TechCrunch

28 Jan. 2023

Hey, party people, it’s Kyle, continuing to step in for Greg to write Week in Review as he spends time with his newborn. Dunno about y’all, but it’s been a week. I’m dead tired and thankful it’s over. But because the news never sleeps, I’m rallying with the help of a fourth cup of coffee. Wish me luck.

I’ve talked your ears off about it at this point, but I’m under contractual obligation (not really, but still) to mention TechCrunch’s upcoming Early Stage 2023 event in Boston on April 20. The one-day summit on startups will include advice and takeaways from top experts, plus opportunities to meet fellow founders and share your own entrepreneurial experiences. Don’t miss it.

On the subject of travel, it’s not too early to start thinking about this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which will take place in late September in San Francisco. Tickets aren’t available just yet, but they will be in the near-ish future. Sign up here for updates.

With the call to actions out of the way (phew), here’s this week in tech news!

most read

Stripe eyes an exit: Mary Ann and Natasha write that fintech startup Stripe has set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing or by pursuing a transaction on the private market. The payments giant was founded in 2010, so the fact that it’s exploring avenues for exit isn’t entirely surprising. But Stripe hasn’t been immune to the global downturn, recently laying off 14% of its staff (around 1,120 people) and slashing its internal valuation multiple times. In a twist, Stripe reportedly tried to raise at least $2 billion in capital recently, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Dell bets on the cloud: Ingrid reports that Dell is making an acquisition to beef up its cloud services business — specifically its offering in DevOps. The company is buying Cloudify, an Israeli startup that has built a platform for cloud orchestration and infrastructure automation, sources say for as much as $100 million. The purchase comes as DevOps startups continue to attract attention from investors, with venture funding in the sector reaching $4 billion in Q2 2021, according to PitchBook.

Shutterstock embraces generative AI: As part of a partnership with OpenAI, the AI startup that recently attracted a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft, Shutterstock this week rolled out a tool that lets customers create images based on text prompts. Powered by OpenAI’s tech, specifically DALL-E 2, the tool creates images that are “ready for licensing” after they’re made. That’s significant given that one of Shutterstock’s biggest competitors, Getty Images, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Stability AI — maker of another generative AI service called Stable Diffusion — over using its images to train its AI without permission from Getty or rights holders.

Bidet brand buys shower startup: Harri has the scoop on Brondell’s purchase of Nebia, the techy showerhead startup backed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and a host of other big names, including Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. Nebia stood out when it launched with pricey nozzles that blasted users with a fine mist while conserving up to 70% of the water a typical showerhead sprays out. Co-founder Philip Winter told TechCrunch this week that Nebia’s products, including those it made with Moen, have reached more than 100,000 homes.

An AI maestro, unreleased: An impressive new AI system from Google can generate music in any genre given a text description. But the company, fearing the risks, has no immediate plans to release it. Called MusicLM, the system was trained on a dataset of 280,000 hours of music to learn to generate coherent songs for descriptions like “enchanting jazz song with a memorable saxophone solo and a solo singer” or “Berlin ’90s techno with a low bass and strong kick.” Its songs, remarkably, sound something like a human artist might compose, albeit not necessarily as inventive or musically cohesive.

No rest for Musk’s Twitter: Twitter owner and self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist” Elon Musk is facing a legal challenge in Germany over how the platform is allegedly failing to enforce its own rules against antisemitic content, including Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany — which has strict laws prohibiting antisemitic hate speech — making the Berlin court a compelling arena to hear such a challenge. For his part, Musk has repeatedly claimed Twitter will respect all laws in the countries where it operates, including European speech laws, although he has yet to make any public comment on this specific lawsuit.

Text till you drop: Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop via chatbot. Sarah gave it a go and found that the experience leaves a lot to be desired. She writes: “It felt like the process of ordering a few basic things has become an ordeal and has taken a lot longer than the traditional method of searching in Walmart’s app and adding things to the cart. If conversational commerce like this is the future, I’d say this is very much still a work in progress.”

Flutter toward the future: Flutter, Google’s open source framework for building multiplatform apps for mobile, web and desktop, is coming along nicely. Frederic writes that at a recent conference, the tech giant highlighted the latest version of Flutter, which brings massively improved graphics performance, the ability to more easily embed Flutter code into existing web and mobile apps and support for new architectures like WebAssembly and RISC-V.

audio roundup

For your listening pleasure, TechCrunch has a crop of compelling new podcast episodes in the queue (as is the case weekly, might I add). Over at Equity, the crew took the mic to talk through deals of the week, All Raise’s CEO departure, what Google’s antitrust lawsuit means for startups, how the downturn impacted the way companies are hiring and why femtech stood out in 2022. On FoundDarrell and Becca were joined by Klarna’s co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski to talk about how the company is expanding beyond the buy now, pay later space to become a neobank. And TC’s crypto-focused Chain Reaction spotlighted Mo Shaikh, co-founder and CEO of the layer-1 blockchain Aptos, which is building infrastructure for web3 apps and products.

TechCrunch+

TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already one. If you’re not, consider signing up. I doubt you’ll regret it. Just check out the highlights from this week:

Salesforce under siege: Salesforce finds itself under threat from activist investor Elliott Management, which announced it was taking a multibillion-dollar position in the CRM leader. Ron examines what could be next for Salesforce as the company looks to cut costs and potentially sell unprofitable pieces of the organization.

Energy transition is a winner with investors: Tim looks at investments in the energy transition, which took off last year. Businesses, financial institutions, governments and end users around the world sunk $1.11 trillion into low-carbon technologies, which was just over 30% more than 2021 and the second year in a row in which the growth rate exceeded that figure.

Increased scrutiny: Rebecca writes that startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans. Startups went on a hiring spree in 2021 as VC cash flowed and the job market was hot. But many overindulged in the talent pool and then had to make large cuts and layoffs in 2022.

Stripe eyes an exit, Dell bets on the cloud, and Shutterstock embraces generative AI by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

28 Jan. 2023

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to the latest “State of Mobile” report by data.ai (previously App Annie). However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and much more.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Temu’s continued rise

Image Credits: Temu

Temu, a shopping app from Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, has been having quite the run as the No. 1 app on the U.S. app stores. The mobile shopping app hit the top spot on the U.S. App Store in September and has continued to hold a highly ranked position in the months that followed, including as the No. 1 free app on Google Play since December 29, 2022. More recently, Temu once again snagged the No. 1 position on the iOS App Store on January 3 and hadn’t dropped since as of earlier this week.

Offering cheap factory-to-consumer goods, Temu provides access to a wide range of products, including fast fashion, and pushes users to share the app with friends in exchange for free products, which may account for some of its growth. The app has seen 5 million U.S. installs this January alone, up 19% from 4.2 million in the prior 22 days from December 10 through December 31, Sensor Tower says. This brings it to a total of 19 million lifetime installs across the App Store and Google Play, more than 18 million of which came from the U.S.

The growth now sees Temu outpacing rival Shein in terms of daily installs. In October, Temu was averaging around 43,000 daily installs in the U.S., the firm said, while Shein averaged about 62,000. In November, Temu’s average daily installs grew to 185,000 while Shein’s climbed to 70,000, and last month, Temu averaged 187,000 installs while Shein saw about 62,000.

The app appears to be leveraging a similar growth strategy to TikTok, which heavily spent on marketing to gain users. According to Meta’s ad library, Temu has run some 8,900 ads across Meta’s various platforms just this month. The ads promote Temu’s sales and its extremely discounted items, like $5 necklaces, $4 shirts and $13 shoes, among other deals. These ads appear to be working to boost Temu’s installs. But dig into the app’s reviews and you’ll find similar complaints to Wish, including scammy listings, damaged and delayed deliveries, incorrect orders and lack of customer service. Without addressing these issues, which helped bring down Wish, Temu seems more likely to go the way of Wish, not TikTok, no matter what it spends.

Walmart’s chatbot shopping didn’t go well

Image Credits: Screenshot of Walmart Text to Shop

Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop: via text. Last month, the retail giant launched its “Text to Shop” experience, which allows mobile consumers across both iOS and Android devices to text Walmart the items they want to purchase from either their local stores or Walmart.com, or easily reorder items for pickup, delivery or shipping. However, the chat experience as it stands today does not come across as fully baked, our tests found. The chatbot said confusing things and the user interface at times was difficult to navigate, despite aiming to be a simpler, text-based shopping experience.

We tested the experience, which leverages Apple’s Message app on iPhone, and it did not go well. The bot responded twice at times, offered only a few options for generic requests like “eggs,” asked everytime if an item was for pickup or delivery, provided inaccurate responses and spoke nonsense when confused — like when it returned options for “la croix organic eggs.” We’d say stick with the Walmart app for now.

Read the full review here.

Apple’s Reality Pro details

Could the next big app platform be Apple’s AR/VR headset? That’s the news from Bloomberg, which leaked details of Apple’s upcoming headset, the $3,000 Reality Pro due out later this year. The headset will attempt to create a 3D version of Apple’s operating system, the report said, and will include features like FaceTime videoconferencing (with avatars), the ability to watch immersive videos, play VR games and use Apple’s apps — including the Safari web browser, photos, mail, messages, calendar, App TV+, Apple Music, Podcasts and the App Store.

