After years of seemingly unstoppable growth, the tech industry now faces the “ultimate reality check” as it faces broader economic uncertainty and waves of layoffs, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told CNN on Thursday.
“It’s like we’re all in a nightclub and the lights just come on,” Chesky said in an interview on “CNN This Morning.” After a period of “exuberance and euphoria,” he added, “we all need to take a good look at things now.”
His comments come at a difficult time for the tech industry. Facebook parent Meta said last week it was cutting 11,000 jobs after nearly doubling its workforce during the pandemic. Amazon confirmed this week that layoffs had begun among the company’s workforce, with reports that it plans to cut 10,000 jobs. And Twitter recently cut about 50% of its staff as new owner Elon Musk races to bolster its bottom line.
Airbnb can be an exception. Chesky said the company is not currently undergoing layoffs, but is in fact hiring. But that’s thanks in large part to the company cutting 25% of its workforce at the start of the pandemic as the travel industry was in shambles, then losing more employees to attrition.
“Two and a half years ago, we lost 80% of our sales in eight weeks,” said Chesky. “People predicted we would go out of business.”
“We just hunkered down,” he added. “We rebuilt the company from the ground up and stayed very lean.” Now, Chesky said, “we’re stepping on the gas, we’re not stepping on the brakes.”
While the reckoning hitting much of Silicon Valley is painful, Chesky seemed to suggest that a more sober reassessment of the industry could also present an opportunity for the tech sector to rethink its place in society, after years of criticism of the impact its products can have. on people.
“I think Silicon Valley has done so many great things for the world, but we have to be careful about fetishizing new technology, as if the new technology is going to solve all the problems that the last technology created,” Chesky said. “We need more diversity in Silicon Valley, but that diversity should not just be demographic diversity. We need artists, humanists in this industry.”