Hey people. You’ve made it to the end of the week, congratulations, by the way, and Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter covering tech week. Here in this humble little column of ours, we do our best to curate the best stories that have emerged over the past five days. I hope it is useful for you.
Just a few PSAs before we get to the news. On May 24, TechCrunch Live, TC’s founder stories podcast, will host Romy Gubes, co-founder of Sensi.AI, to discuss how the company is using audio-based software to monitor patients and assist healthcare staff and family members. . care (Sign up here – it’s free).
TechCrunch City Spotlight, meanwhile, will go virtual on June 7, focusing on Atlanta, where speakers will present on building a business in the exploding metro and startups will apply to participate in TC’s popular Battlefield 200.
Last but not least, Disrupt, TC’s flagship conference, will be back in September (September 19–21) in San Francisco. Expect six rounds of hosts, including a new AI-focused round and plenty of surprises. Learn more here.
Now, without further ado, on to the news.
The young billionaire goes to Forbes. Austin Russell, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of Luminar, which develops vision-based lidar and vehicle perception technologies primarily for self-driving cars, told The Wall Street Journal this week that he is buying Forbes Global Media’s 82 % shares. Holdings in a deal that values the company at about $800 million.
New Tesla on the way. Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased two new electric vehicles at the automaker’s 2023 annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday. Tesla previously hinted at the new models during its Investor Day in March, showing a photo of the company’s entire lineup and outlines of several unveiled vehicles. One of the cars was about the size of a van and the other looked like a sedan or hatchback. Both are expected to be more affordable cars that sell in much higher volumes.
Free TV, but attractive. Telly, the hardware startup led by Pluto TV co-founder Ilya Pozin, announced Monday that it’s giving away 500,000 of its new smart TVs for free. (Yes, we said free.) There’s a catch, though. Users have to watch ads 24/7 while streaming TV shows and movies.
ChatGPT goes mobile. This week, OpenAI announced the launch of an official iOS app that lets users access its popular AI chatbot on the go, months after the App Store was flooded with questionable, unofficial services. The new ChatGPT app will be free to use and ad-free and will allow voice input, but will initially be limited to US users at launch.
Holmes went to prison. After years of high-profile court proceedings, Elizabeth Holmes may actually be going to jail, this time for real. The former Theranos founder and CEO pleaded guilty to defrauding investors last January, but has consistently stayed and appealed his sentence to avoid prison. Although the notorious biotech entrepreneur is still appealing his 11-year sentence, a panel of judges in the Ninth Circuit ruled that Holmes’ legal team did not raise a “substantial issue” of sufficient importance to keep him out of prison.
The customer leaves Meta, collects money. Meta’s extensive experience in building an enterprise-ready customer service platform has come to an end. The Facebook parent has officially spun off Kustomer, the CRM startup it acquired last year for nearly $1 billion. The new entity is starting life with a $60 million investment from backers Battery, Redpoint and Boldstart, plus a large investment in its previous valuation, which is now $250 million.
Lock and hide. WhatsApp today announced that it is introducing a new Chat Lock feature designed to give users an extra layer of security for their most intimate conversations. As the name suggests, the feature allows you to “lock” a conversation, which removes that thread from the inbox and puts it behind its own folder, accessible only with your device’s password or biometrics, such as a fingerprint.
Humanoid robots FTW. Vancouver, British Columbia-based Sanctuary AI this week showed off Phoenix, which hits on the humanoid robot design factor. The bipedal bot stands 5’7″ and weighs 155 pounds, not unlike the humans it plans to augment (or replace, depending on who you ask). The system is capable of lifting loads of up to 55 pounds and traveling up to three miles per hour. No word yet on pricing.
Need some listening material for the weekend? Do not worry. TechCrunch has you covered (and then some). This week at Equity, the staff covered Vice’s bankruptcy, Twitter’s first acquisition under Elon Musk, and what the future of venture debt might look like. Found Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, co-founder and CEO of Samooha, a startup building the basic infrastructure needed for data collaboration. During Chain Reaction, Sergey Nazarov, the co-founder of Chainlink, talked about the Chainlink protocol, which provides an Oracle network to power smart contracts. The TechCrunch Podcast took a deep dive into Zelda. Kingdom Tears for Nintendo Switch. And TechCrunch Live featured Richard Song, co-founder of Persona, which built and offers a large suite of identity verification solutions, along with Persona investor and Index Ventures lead Marc Goldberg.
TC+ subscribers get access to the in-depth commentary, analysis, and polls you already know if you’re a subscriber. If you haven’t, consider signing up. Here are some highlights of this week.
New rules for venture debt. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) wasn’t the end of venture debt, but it was probably the end of companies that raised debt with the same ease that many were used to. Rebecca writes about the state of venture debt in the wake of the collapse of SVB and then First Republic Bank and how it may change in the future.
Alibaba, in the clouds. Chinese tech giant Alibaba is shaking up its corporate structure in a series of moves that will allow large parts of its business to raise capital and potentially even go public. That might not be a bad idea, considering the conglomerate’s revenue grew an average of 2% in Q1 2023, and its profitability is on a downward trend (operating income fell 9% year-over-year.
AI in retail is coming of age. As the retail industry becomes increasingly dependent and focused on data and AI, it is important that retailers clearly understand how first-party data analytics can crystallize into insights into customer behavior and, in turn, into tangible competitive advantages. Hugh Cameron, Head of Data at Zitcha, looks at three critical points on the road to predictive analytics in the context of retail media.
Calling all early stage startups! Apply to join the Startup Battlefield 200 cohort at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023. All finalists receive expert training, VC networking, a booth at Disrupt, and the opportunity to compete for $100,000 in equity-free funding. Applications will end on May 31. Apply today!