The report described an interface with a grid of app icons and widgets, and said Siri could be used when you needed to input text. However, the interesting details involved how users could interact with on-screen items. Apparently, the device would have external sensors to analyze the user’s hands and sensors inside to track the user’s eyes. This would allow the user to select items on the screen by looking at them, then pinch their thumb and forefinger together to activate the task — without needing to hold additional hand controllers like rival headsets, Bloomberg said. It may also have its own Digital Crown, like Apple Watch, for switching between AR and VR and its iOS-like interface.

Additionally, Apple is reported to be building software that allows users, including those who don’t know how to code, to build their own AR apps for its upcoming mixed-reality headset.

There are of course still a lot of unanswered questions about the headset’s capabilities, though it does sound like a very “Apple” attempt at getting VR right. But the device’s price point will make it a premium product for the time being — and one launching during a down economy — which could limit its growth.

App Updates

Apple Updates

  • The new iOS 16.3 update included notable security features like the expansion of the new Advanced Data Protection for iCloud feature to markets outside of the U.S. The update also added Security Keys for Apple ID and a change to the Emergency SOS call system that now requires users to hold the side button with the up or down volume button and then release it in order to prevent inadvertent emergency calls. The update also fixed a CarPlay bug, among other things.
  • The iPhone 5S also received a security update with iOS 12.5.7, which addresses a vulnerability that may have been actively exploited, Apple said.

Google/Android Updates

  • Google announced it’s shutting down Optimize and Optimize 360 — tools that helped marketers run A/B tests to improve their website or app’s user experience. The tools will no longer be available after September 30, 2023. However, Google clarified that Firebase A/B Testing, which is powered by Optimize and used for testing app experiences, will continue to be supported in the future and will not be impacted by this change.
  • A deadline to target the latest Android API level is arriving. Originally, Google’s deadline for developers was November 1, 2022, but it was extended to January 31, 2023 to give devs more time. The change was announced last year, when Google also said that as of November 1, 2022, existing apps that didn’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version will not be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than apps’ target API level.

Gaming

Entertainment

  • Netflix and Bumble partnered on a new dating app experience that lets users bond over popular TV shows. The dating app will launch a weekly Netflix question-and-answer game that users can play against their match to break the ice.

Image Credits: Bumble

  • YouTube Music launched a new beta testing program called “Listening Room,” where it invited users to try out new features. The program was almost immediately filled up.
  • Clubhouse introduced a new feature called Instant Invite, which lets users invite their friends to join House rooms and lounge conversations with a one-tap invite link. The company hopes the feature will reduce the friction involved with joining the app.

Messaging

Messenger end-to-end encryption experience

Image Credits: Meta

  • Facebook Messenger expanded its tests of end-to-end encryption. The app will also allow users to take advantage of features like themes, chat emoji, reactions, group profile photos, link previews and active status while in E2EE chats. Millions of people will be alerted over the coming months as the E2EE option becomes available.
  • WhatsApp launched a beta version of its macOS app with native Apple Silicon support. Mac users with Apple’s own chip and macOS 11 Big Sur or newer will be able to try it, as well as Intel Macs that can run apps built with Catalyst.

Social

  • Instagram introduced a new profile photo feature that lets users showcase both their profile photo and their avatar by offering an interface where you can flip between both options.
  • Meta is exploring the use of AI tools to make its ad systems less dependent on user data, after Apple’s ATT privacy changes impacted its ads business, The WSJ reported. AI tools have already helped boost Reels viewership by 20%.

Etc.

  • RevenueCat released a massive report digging into data around the subscription economy, powered by its insights into 22,000 subscription-based apps. The report offers actionable insights and never-before-seen benchmarks around factors like app pricing, retention, conversion, renewals, trial strategies and much more. The whole thing is worth a look here.
  • Top U.S. banks are again planning a mobile wallet to compete with Apple Pay and PayPal, The WSJ said. The wallet will be developed by Early Warning Services, which is also behind Zelle. The banks tried and failed to get a similar initiative (CurrentC) off the ground in years past.
  • Dating app Match Group revamped its executive leadership team. Among the changes was the addition of former vice president of Product at Snap, Will Wu, who will now become Match’s CTO, in a newly created role.
  • Read-it-later app Pocket, acquired by Mozilla in 2017, revamped its mobile reading experience with new features. One addition adds more organization and recommendations to the Home tab. It’s also rebranding its “My List” tab as “Saves” and enhancing its functionality with filters and bulk edit tools. The features are launching on Android first.
  • Popular wearable Oura Ring updated its mobile app to integrate with another wearable, Apple Watch. The companion app can display info like Readiness, Activity, Sleep Scores, heart rate, body temperature, ring battery level and more, similar to the iPhone counterpart.
  • Samsung users are advised to update the Galaxy Store app on their devices due to the discovery of vulnerabilities that would allow a hacker to install any app from the store on their phone without their knowledge.
  • Uber Eats added a new feature that shows users how much of their personal information is shared with the delivery person when they place an order on the app. Uber proper already had a similar feature called “View as Driver.”

Government, Policy and Lawsuits

  • France’s privacy regulator, the CNIL, fined French hypercasual game developer Voodoo €3 million for violating the French Data Protection Act. The fine was issued over Voodoo’s use of the IDFV, or ID for Vendors, without user consent on iOS devices.
  • The FTC finalized a consent order settling charges that the credit services company Credit Karma had used dark patterns to misrepresent that consumers were “pre-approved” for credit card offers.
  • The FBI and DoJ are investigating Snapchat’s role in the spread of fentanyl-laced pills as part of a counterfeit drug probe underway.
  • TikTok has shifted its approach in its dealings with U.S. officials in the wake of government bans, after two years of confidential talks with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States about ByteDance’s relationship with the Chinese government, The NYT reported. The video app is now going on the PR offensive, more aggressively lobbying and speaking out more publicly, the report noted.

Funding and M&A

  • Strava, an activity tracking and social community platform used by more than 100 million people globally, acquired European 3D mapping company Fatmap for an undisclosed sum. Strava aims to integrate Fatmap’s core platform into its app eventually, but for now they’ll remain separate products.
  • Voice AI company SoundHound raised $25 million in equity from undisclosed investors after laying off 40% of staff. Part of the funding will be used to provide laid off employees with severance.

Downloads

Ivory goes live

Image Credits: Tapbots

Tapbots, the makers of the popular third-party Twitter app Tweetbot that was recently killed by Twitter’s API changes, this week publicly launched the company’s next new product. Hoping to fill the void that Tweetbot leaves behind, the company is now making its anticipated Mastodon client app Ivory available on the App Store as an Early Access release.

The “Early Access” label is a subtitle that Tapbots put on its release to indicate there will still be features missing as it debuts, the company told us. However, by launching publically on the App Store, Tapbots is able to put Ivory into more people’s hands after filling up the limited number of TestFlight slots it had for its test version.

For longtime Tweetbot users, Ivory will offer a familiar experience. But instead of serving as a client for Twitter’s network, the company has now embraced the promising open source platform Mastodon. Though not quite as simple to use or understand as Twitter, Mastodon has gained traction in the months following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

At launch, it sports dozens of features, ranging from support for baseline functionality to clever bells and whistles, like being able to theme the app or change its icon.

The app also supports multiple accounts, and lets you view your local and federated timelines, trending posts, post statistics, notifications and more. It also enables Mastodon-specific options that weren’t available on Twitter — like the ability to add content warnings to posts — as well as more common features, like the ability to post GIFs and polls.

There are other thoughtful touches designed to appeal to power users, too, like hashtag tracking, mute filters with regex support and timeline filters that let you show or hide posts that meet certain criteria you set. This could appeal to Mastodon’s older users, as well, who may want to mute and avoid some of the posts shared by Mastodon newcomers who are bringing Twitter’s culture to the platform, leading to unwanted posts without content warnings in their timelines.

Pestle (Update)

Image Credits: Pestle

Pestle, a handy and well-designed recipe app for iOS is getting a notable update on January 28. The app is adding a number of features for power users, including “Smart Folders,” which are automatically created folders that organize recipes based on user-set criteria, plus PDF and image import features. The latter allows users to import the recipes they had saved in other formats, while Smart Folders simplify the otherwise tedious process of organizing recipes. For instance, you could create Smart Folders that automatically add any saved recipe with a specific ingredient, or a dessert folder with additional rules. The app itself is a free download but offers subscriptions of $1.99/mo or $19.99/year (or $39.99 lifetime) for pro users.

This Week in Apps: Temu’s hot streak, Walmart’s m-commerce & an Apple XR App Store by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

28 Jan. 2023

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

Sometimes, due to the nature of the startup game, we over index on “the new.” Companies want to build for the pain point you never dreamed to disrupt; VCs want to invest in an emerging trend before it becomes a household name; and those breaking into tech are told to lean into their earnestness, because you never know who is going to answer your cold email. In order for entrepreneurship to feel exciting and welcoming — not even be, but feel — new needs to be one of its loudest characteristics.

After all, you only get to be “it” once.

But one question I’ve found myself asking over the past year, especially as some of the more tenured folks speak about past downturns and cyclical learning lessons, is the latecomer advantage. It’s partially obvious: When you’ve done this whole entrepreneurship thing before, you understand what mistakes to avoid and seamlessly know which investors to dodge.

But it’s also partially not as easy of a story. There’s a difference between being new and being inexperienced, the same way there’s a difference between experienced and being late. How do you know where you are on that entire timeline — especially when the stories feel better to tell at the extremes?

