Airbnb CEO on tech slowdown: ‘It’s like we’re all in a nightclub and the lights just came on’

By Catherine Thorbecke, CNN Business

After years of seemingly unstoppable growth, the tech industry now faces the “ultimate reality” as it grapples with broader economic uncertainty and waves of layoffs, the Airbnb CEO told CNN on Thursday. , Brian Chesky.

“It’s like we’re all in a nightclub and the lights just came on,” Chesky said in an interview on “CNN This Morning.” After a period of “exuberance and euphoria,” he added, “now we all have to, like, take a hard look.”

His remarks come at a difficult time for the tech industry. Facebook parent Meta said last week that it cut 11,000 jobs after nearly doubling its workforce during the pandemic. Amazon confirmed this week that layoffs had begun in its corporate workforce, with reports indicating that it planned to cut 10,000 positions. And Twitter recently reduced its workforce by around 50% as new owner Elon Musk rushes to bolster his bottom line.

Airbnb may be an exception. Chesky said the company is not experiencing any layoffs at this time and in fact is hiring. But that’s largely due to the company cutting 25% of its staff at the start of the pandemic as the travel industry was beset and lost more employees to attrition afterwards.

“Two and a half years ago, we lost 80% of our business in eight weeks,” Chesky said. “People predicted that we would go bankrupt.”

“We just hunkered down,” he added. “We rebuilt the business from the ground up, and we stayed really lean.” Now, Chesky said, “we’re stepping on the gas, not braking.”

While much of Silicon Valley’s toll is painful, Chesky seemed to suggest that a more restrained reassessment of the industry could also present the tech sector with an opportunity to rethink its place in society, after years of reviews on the impact its products can have. on the people.

“I think Silicon Valley has done so many amazing things for the world, but we have to be careful about fetishizing new technology, like new technology will solve all the problems created by the latest technology,” Chesky said. “We need more diversity in Silicon Valley, but that diversity shouldn’t just be demographic. We need artists, humanists in this industry.

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