understand people’s preferences for restaurants based on conversations, according to two people briefed on the matter. Airbnb eventually lost to Facebook, which bought Ozlo for a sum that couldn’t be learned.

As Airbnb expands into a broader range of services, like tours, activities, restaurant bookings and concierge services, it has begun looking for startups that can help it improve its machine-learning capabilities, three people briefed by the company said. Airbnb is looking to make better use of insights that could be found in customer reviews, messages with hosts and self-descriptions, to allow for improved personalization of activities it suggests to guests.

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Meeting those expectations and expanding its machine-learning capabilities hinge on building its engineering ranks. That goal is “make or break [to] how close we can get to our mission,” Mr. Curtis said.

Babar Khan Javed commented on this article.
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“Recently we’ve decided to go even bigger in this area and we want to be aggressive to attract great talent to the company.”