This week on Equity, I interviewed T2 co-founder Sarah Oh, who is building a Twitter rival after working at Twitter as a human rights adviser. Quite quickly, I asked her how building a copycat of your former employer makes you feel. She seemed unbothered, to which I promptly said: All is fair in love and moderation.

But the better answer that Oh gave me was around the latecomer advantage that she has, building a company in a world that she knows extremely well. By joining the consumer social wave today versus before anyone even thought in characters and retweets, the co-founder thinks they get to factor in more of the nuance.

“There’s a lot that we know about gaps in trust and safety in the industry, whether it’s datasets that we need, or models that need to be built, or certain standards that need to exist for models, right, there’s a whole laundry list of things that I wish I had in my previous roles that just didn’t exist, we’re now at a place where we can have those conversations,” Oh said. She added that when some of the first social media platforms were being created, there weren’t “historical case studies or precedent” for a lot of the controversies that now exist. With some of the ugly out of the way — my words, not hers — T2 has examples it can refer back to on how to handle tensions around virality, doxxing and more.

It just made me think about that larger comprehension coupled with the nimbleness of a startup. Maybe, it’s being both old and new that might be the striking balance that helps a startup start up. In this case, we have no idea how the old or the new attempts at Twitter are going to do, but we do know that this time has never mattered more.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about chief inspiration officers, growing startup accelerators and a rare buzz we’re hearing about one tech company and its public market wishes. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Goodbye, chief inspiration officer

Also on Equity this week, the crew spoke about how venture capitalists are going to pay more attention to how portfolio founders are spending capital — especially around hiring trends. Becca’s latest for TC+ — use code EQUITY for 50% off an annual membership — gets into why the hiring slide in the pitch deck is no longer going to be a throwaway part of the presentation.

Expect more scrutiny.

Here’s why this is important: We know that companies are dropping staff to cut costs, but those that are hiring may have to take a more conservative approach in both types of roles and level of pay. All to say, there’s definitely an opportunity to find talent if you are hiring. But, it won’t be easy for all laid-off talent to find their next gigs, especially as employers look to hire cheaper talent with less ambitious staffing goals.

Red megaphone and silver colored alphabet letters in front of gray wall. Horizontal composition with copy space. Great use for announcement concepts.

Image Credits: MicroStockHub (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The Goldilocks moonshot

NextView Ventures has launched its fourth accelerator program, aiming to back around half a dozen founders with $400,000 in funding and mentorship opportunities. It’s also offering at least one spot to a team built by ex-colleagues who have been laid off over the past downturn.

Here’s why this is important: The accelerator partners are open to backing founders even if they have a half-baked idea or only an area that they want to dig into. Even in a more disciplined market, there are some firms that are still comfortable seeding ideas versus fully fledged business ideas. “It’s almost half a step earlier than we’ve typically thought of” portfolio companies, Rob Go, founding partner, NextView Ventures, said, of the cohorts.

Light bulb with combination lock; patent application

Image Credits: Talaj (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The follow-up

Stripe is eyeing an exit, finally. The payments giant has set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing or pursuing a transaction on the private market, such as a fundraising event and a tender offer, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Here’s why this is important: I mean, must I state the obvious? The public markets for tech companies have been stale, unwelcoming, insert boring adjective here. If Stripe does kick off a trend, we’re in for an exciting next year. But some are dubious on the timeline. After all, it’s literally easier said than done.

daisy flower in the desert

Image Credits: masik0553 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Etc., etc.

Seen on TechCrunch

The thing we thought was happening with robotic investments is definitely happening

App downloads were stagnant in the fourth quarter, new analysis finds

Then call them ‘robots’

Strava acquires Fatmap, a 3D mapping platform for the great outdoors

LastPass owner GoTo says hackers stole customers’ backups

Seen on TechCrunch+

The current legal cases against generative AI are just the beginning

A VC’s perspective on deep tech fundraising in Q1 2023

As activist investors target Salesforce, what’s next for the CRM giant?

Laid off from your crypto job? Here’s what founders are looking for in new talent

Startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans

I’ll end with the evergreen reminder that I absolutely love going to startup happy hours and VC dinners in San Francisco, so do let me know if you’re throwing one! And if you’re still working on your social engine like me, I’m also always game to do a 1:1 coffee chat or dumpling lunch.

To the rest of you, thanks for reading as always. 2023 is already soaring on by, isn’t it?

Talk soon,

N

The latecomer advantage in startups by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

28 Jan. 2023

W

elcome to the TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by the daily TechCrunch+ column where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

The adoption of product-led growth is changing how B2B companies conduct their business and leading some of them to reorganize their teams. What if “sales and product” or “sales and growth” made more sense than “sales and marketing”? Let’s explore. — Anna

The new focus of product-led sales

Product-led sales is a model in which the product, not traditional marketing, helps companies understand who might be their next big customer.

Think of a freemium dev tools company, for instance: Instead of tracking which CTO downloaded their latest white paper, they look for organizations that already have dozens of employees engaging with their product on a daily basis.

Where should sales sit in product-led companies? by Anna Heim originally published on TechCrunch

28 Jan. 2023

Welcome back to Chain Reaction, a podcast diving deep into stories, backgrounds and the latest news with the biggest names in crypto.

For this week’s episode, I sat down with Mo Shaikh, co-founder and CEO of the layer-1 blockchain Aptos. Shaikh is a three-time founder with over a decade of experience in financial services as well as blockchain technology and crypto. He also worked on blockchain strategic partnerships for Novi, Meta’s wallet, and was the strategy director at ConsenSys.

“When we’re thinking about Aptos, we certainly thought that the people need a new form of sharing information digitally and being able to share that information and economic value digitally in more efficient, more fair ways,” Shaikh said during the podcast. “That’s the mission that we’re on.”

Last year was huge for Aptos — the blockchain launched publicly and raised about $400 million in funding amid a bear market, Shaikh shared. The new-ish layer-1 received backing from major investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Circle Ventures and the now-defunct FTX Ventures, to name a few.

Aptos wants to reach billions of people without disruption or downtime, while giving thousands of transactions per second and sub-second latency, Shaikh shared. “All these things put together can rival not only other previous generations of blockchains and scaling solutions that we’re seeing in the market, but they’re now starting to challenge the internet and the way economic value and information moves across the world itself.”

Looking forward to 2023, Aptos plans to make it a “year of intention,” Shaikh said. “I think it’s a year of intention for the entire industry.”

There will be a new evolution to existing web3 products that have been out in the market, while big traditional players — like its Google partnership — that were previously “sitting on the sidelines” are going to dive into the space “in a big way,” he added.

Chain Reaction comes out every other Thursday at 12:00 p.m. PT, so be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite pod platform to keep up with the action.

Aptos wants to shake up the blockchain space by creating more economic value, co-founder says by Jacquelyn Melinek originally published on TechCrunch

28 Jan. 2023

Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, surprised the automotive world this week by announcing he would resign his position and hand the reins over to Koji Sato, who currently helms the company’s Lexus and Gazoo Racing divisions.

But Toyoda isn’t going far. The 66-year-old isn’t retiring outright, but instead retiring to the boardroom, where he’ll take over the role of chair.

Insiders aren’t expecting Toyoda to be hands-off, either. One executive said that Toyoda was about to embark on a period of “cloister rule,” a period in Japan’s history where the emperor retired to a monastery without actually ceding power.

If that’s the case, then the shakeup in Toyota City might not be much of a shakeup at all.

Toyota’s surprise executive shakeup may disappoint investors by Tim De Chant originally published on TechCrunch

28 Jan. 2023

Brendan Wallace’s ambition is beginning to seem almost limitless. The L.A.-based venture firm that Wallace and cofounder Brad Greiwe launched less than seven years ago already has $3.2 billion in assets under management. But that firm, Fifth Wall, which argues there are massive financial returns at the intersection of real estate and tech, isn’t worried about digesting that capital. It’s heavy-hitting investors — CBRE, Starwood, and Arbor Realty Trust among them — don’t seem concerned, either.

Never mind that just last month, Fifth Wall closed the largest-ever venture fund focused on real-estate tech startups with $866 million in capital, or that it closed a $500 million fund earlier in 2022 that aims to decarbonize the property industry. Never mind that on top of these two efforts, Fifth Wall also expanded into Europe last February with a London office and a €140 million fund. (It also a large New York office, an office in Singapore, and a presence in Madrid.) As for the fact that office buildings in particular have been shocked by a combination of layoffs, work-from-home policies and higher interest rates, Wallace says he considers it an opportunity.

Never mind because Wallace already sees many more opportunities he wants to pursue, too, including in Asia, as well as around infrastructure, such as the buying and building of “utility-scale solar and micro grids and wind farms” that Fifth Wall wants to both invest in and help finance with debt.

It’s a lot to take on, particularly for a now 80-person outfit whose biggest exits today include the home-flipping outfit OpenDoor, the property insurance company Hippo Insurance, and SmartRent, which sells smart home technology to apartment building owners and developers.

None have been spared by public market shareholders. Still, talking to Wallace and the picture he paints of the world, it’s easy to see why investors keep throwing money at his team to invest on their behalf.

We spoke with him earlier today in a chat that has been edited for length.

TC: How is it that your many real estate investing partners are investing so much capital with you when it’s such a challenging time for real estate, particularly office buildings?

