Over the last 20 years, many areas of the travel industry have been transformed by waves of disruption, from technologies like the web and mobile to new product categories like home- and ride-sharing.

The next wave is undoubtedly artificial intelligence (AI), a catch-all term encompassing natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, machine vision and robotics.

Expectations are high for AI-first startups. Billions of dollars of capital have now been invested. It's time for these companies to go from "starting" mode to "scaling" mode and prove that they can become formidable companies.

Related: How retail changes when algorithms curate everything we buy