BW: It’s the same thesis we were founded on, which is you have the two largest industries in the U.S., which is real estate, which is 13% of US GDP, and tech, and they’re colliding, and it represents a huge explosion of economic value [as] we’ve seen in this kind of super cycle of proptech companies that has grown up.

Now this additional layer has been unearthed around climate tech. The biggest opportunity in climate tech is actually the built environment. Real estate accounts for 40% of CO2 emissions, and yet the venture climate tech venture capital ecosystem only has historically put about 6% of climate VC dollars toward tech for the real estate industry.

How do you designate which vehicle — your flagship proptech fund or your climate fund — funds a particular startup?

How we define proptech is tech that is usable by the real estate construction or hospitality industry, so it needs to be tech that’s immediately usable by them — which can be a lot of different things. It can be leasing, asset management software, fintech, mortgages, operating systems, keyless entry — but it doesn’t necessarily have the effect of decarbonizing the real estate industry. It can be a derivative benefit, but it’s not the core focus. The core focus is simply that you have this industry that has been so slow and late to adopt technology that’s now starting to do so, and as it does, it’s creating all this value. We’ve already had six portfolio companies go public and we’re a six-year-old firm.

[As just one example], do you know how many multifamily units today have a smart device inside them? One percent of all multifamily units in the United States have a single smart device — any smart device: a light switch, shade, access control. There is a massive transition going on right now, where every single thing inside a building is going to become smart. And we’re at the dawn of that right now.

I do believe, though, that the opportunity in climate tech is a multiple of that simply because the cost required to decarbonize the real estate industry is so vast. The cost to decarbonize the U.S. commercial real estate industry is estimated to be $18 trillion. That is just the U.S. commercial real estate industry. To put that in perspective, the U.S. GDP is like $22 trillion to $23 trillion, and we have to decarbonize the real estate industry over the next 20 years, so one way to think about that is that we have to roughly spend one year of U.S. GDP over the next 20 just on decarbonizing our physical assets.

Where are the major spending areas on which you’re focused?

I’ll give you one very concrete example, which is literally concrete. If concrete were a country, it would be the third largest CO2 emitter on planet Earth after the U.S. and China. Fully 7.5% of global CO2 emissions come from making concrete. It’s the most used material on planet Earth after water. So you have this raw material that’s an input for all of our infrastructure — all of our cities, all the homes we inhabit, all the buildings where we do business — and that is generating 7.5% of global co2 emissions. And so the race is on right now to identify an opportunity to make carbon neutral or carbon negative cement. We actually invested in a company called Brimstone alongside Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos because they also see this opportunity that this is one of the major spend categories where that $18 trillion that’s required to decarbonize real estate is going to go. Then you can go further down [list], from glass, steel, cross laminated timber — just all of the materials that are used in making buildings.

More immediately, and this is more a question about repurposing space, but what do you think becomes of underused office space in this country over the next 18 to 24 months? It’s particularly extreme in San Francisco, I realize, given its population of tech workers who haven’t returned to the office.

I wouldn’t draw too much of a conclusion from San Francisco alone. I think San Francisco has probably been the hardest hit city. I don’t think San Francisco is the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the U.S. office industry. But with that said, I think we’re now in a moment where the pendulum has swung obviously very far in the direction of hybrid work and companies downsizing their physical footprints, but you’re already starting to see that these things are circular and cyclical and that some employees actually want to go back to the office, while CEOs are saying, ‘It’s hard to mentor and build culture and drive the kind of operational efficiencies we once had in an office in an entirely remote environment.’ So my sense is that we’re probably two to three years out from another pendulum swing back toward companies retrenching themselves in a physical office. I think we’re in an artificially low ebb in sentiment and demand for office.

Fifth Wall, focused on real estate tech and managing $3.2B, looks to eat up even more of its market by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

The enormous Space Launch System passed its first test with flying colors, NASA’s preliminary analysis concludes, and the rocket and Orion capsule are good to go for their next mission: Artemis II, which will carry a crew to lunar orbit.

After numerous delays and enormous cost overruns, some worried that the SLS (nicknamed the “Mega Moon Rocket”) would never actually take off. But the launch in November went off (mostly) without a hitch, as did the 25-day mission undertaken by an uncrewed Orion capsule.

While its success was apparent, it wasn’t a case of all or nothing. Reams of data needed to be analyzed by NASA’s teams to make sure that Artemis I didn’t succeed in spite of serious problems. Fortunately that does not seem to be the case: Although the teams are still working through the terabytes of raw data, the agency has pronounced the mission good enough to endorse its sequel.

“Building off the assessment conducted shortly after launch, the preliminary post-flight data indicates that all SLS systems performed exceptionally and that the designs are ready to support a crewed flight on Artemis II,” wrote NASA in a news post.

Emphasizing the point, SLS Program manager John Honeycutt is quoted as follows:

The correlation between actual flight performance and predicted performance for Artemis I was excellent. There is engineering and an art to successfully building and launching a rocket, and the analysis on the SLS rocket’s inaugural flight puts NASA and its partners in a good position to power missions for Artemis II and beyond.

Key pressures, temperatures, and other values were all within 2 percent of predictions. No doubt the team is working on narrowing that delta even now.

Artemis II’s crewed mission obviously depended entirely on the success of Artemis I, and this is the clearest indication since launch that the SLS and Orion are quantifiably good enough. It’s a big step to say, “Yes, we’re moving forward with putting astronauts on this thing,” but of course there’s a lot more work to come before it takes place. Artemis I’s timeline didn’t exactly go as planned but having verified that the rocket works as expected may help hurry along the next part of NASA’s big plan to return to the moon.

NASA’s ‘Mega Moon Rocket’ aced first flight and is ready for crewed Artemis II launch by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

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Well, it’s Friday again. And as the Equity pod team noted today, “You could be Wasted and not even know it.” — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • The search for more money: Mary Ann follows up on yesterday’s story about Stripe setting a deadline to go public with some additional information that Stripe had reportedly tried raising additional capital at a decreased valuation. Look for more on this developing story in Mary Ann’s Interchange newsletter, which comes out on Sundays. If you don’t already get it in your inbox, click here.
  • No music for you: Google displayed its musical chops and now won’t share it with the world, Kyle writes. The search engine giant created an artificial intelligence system that can generate music from text descriptions, but he reports that “fearing the risks, has no immediate plans to release it.” Maybe if we all say something nice to them…
  • From angel to the board room: Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is the newest board member of audiovisual startup Chroma, a company Stone began investing in two years ago. Sarah has more.

Startups and VC

Kano, the venture-backed U.K. startup known for its build-your-own computer kits and software for teaching coding and associated STEM skills, has accused Warner Bros. of copying one of its products and infringing on its intellectual property, Paul reports.

By any measure, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been a successful executive. He helped build Salesforce from the ground up, starting in an apartment in San Francisco in 1999 and eventually erecting Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in the city, Ron reports. He took the idea of running software in the cloud and grew it into the de facto way to deliver software at a time when most companies offered software in boxes or on-prem seat licenses. As activist investors target Salesforce, what’s next for the CRM giant? (TC+)

And we have five more for you:

4 practical steps for using no-code to evolve your prototype to an MVP

Forget about dogs: No-code development tools can be a nontechnical founder’s best friend.

Building a minimum viable product once required engineering and design ability. Now, bootstrapping founders can iterate without developers to keep costs and extend their runway.

“Instead of getting caught up trying to design the perfect and complete MVP release all at once, try to deliver value as quickly as possible and continuously improve your prototype,” advises Katherine Kostereva, CEO and managing partner of Creatio.

She shares four tactics for transforming prototypes into usable products via no-code:

  • Embrace an everyday delivery approach
  • Proper scoping and decomposition
  • Carefully manage and decouple dependencies
  • Invest in continuous deployment automation

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

Apparently, “AI that can generate art, text and more is in for a reckoning,” Kyle writes today. He’s been following a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI that “accuses them of violating copyright law by allowing Copilot, a code-generating AI system trained on billions of lines of public code, to regurgitate licensed code snippets without providing credit.” Kyle lays it all out for you and even notes that cases like these against generative AI are just the beginning.

If you’ve been enjoying HBO’s new zombie thriller “The Last of Us,” you’ll be able to enjoy it a little longer. The show got picked up for a second season after delighting over 22 million viewers, Lauren writes.

Here’s your Friday five:

Daily Crunch: Stripe responds to report that it seeks to raise $2B with a terse ‘no comment’ by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

It’s now official: Dungeons & Dragons is licensed under the Creative Commons. This makes the popular tabletop roleplaying game “freely available for any use,” Dungeons & Dragons executive producer Kyle Brink wrote in a blog post today.

Just weeks ago, this outcome would have seemed impossible. About a month ago, Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) — the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons and a subsidiary of Hasbro — sent a document with a new open gaming license (OGL) to top Dungeons & Dragons content creators, asking them to sign what they called “OGL 1.1.” The existing OGL, which had been in effect since 2000, made it possible for third-party creators to use the expansive game system to sell their own spell books, modules, virtual tabletops (VTTs) and other content that has helped the game grow into the mega-success it is today. But certain terms in the updated document would have made it impossible for these independent businesses to continue operating. Some creators leaked the document in protest, exposing its predatory terms that would suffocate the prolific fan community. More than 77,000 creators and fans signed an open letter against these changes, and some went as far as canceling their subscriptions to D&D Beyond, an online platform for the game. Finally, WoTC admitted that they “rolled a 1,” or in other words, messed up very badly.

Last week, fans were pleasantly surprised when Brink announced that the company was planning to release game materials under a Creative Commons license, a complete reversal from the original, restrictive plan. Today, after getting feedback from more than 15,000 fans, Dungeons & Dragons officially released the game system under this lenient license, in all 403 pages of its glory.

The company even addressed concerns about how last week’s initial Creative Commons proposal would impact VTTs, or software that makes it possible for people to play TTRPGs remotely. Now, WoTC has even walked back those stipulations, while also keeping the original OGL in effect.

“This Creative Commons license makes the content freely available for any use,” Brink wrote in today’s blog post. “We don’t control that license and cannot alter or revoke it. It’s open and irrevocable in a way that doesn’t require you to take our word for it. And its openness means there’s no need for a VTT policy. Placing the [Systems Reference Document] under a Creative Commons license is a one-way door. There’s no going back.”

As it turns out, fan communities can accomplish a lot when they rally together. Just ask Ticketmaster.

The 403-page Dungeons & Dragons game system is now licensed under Creative Commons by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is facing scrutiny by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding his specific comments and efforts to promote the automaker’s claims regarding its “self-driving” capabilities, Bloomberg reports. The SEC investigation into Musk is part of its overall efforts to determine whether Tesla has run afoul of its rules in promoting its FSD and Autopilot offering.

The SEC doesn’t typically comment on any ongoing investigations prior to formally filing suit, and has not commented on this case in particular. But recent revelations may explain why Musk is in their crosshairs when it comes to Tesla “self-driving” technology: Last week, testimony given by a senior engineer on the Tesla team working on its Autopilot software revealed that a video the company released in 2016 purporting to show a Tesla vehicle driving itself was in fact staged. Reporting by Bloomberg later revealed that the video was overseen and directed by Musk himself.

Of course, the SEC’s domain isn’t safety claims, but it does take issue with public companies or company executive officers making forward-looking claims that are false or misleading. That’s apparently what they’re concerned about here — Musk has often suggested FSD would attain essentially driver-free navigation capabilities in timelines that have not ended up proving accurate.

Based on what the SEC determines following its investigation, we could see lawsuits or other consequences for Musk, including limitations on his future activity as an officer of a public company if they choose to pursue enforcement of any violations they find.

Elon Musk is being investigated by the SEC for Tesla self-driving claims, report says by Darrell Etherington originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

Startups selling dev tools over the last few years have seen the pendulum swing. On one hand, developers rarely need anyone’s permission to start using their tools, which resulted in teams within the same organization using wildly different tech stacks. On the other, a growing number of companies are attempting to limit this chaos at the organizational level.

The latter trend is known as platform engineering and is embodied by platform engineering teams. Talking to TechCrunch, Boldstart Ventures partner Shomik Ghosh described these as “groups within typically larger organizations that are given the role to improve the developer experience for other developers in the organization.”


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

Read it every morning on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


The role of platform engineering teams includes coming up with their own tools and documentation but also making buying decisions on core tooling that developers across their entire organization will be able to use.

For dev-centric startups, this presents a question: How do you sell your product to platform engineering teams?

We asked this and more to three people with deep knowledge of this space: startup founder Nora Jones, CEO at Jeli; Armon Dadgar, CEO and co-founder of NASDAQ-listed company HashiCorp; and Draft.dev CEO Karl Hughes, a developer content marketing expert. Let’s dive in.

Seize the momentum

What does selling to platform engineering teams mean for developer relations? by Anna Heim originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

In late April, police in Nebraska received a tip saying 17-year-old Celeste Burgess had given birth to a stillborn baby and buried the body. Officers soon learned that her mother, Jessica Burgess, and a friend had helped her with transportation and burial. The police issued citations for concealing the death of another person and false reporting. But in June, they also charged Jessica with providing an abortion for her teenage daughter. Police had made the discovery after obtaining a warrant that required Meta to hand over their conversations on Facebook Messenger. The messages, which were not encrypted, showed the two had discussed obtaining and using abortion pills.

Warrants for digital data are routine in police investigations, which makes sense, given how much time we spend online. Technology giants have for years responded to valid court orders for specific information sought by law enforcement, though some companies have done more to fight for our privacy than others. Millions of people now use apps that encrypt their calls and messages, like Signal and WhatsApp, so that no one can access their messages — not even the providers themselves.

The case in Nebraska is not the first in which police have used digital data to prosecute an abortion, and it won’t be the last. While digital data is rarely the main form of evidence, prosecutors use it to paint a picture in court; by showing messages sent to friends, internet searches or emails from an online pharmacy. As in the Burgess case, however, it’s often people around the women who first notify the authorities — a doctor or nurse, a family member or a friend of a friend.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, it ended the constitutional right to abortion. In doing so, it gave states the power to regulate abortion or ban the procedure altogether, triggering a wave of abortion bans nationwide. At least 13 states now ban abortion with few or no exceptions. Georgia recently reinstated a ban after six weeks of pregnancy. And in many states, the fight over abortion access is still taking place in courtrooms.

A week after the ruling, Google announced it would delete location data for visits to abortion clinics and other medical facilities. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said we should review our privacy settings. The Digital Defense Fund encouraged us to use encrypted messaging apps. Some suggested that we delete our period tracking apps. It may seem odd to dedicate so much attention to digital privacy in the context of our reproductive rights. But a look at prosecutions between 2011 and 2022 illustrates why these conversations are needed.

In May 2011, police in Idaho charged Jennie McCormack with inducing her own abortion. The 32-year-old couldn’t afford a legal procedure. Instead, she took pills purchased online. NPR reported that McCormack confided in a friend shortly after the abortion. It was this friend’s sister who told the police. When officers arrived at her home, they found the fetus wrapped up on her back porch.

McCormack admitted to the police that she self-induced an abortion after ingesting a pack of five pills. At trial, she told the court that the medication was “FDA-approved,” “procured through the internet” and “prescribed by a physician.” Years later, an appeals court noted that “McCormack’s sister allegedly found unspecified abortion pills online, paid $200 for them and had them shipped to McCormack in Idaho.”

At the time, McCormack faced up to five years in prison. The case was eventually dismissed.

In March 2015, Indiana sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent and feticide. Two years earlier, Patel had gone to the hospital with bleeding after delivering a child at home. She first told the medical staff that she had been 10 to 10 weeks pregnant. But when questioned by two doctors, she admitted to giving birth and said the baby was stillborn.

Patel told the doctors she had put the body in a paper bag and placed it in a dumpster behind a Target store, not far from her family’s restaurant. The hospital notified the police, who searched the area and recovered the bag. A doctor who participated in the search said “the baby was cold and lifeless” but “was an otherwise normal, healthy appearing baby.”

Court documents show that police obtained a search warrant for Patel’s phone. An officer with “training in examining electronic devices” downloaded her text messages. In reviewing the data, the police found that she had discussed her abortion with “at least one friend.” Patel had also shared that she’d obtained and taken abortion pills from Hong Kong.

An Indiana appeals court overturned the feticide conviction in July 2016. The court noted that in searching Patel’s iPad, “police found a customer service email from InternationalDrugMart.com.” The email confirmed that Patel had ordered mifepristone and misoprostol for $72. A detective ordered the same pills, presumably to confirm that it was possible to do so. Police also found Patel had visited a website titled “Abortion after Twelve Weeks.”

The court documents do not mention the type of phone Patel had or how police gained access to her messages. But the messages were at least three months old, suggesting that she likely did not delete the texts or the email from the online pharmacy.

Indiana’s attorney general decided not to appeal the court’s ruling. In September 2016, Patel was resentenced to 18 months for child neglect, less time than she had already served. The judge then ordered Patel’s immediate release.

In April 2015, police in Arkansas arrested Anne Bynum after she gave birth to a stillborn child at home. She was charged with concealing birth and abuse of a corpse. The state also charged her friend, Karen Collins, with performing an abortion.

Bynum, who already had one child and worked a minimum-wage job, never told her parents about the pregnancy. When her pregnancy became difficult to hide, she took medications to induce labor.

In a video interview, Bynum said she delivered the baby at home by herself, in the middle of the night. “She was just beautiful. Really beautiful. But eyes closed, mouth closed. Complete stillness.” Bynum wrapped up the remains and went to bed. The next day, she drove to the emergency room with the remains in the front passenger seat. Bynum said she “gave birth last night, but she didn’t make it.” Medical staff determined it had been a stillbirth.

When the hospital discharged Bynum days later, she was arrested on her way home. The sheriff put her in handcuffs and placed her in the back of the police car. Bynum’s trial was brief, just two days of testimony and a few minutes of jury deliberation. The judge sentenced her to six years in prison. An appeals court reversed the conviction in December 2018.

Exactly who notified the police remains unknown. The appeals court noted that “Bynum told friends, her attorneys, and her priest about the pregnancy and of her intent to put the child up for adoption when it was born.” On the morning after she gave birth, Bynum texted her attorney “who advised her to go see a doctor.” The attorney also called a funeral home and “was advised to have Bynum take the fetal remains to the hospital.”

It’s unclear whether Bynum shared the texts herself, or if police recovered them another way.

In January 2018, Mississippi charged Latice Fisher with murder for the death of her newborn the year before. The Washington Post reported that when paramedics arrived at her home, they found “a baby in the toilet, lifeless and blue, the umbilical cord still attached.” The baby was pronounced dead at the hospital. Fisher initially said she didn’t know she was pregnant, but later admitted that she had been aware of the pregnancy for at least a month. She also admitted to conducting internet searches for how to have a miscarriage.

Fisher reportedly “voluntarily surrendered” her iPhone to police. Court records show her phone’s “memory and data were then downloaded, including but not limited to Fisher’s past internet activity.” While reviewing that data, investigators learned that Fisher had researched “buy abortion pills, mifeprisone [sic] online, misoprostol online,” and “buy Misoprostol Abortion Pill Online.” Fisher had also “apparently purchased misoprostol immediately subsequent to these searches.” Another court document suggests police also searched her husband’s phone.

While there is no evidence that Fisher took the pills, prosecutors used her digital data to argue that she intended to abort her pregnancy. The murder charge was eventually dismissed.

Technology companies may not have many options for handling search warrants from the police, even when the investigations relate to abortion. But companies do get to decide how much digital data they collect about people and for how long they store the information. They also get to decide whether to offer end-to-end encryption, which would give people increased privacy for all of their messages. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Meta announced it’s making encrypted one-to-one chats in Instagram available to adults in the two countries. And while Elon Musk said Twitter should end-to-end encrypt direct messages prior to acquiring the company, it’s unclear if this will actually happen.

Last year, reporters found that Facebook and anti-abortion clinics collect sensitive information on would-be patients. The Markup also reported that Hey Jane, an online abortion pill provider, employed a series of online trackers that follow users across the internet — until the journalists reached out about the practice. More recently, ProPublica found nine pharmacies selling abortion pills also sharing sensitive data with Google and other third-parties. All nine were recommended by Plan C, which provides information about how to get abortion pills by mail. None responded to ProPublica’s request for comment.

In Abortion, Every Day, publisher Jessica Valenti reminds us that “if you are white, have money, and the ability to travel to a state where abortion is legal — you will have a much easier time than those from marginalized communities.” Everybody deserves access to reproductive health care. If the past decade is any indication, protecting essential abortion rights is going to require all of us, from doctors, nurses and attorneys to lawmakers, software engineers and voters.

Sarah Mitchell-Weed contributed research.

How US police use digital data to prosecute abortions by Zack Whittaker originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

We’ll be straight with you. There’s no 1:1 Twitter replacement — not yet, and possibly not ever.

Still, there are plenty of social apps that might be worth substituting into your obsessive timeline-checking routines if you’re done with Twitter for whatever reason (we can think of plenty).

Twitter’s current situation — advertisers leaving, Nazis logging back on, little things breaking here and there every day — presents an opportunity to check in with ourselves about what we really want out of a social network.

We don’t just have to use social apps because they’re there and they’re really sticky. Users should get something out of the exchange, particularly on ad-supported services. Whether that means building a following for your fledgling business or connecting with people in communities you care about, social media should serve a function — not just drain away the hours in the day.

Happily, there are options. Decentralized projects offer a different experience that’s less beholden to corporate whims while less traditional social platforms might serve up a totally different set of interactions and experiences. But that’s okay. Twitter wasn’t perfect, and while it was and arguably still is pretty essential for real-time events and news-gathering, its most engaged users didn’t always enjoy spending time there.

While we’re all figuring it out and seeing what pops up next, here are some options to consider.

Mastodon

Mastodon emerged as the most-discussed home for fleeing Twitter users — and with good reason.

The service is designed in a way that decentralizes power and moderation decisions, obviating the concerns about one person setting platform-wide rules based on a whim.

Mastodon works a lot like Twitter, allowing users to share real-time thoughts to an account and re-share posts by others. But that’s mostly where the similarities end. Unlike traditional social networks, Mastodon is an open source option, which means that rather than all users being in one big basket with one set of rules, you’ll need to select a server (smaller basket) to join.

If you get sick of it or disagree with those moderation decisions, you can migrate elsewhere. You can still follow and interact with people on other servers so you don’t need to agonize too much over that choice, but that decentralized ethos colors the whole experience.

Like a choice of server, you’ll also have a choice of which app to use to use the service on mobile (we like Metatext and plan to check out Ivory, from Tweetbot maker Tapbots). Mastodon’s open source nature means you’ve got more choice all around, but the downside of that is that the extra steps might be off-putting to people who want a more straightforward sign-up process.

That said, if you’re tired of the cynicism and harassment on Twitter, the vibe on Mastodon is pretty chill right now. If any of this sounds interesting, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Discord

Discord doesn’t really work like Twitter at all, but hear us out — it’s one of the best social apps around.

The app was originally created to give gamers a better way to chat, but since then it has expanded well beyond that initial vision. Like Mastodon, Discord doesn’t offer a giant “public square,” instead offering topic and interest-based servers that anyone can join and hang out in. Discord offers regular text chat within its server-based channels, as well as seamless voice chat and some other experiences, like streaming a game to friends or queueing up YouTube videos together. Some of the most popular servers have hundreds of thousands of members, but you could also just curate one for friends or family.

Through servers, Discord offers some of the same federation benefits as Mastodon without the open source stuff that spooks some people during onboarding. Unlike some of the other options on this list, Discord isn’t going anywhere any time soon: It’s a mature company with a thriving user base and a sustainable business built around paid subscriptions. That kind of stability goes a long way for social apps, which historically are prone to fizzling out and vanishing overnight.

The downside is that Discord is more about chatting than posting. The app’s Slack-like interface refreshes in real time and in a busy Discord, or even one with a few hundred active members, it’s easy to lose track of conversations fast. The company knows that and is actively building more tools that enable asynchronous interactions, so that’s something to watch out for.

Post

Post is a mainstream alternative to Twitter that shares little in common with more open platforms like Mastodon. The platform was sped into private beta to capitalize on the timing of Twitter’s recent chaos and is only just opening up to everybody. Far from being decentralized, Post offers a more curated experience that’s focused on attracting the journalists who usually while away the day on Twitter.

Post allows users to write, post, share, comment and like content, much like we’re used to on Twitter. But the thrust of the service is altogether different. Post wants to help newsgatherers monetize their content, building in micropayments and tipping and promising the ability to buy “individual articles from different premium news providers” in order to get outside of their information bubble. Far from being an open platform, Post is backed by VC and traditional investment from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and tech commentator Scott Galloway.

Post’s pitch is compelling, but the social network sounds a bit like it was designed in a vacuum. Those of us who work in the news might check it out or hang out there but it’s hard to imagine many average Twitter users being lured by the promise of paying for journalism, which unfortunately is a hard sell. Post could develop a more Substack-like commentator culture, but even then it’s hard to see why the Substack elite would jump ship for a new platform.

Tumblr

Although you may not see it as an alternative to Twitter, hear us out, because there are some similarities between the two platforms that make it a notable contender.

Even though Tumblr teeters more toward a microblogging site than a traditional social network, it features a feed that displays posts from people you follow in a similar way to Twitter. Tumblr lets you post content with images, GIFs, videos and more. You can leave notes on a post, which are similar to comments. You can also like, share and repost content on the platform. Tumblr also has a trending topics section like Twitter. In addition, the platform has a chat feature that’s similar to direct messages on Twitter.

Tumblr offers more flexibility than Twitter, while being easy to set up and use. You can use Tumblr for free or opt for an ad-free experience with additional features for $4.99 per month or $39.99 a year.

Given Tumblr’s ability to stay alive despite its fair share of changing ownership, we don’t think it’s going anywhere, which makes it an ideal alternative to Twitter. It’s also a place with its own unique humor and a chaotic culture that’s a massive part of Tumblr’s unique appeal.

Cohost

Although Cohost is still in its beta phase, anyone can sign up for the service. If you don’t have an invitation, you’ll have to wait a day or two before you can start posting. The website says this measure is designed to prevent spam.

Cohost offers a vertical feed that displays posts chronologically, as opposed to an algorithmic listing. Similar to Twitter, Cohost has followers, reposts, likes and comments. Right now, the interface is quite simple, and since it doesn’t use algorithms, there isn’t a trending section. The platform won’t surface content unless you actively search for it using hashtags.

You can use the platform for free or pay a monthly $5 fee for additional features, such as larger uploads and more customization options. The company says the fee mainly helps it keep the lights on as it continues to grow.

Since Cohost is fairly new and a bit rocky, it may not be the most established Twitter alternative. But, it could be appealing to people who want a simple alternative that actually looks like Twitter in some ways. We’ll have to wait and see if it will be able to amass enough users and traction to be considered a worthy alternative.

Wild card: Bluesky

We don’t know a lot about Bluesky, but what we do know is intriguing. Bluesky was developed in parallel with Twitter and spearheaded by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Like Mastodon, Bluesky is all about the decentralized social network, i.e. giving people the tools they need to form their own communities.

There’s been some pushback to Bluesky given its Dorsey connection, but we’re still interested to see what the project comes up with once it eventually expands its super limited closed beta. The Bluesky team is apparently launching an app along with the protocol itself and the result could combine a Twitter-like user interface with algorithmic choice, a federated design and community-specific moderation. We’re listening.

We’ll keep this list updated as we explore new social apps that can scratch the Twitter itch in the coming months. Love one we didn’t mention here? Let us know: taylor@techcrunch.com.

The best Twitter alternatives worth checking out by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

You may not have known that space needs tugboats, but now you do — and Atomos Space just closed a $16.2 million Series A investment, which will enable the company to complete its demonstration mission where it will show off its docking and towing capabilities. The company is building a series of Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTV) that makes it possible to reposition satellites in space. The theory is that, by making it possible to move flying objects into different orbits, they don’t have to have full navigation capabilities themselves, which in turn should make operating spacecraft much cheaper. The company claims its existence effectively halves the launch costs of satellite operators.

The company is starting with high-powered electric propulsion systems, and is eager to share that it sees those propulsion methods as stepping stones for its nuclear OTV options, which would be able to travel faster and farther, and offering commercial mobility services. The company is also positioning itself to be able to use these technologies for asteroid deflection, effectively putting Harry Stamper out of a job.

“I worked on launch vehicle design, and then spacecraft propulsion system design and also some advanced technologies for moving around in space, and realized very quickly that how we do space logistics is sub-optimal. The best analogy that we use is with aircraft. Imagine you have a single-use plane, you are the sole passenger, and you have to take everything with you, unable to do shopping on the way. So if you want to drive around at your end destination, you need to take the car and you need to take gas with you,” explains Vanessa Clark, CEO and co-founder of Atomos Space. “Ultimately, it’s very expensive and limited. What we really need is a hub and spoke logistics model for space. This allows us to do really cool things, commercial missions like Earth observation, global communications, broadband internet, but it also allows us to take the next step as a species and do more things in deep space that makes sense economically and from a scientific perspective.”

This is the company’s third round of VC funding, and so far it has built and tested on the ground, including its docking and propulsion systems. The next big step is to fly the first vehicle.

“This is a lot of autonomy. We are working on having a self-driving satellite that can detect and navigate to a client and grab onto it safely. We have the ability to optimize our propulsion system for operating just in space, unlike a launch vehicle that also has to design for getting into space,” Clark highlights the company’s competitive advantage. “That means we can go farther and use less propellant. With this new round of funding we’re finishing the build of our first two vehicles, and we have booked a launch in just under 12 months. It’s going to be a really exciting mission, where we are flying two full-size commercial vehicles.”

The first use cases of the technology is to take launched satellites to their final destinations and to reposition satellites mid-mission. When vehicles have reached their end of service, they can be moved to graveyard orbits, or disposal orbits so that they can burn up in the atmosphere.

“Our goal as a company is to make any orbit as accessible as low Earth orbit (LEO). On Earth, if you want to send something overseas, it is as easy as sending a package to the next town over. You just go to the post office. We want that to be possible for space,” explains Clark. “We want to be operating a fleet of orbital transit vehicles in Earth orbit that can provide the vast missions for a set of clients, spacecraft operators, Space Station operators and also companies and agencies that want to explore beyond the atmosphere.”

The company is particularly excited about nuclear propulsion in space, and are investing heavily on that front, telling us it offers an order of magnitude improvement in speed and payload capabilities.

With the current round of funding, the company says it will double the size of the team and launch its first two OTVs in early 2024. The investment was led by Cantos Ventures and the Yamauchi No. 10 Family Office (that’s the family that founded Nintendo), with participation from Upheaval Investments, Dolby Family Ventures, Arden Road Investments, Elefund and Techstars.

Atomos tows a $16M load of funding to create tugboats in space by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

Kano, the venture-backed U.K. startup known for its build-your-own computer kits and software for teaching coding and associated STEM skills, has accused Warner Bros. of copying one of its products and infringing on its intellectual property (IP).

The product in question is the Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand that Warner Bros. announced back in October, and which began shipping to consumers in the U.S. and U.K. for $150 just before Christmas. London-based Kano issued a “cease and desist” to Warner Bros. this week, which TechCrunch has seen, requesting that the media and entertainment giant halt its go-to-market and promotional activities.

While Kano is probably better known for its Raspberry Pi and Windows-based modular PCs, the company launched a device similar to Warner Bros.’ new wand way back in 2018. Kano’s Harry Potter Coding kit came replete with a physical gesture-controlled Bluetooth wand designed to engage children through coding spells, making on-screen cauldrons change color, or feathers fly, via elaborate swishing motions with the wand.

Powering the wand are various sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, which help the wand convey its direction and motion to the tablet or PC to which it’s connected.

In the intervening years, Kano says it has sold some 180,000 units of its Harry Potter coding wand, a figure that rises to 460,000 when you factor in similar gesture-controlled products Kano subsequently launched in partnership with Disney spanning the Star Wars and Frozen franchises.

While Kano is no longer actively marketing its Harry Potter wand, some of its retail partners — which have previously included Apple and Target — do still sell it.

Patented

Last April, Kano co-founder and CEO Alex Klein was granted a patent for the wand’s gesture recognition system, covering the basic mechanics of how it works: The user holds down a button to begin the gesture recognition, and the screen displays a cursor trail as the user moves the wand to show how a spell is being cast in real time.

It’s worth noting that Kano launched its wand as part of a brand-licensing partnership with Harry Potter rightsholder Warner Bros., which is why Klein says he was perturbed to learn of its new competing wand hitting the market a few months back.

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Klein explained that off the back of the initial success it saw with the Harry Potter wand in 2018, Warner Bros.’ corporate arm reached out to Kano to get it to explain a bit more about how the product works, including its componentry and how it’s able to recognize spells, and other potential use cases for the underlying technology.

And this is where things get interesting regarding its spat with Warner Bros.

Unlike Kano’s original Harry Potter wand, which was focused squarely on teaching kids how to code, Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand is all about the smart home. It’s designed to connect to devices such as TVs, lights and speakers, so users can control their contraptions using “spells” and choreographed wand gestures.

According to Klein, Kano had already envisaged such use cases with its own wand, and had made some early developments in the smart home realm.

“In the process of making it easy for a person to hold down the button on the wand and cast a spell, we realized that this is a new language for human computer interaction,” Klein said. “You could be casting spells not only to make Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans explode on a screen, but you could [also] be doing gestures to control your lights, unlock your door and control the volume of music. We realized that this gestural form of interaction could be quite powerful and extended into other domains in the smart home. So we came in, they [Warner Bros.] got really excited about this idea of controlling the smart home.”

Klein showed TechCrunch a video of an early prototype of Kano’s wand controlling various connected devices, which he says was recorded in November 2018 as part of a demonstration in Warner Bros.’ offices.

Fast-forward to 2022, and with Warner Bros. bringing a similar Harry Potter wand to market, Klein says that he reached out to various people at the company to get an explanation, adding that he was told that an internal investigation would follow. But he said the line of communication went cold, leading to the cease and desist letter that Kano issued to Warner Bros. this week.

“A side-by-side comparison of the operation of both the Coding Wand [Kano’s] and the Spellcaster Wand [Warner Bros.’] makes clear — and has now made clear to multiple third-party observers, including patent and intellectual property experts — that an issue has arisen,” the letter states. “The new product uses intellectual property — multiple patent-protected assets, trade secrets, inventions, etc. — of Kano’s, some of which were shared in strict confidence with WB during the many detailed engagements between the companies.”

The story so far

Founded in 2013, Kano has raised some $45 million in funding from notable backers, including European VC Index Ventures, Barclays, Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff and Microsoft, which worked with Kano to develop a Windows-based PC back in 2019.

Mark Zuckerberg is also apparently a fan of Kano’s products, according to this post from 2021.

Mark Zuckerberg apparently digs Kano. Image Credits: Mark Zuckerberg

However, Kano had been relatively quiet these past few years, announcing a round of layoffs in late 2019 and then not really releasing much in the way of new products. However, in 2021 the company did partner with Kanye West to launch Stem Player, a device that lets users isolate and remix individual song elements. It ultimately pulled back from the partnership due to antisemitic comments made by West.

Today, Kano continues to sell the Stem Player without West’s involvement, and a few weeks back the company unveiled the Stem Projector, while hinting at all manner of new products that may include food and clothes. The company also signaled its transition away from its legacy DIY PC business when it revealed it was spinning out its creative software suite Kano World as a standalone business.

However, the company does plan to stay at least a little bit true to its roots, as it’s developing a modular two-in-one device that can run Windows or ChromeOS, which Klein said it expects to push to market some time this year.

Kano’s upcoming DIY modular PC. Image Credits: Kano

Financially, things hadn’t been looking so great for Kano. At its most recently reported financial year ending of March 2021, Kano disclosed a pre-tax loss of £10.1 million ($12 million), though this was an improvement on the £16.8 million ($20.8 million) loss it reported the previous year. The company told TechCrunch a few weeks back that its provisional accounts for fiscal year 2022 show a pre-tax profit of around £1.2 million ($1.5 million).

What’s next

While Klein is naturally keen to paint an outwardly rosy picture of how things are going at Kano, the fact that it’s actively releasing and developing new products is an encouraging sign. However, a litigious IP scuffle with a billion-dollar mass-media conglomerate is probably the last thing it needs right now.

In a modern-day David versus Goliath scenario, defending IP rights in court as a relatively small startup is not a cheap pursuit — something that Klein is acutely aware of as he considers his next moves.

“It can cost up to $3 million to defend and protect a patent / technology IP,” Klein said. “This stacks the deck in favor of the big corporates. They can afford to throw aggressive lawyers at smaller companies and tie them up in process.”

There is nothing to say, at the moment at least, that this is definitely how things will unfold. But if it does, Klein indicated that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to defend Kano’s work, noting that he has been told by lawyers who have worked on the case so far, on a pro bono basis, that it’s a “pretty open and shut” case.

“If necessary, I’ll work late nights and weekends and represent us myself, pro se,” he said. “We will make sure our team’s hard work and creativity is not abused and ripped off. I may not have gone to law school, but all the proceedings are public, and can be understood with a little elbow grease.”

A Warner Bros. spokesperson finally provided TechCrunch with a comment, saying: “The claims made by Kano are without merit.”*

*This story was updated shortly after publishing to include a response from a Warner Bros. spokesperson.

Warner Bros. swiped our Harry Potter wand IP, says Kano by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

Finance people live and breathe spreadsheets, Mayfield’s Rajeev Batra was telling me. We were talking about our upcoming TechCrunch Live event featuring him and Cube’s Christina Ross, and Rajeev was explaining how he sees Cube’s position in the marketplace. Christina Ross co-founded the company in 2018 in a bid to provide a solution to CFOs who rely on spreadsheets but could benefit from modern data analysis, reporting, and collaboration. Now, some five years later, Cube is finding success and has raised over $45 million from venture capital.

I hope you can join us on this TechCrunch Live event on February 8 at 11:30 a.m. PST/2:30 p.m. EST. Christina Ross learned early on in Cube’s history that the solution must meet the customer where they’re at. Cube’s solution is unique in the FP&A world, in that it’s not trying to replace spreadsheets but rather work alongside spreadsheets. This gives her a unique take on finding product market fit — Cube isn’t trying to force customers to abandon their current solution.

We’re going to talk about Cube’s approach to customer acquisitions and finding product market fit, and why Christina’s favorite childhood toy was a cash register.

Register Here

Questions I want to ask

  • How did Cube so quickly acquire customers even though the company had yet to build a product?
  • Cube has countless competitors, so how does the company stay ahead of the curve?
  • What are some best practices for selling into an underserved market?
  • What personal qualities did Mayfield see in Christina Ross that led them to invest, and what’s a good founder fit for Mayfield?

And I want you to ask questions too!

Join the live event on Hopin, and ask questions in the chat. I’ll do my best to ask them when possible. Can’t make the live event but can listen to the replay/podcast? Tweet at me, and I’ll be sure to ask your questions.

Want to get feedback on your pitch during the show?

Pitch Practice is back! Apply to present your company using this form. We’ll select three companies to pitch during the show, including one wildcard company that will be selected from our Hopin audience during the episode.

Apply for TCL Pitch Practice

Hear the right way to acquire customers with Cube and Mayfield on TechCrunch Live by Matt Burns originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

Hello and welcome back to Equity, a podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines.

This week, Natasha Mascarenhas, Mary Ann Azevedo and Rebecca Szkutak took the mic to talk through breaking news, retrospective features and all the blogosphere content that fits in between. Shout-out to Theresa and Andrew for putting together a diverse script that includes… checks notes… nothing. about. layoffs! Don’t worry, there are still tensions to pay attention to in today’s market, but this episode was refreshingly about innovation, and a shifting to this new normal we keep hearing about.

Here’s what we got into:

Equity drops at 10:00 a.m. PT every Monday and at 7:00 a.m. PT on Wednesdays and Fridays, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts. TechCrunch also has a great show on crypto, a show that interviews founders, one that details how our stories come together and more!

You could be Wasted and not even know it by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

Americans spent nearly $20 billion on pizza deliveries in 2021.

Most of us could probably bake one at home, but speed and convenience are powerful incentives at dinnertime.

The potential of AI tools like ChatGPT creates a similar dilemma — should companies license large language models without modifications, or customize them and pay much higher usage rates?

“While building looks extremely attractive in the long run, it requires leadership with a strong appetite for risk over an extended time period,” writes ML engineer Tanmay Chopra.


Full TechCrunch+ articles are only available to members.
Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.


In a comprehensive article that weighs development costs and technical debt against time to market, Chopra encourages readers to consider factors like product defensibility and risk before deciding whether to build or buy.

Since most startups are not AI businesses, his post also evaluates “middle ground approaches” like prompt engineering, closed source approximation and building on top of open source solutions.

“If you want to be an AI business, work toward that over time: store data cleanly, start building an ML team and identify monetizable use cases,” he advises.

Thanks very much for reading TC+ this week!

Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

4 practical steps for using no-code to evolve your prototype to an MVP

Forget about dogs: No-code development tools can be a non-technical founder’s best friend.

Building a minimum viable product once required engineering and design ability. Now, bootstrapping founders can iterate without developers to keep costs down and extend their runway.

“Instead of getting caught up trying to design the perfect and complete MVP release all at once, try to deliver value as quickly as possible and continuously improve your prototype,” advises Katherine Kostereva, CEO and managing partner of Creatio.

She shares four tactics for transforming prototypes into usable products via no-code:

  • Embrace an everyday delivery approach.
  • Proper scoping and decomposition.
  • Carefully manage and decouple dependencies.
  • Invest in continuous deployment automation.

Teach yourself growth marketing: How to perform growth experimentation through A/B testing

Image Credits: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Despite the myth, sharks don’t need to keep swimming to keep breathing. Early-stage startups, on the other hand, are not so fortunate.

If driving growth is a priority, companies must run an ongoing series of A/B tests that can help refine marketing messages and make their product pipelines more relevant to customers’ needs.

In part three of a five-article series on growth marketing fundamentals, Jonathan Martinez explains how to properly manage A/B tests, identify statistical significance when reviewing data and prioritize experiments that maximize reach and impact.

Startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans

hiring, layoffs

Image Credits: erhui1979 / Getty Images

Now that investors are exercising greater due diligence, early-stage hiring plans are under more scrutiny, reports Rebecca Szkutak.

“It is not to say, ‘do not hire’ — it is just that we need to see the double-click now on why,” says Angela Lee, an angel investor and venture partner who’s also a professor at Columbia Business School.

“You need X number of million of dollars for what? Why do you need a chief data scientist and architect?”

Dear Sophie: How do I change my L-1B to an H-1B through the lottery?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I am currently working in Seattle having relocated from Chile on an L-1B visa.

Can I change my L-1B visa to an H-1B with a different company? My understanding is that L visas are restricted to working only with the issuing company.

— Charming Chilean

Pitch Deck Teardown: Orange’s $2.5M seed deck

EV charging company Orange raised a $2.5 million seed round to scale up plans to build a charger network for multiunit properties, and its founders shared their winning pitch deck with TechCrunch+:

  • Cover slide
  • Mission slide
  • Problem slide
  • Macroeconomic market slide (“Why now?”)
  • Market size slide
  • Solution slide
  • Value proposition slide
  • Product tech spec slide
  • Product slide
  • Competitive landscape slide
  • Competitive advantage slide
  • Business model slide
  • Cash flow slide
  • Go-to-market slide
  • Team slide
  • Advisers slide
  • “The ask” slide
  • Contact slide
  • Appendices cover slide
  • Appendix I: Product install photos
  • Appendix II: 3-year financial projections
  • Appendix III: Headcount slide
  • Appendix IV: Sources and references

TechCrunch+ roundup: No-code MVP strategy, hiring under scrutiny, A/B growth testing by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch

27 Jan. 2023

HBO announced today that the hit series “The Last of Us” is getting a second season, likely satisfying more than 22 million domestic viewers that watched the Season 1 premiere episode so far. On the night of the premiere, it was viewed by 4.7 million Americans.

The announcement comes less than a week after “The Last of Us” debuted its second-ever episode, which had 5.7 million viewers across HBO Max and linear, according to Nielsen and first-party data. The third episode will premiere this Sunday, January 29, on HBO and HBO Max.

Neil Druckmann, the creator of “The Last of Us” video game and executive producer of the HBO show, said in a statement, “I’m humbled, honored, and frankly overwhelmed that so many people have tuned in and connected with our retelling of Joel and Ellie’s journey…Now we have the absolute pleasure of being able to do it again with season two! On behalf of everyone at Naughty Dog & PlayStation, thank you!”

Unlike other failed video game adaptations, like Netflix’s “Resident Evil,” which got canceled after one season, HBO’s newest series holds true to the original franchise and is a relief for many gamers.

Overall, the series has a 9.3 rating on IMDB, a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes and an average audience score of 96%. For comparison, Netflix’s popular video game adaptation of “Arcane” has a 9 rating on IMDB.

“I’m so grateful to Neil Druckmann and HBO for our partnership, and I’m even more grateful to the millions of people who have joined us on this journey,” added executive producer Craig Mazin. “The audience has given us the chance to continue, and as a fan of the characters and world Neil and Naughty Dog created, I couldn’t be more ready to dive back in.”

The Last of Us” is a much-needed show for the streamer, especially since parent company Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) missed Wall Street expectations in the third quarter and reported a gross debt load of around $50.4 billion. HBO Max recently hiked up its subscription price to increase revenue.

“The Last of Us” will likely draw in new subscribers who want to see what the hype is all about. The show had the second-largest debut since HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” premiered more than 10 years ago. “House of the Dragon” continues to be the largest premiere in HBO history with nearly 10 million viewers. However, WBD needs to have more than just a few hit series to reduce churn.

As WBD prepares to launch its merged streaming service, the company needs to have a strong content slate if it wants to grow its subscriber base.

HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ gets a second season following successful debut by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

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