Sony and Honda unveil Afeela, Bird Buddy launches new smart feeder, and Amazon secures  billion loan • TechCrunch

Sony and Honda unveil Afeela, Bird Buddy launches new smart feeder, and Amazon secures $8 billion loan • TechCrunch

Hey guys, it’s Kyle filling in for Greg, who is out on parental leave for the next few weeks. While he’s enjoying time with his beautiful, healthy newborn (what better gift for the holidays, right?), I’m learning the ropes of Week in Review to make sure you stay up to date with the latest in technology. Hope I do Greg justice – they are big shoes to fill!

Longtime readers know the drill, but for newbies, WiR aims to recap the past seven days of TechCrunch stories. We publish on the site and send WiR to subscribers’ inboxes every Saturday (sign up here if you haven’t already) to make it convenient. Like a buttery croissant, WiR goes perfectly with a morning cup of coffee – or tea, if that’s your preference. Or hot cocoa. Take your pick – no judgment here.

Before we dive into the news, a reminder that the TC Early Stage event in Boston is fast approaching. Tickets don’t last – they never do – so get them before they’re gone if you’ll be in the Greater Boston area towards the end of April. We would love to see your smiling face.

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TikTok bans abound: The US may be getting all the attention for banning TikTok on public devices, but India did it first — two and a half years ago now, in fact. In more recent remarks, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the United States should follow India’s lead more broadly to “weed out … malicious apps.” India has banned hundreds of apps besides TikTok, including PUBG Mobile, Battlegrounds Mobile India and UC Browser, with ties to China amid skirmishes on the border with the two neighboring countries.

I feel Afeela: ‘Tis the season for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which continues to become increasingly car-centric. For example, Sony and Honda unveiled the Afeela, their joint EV brand, at a flashy press conference on Wednesday, where they rolled a four-door sedan on stage. Pre-orders for Afeelas are planned for the first half of 2025, the companies said, with sales to begin the same year. The first shipments will be delivered to customers in North America in the spring of 2026.

No appetite for risk: My colleague Natasha wrote an excellent piece on how tech workers, burned by recent layoffs, are rethinking their relationship with the industry—especially in light of potentially troubled economic times ahead. Some work multiple full-time jobs in adjacent industries, while others choose part-time contracts to make ends meet. Few seem eager to abandon technology entirely – but they are certainly more cynical than they used to be.

For the birds: Bird Buddy, a startup behind “smart” bird feeders, took the wraps off its latest model at CES, which caters to hummingbirds. Like the original bird feeder, Bird Buddy’s new feeder – which contains recyclable and sustainable materials – has a motion-triggered camera that prompts it to take photos of bird visitors. They are then run through an AI algorithm to help identify the species, alerting owners through a companion mobile app.

I didn’t, I swear: Sam Bankman-Fried’s plea of ​​not guilty to multiple federal fraud charges was a tactical response, experts say Jacquelyn talked to. The former chief executive of crypto exchange FTX, whose company collapsed in November, may be able to buy time to strike a deal with prosecutors, they said. A trial date in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York is set for October 2.

Cut in the sales force: Salesforce announced this week that it is cutting roughly 10% of its workforce, affecting more than 7,000 employees, while closing offices in “certain markets.” Like other companies hit by significant layoffs in the past year, CEO Marc Benioff said Salesforce hired too many people through the pandemic during the boom. The company claimed 79,000 employees last February, a 30% increase from 2020.

Billions for Bezos: Amazon secured an $8 billion loan, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch that the loan adds to the range of financing options the company has tapped in recent months to hedge against the “uncertain macroeconomic environment.” It also comes on the heels of a disappointing year for the retailer, which over-expanded during the pandemic; in its latest cost-cutting measure, Amazon internally announced plans to lay off about 18,000 people.

I see you: Speaking of Amazon, at CES, Amazon-owned Ring brought back the Peephole Cam, a camera that fits over existing door peepholes to record what’s going on outdoors, in the hallways of apartment buildings, and so on. Now starting at $129 – down from its original price of $199 – it comes with software that brings features in line with the rest of Ring’s portfolio, such as motion detection and real-time video streaming.

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Fancy some podcasts to kick off the new year? Good, because TC serves them like hotcakes. On The TechCrunch Podcast, I spoke with Darrell about CES-related AI product announcements while Natasha talked about the impact of the mass layoffs in tech. Meanwhile, the crew at Equity, TC’s startup-focused show, took a look at some early standouts from CES, USV and Doorstead’s deals of the week, plus the latest developments in the FTX and SBF saga. And last but not least, Found sat down with Brex co-founder and co-CEO Henrique Dubugras to chat about the company’s credit card and expense management startup.

TechCrunch+

Don’t want to subscribe to TC+ yet? Shame, because there is great content coming out of there. Some of the most popular this week were:

Fintech Predictions and Opportunities for 2023: It has been an eventful year in fintech. The market has fallen far from the highs of 2021, and while 2022 was largely about resetting the funding environment, Victoria predicts that 2023 will be a year of recalibration for fintech companies. Read her in-depth article for more.

5 points of error between $5 million and $100 million in ARR: Tracy Young, the former CEO of PlanGrid, a construction app for project managers, breaks down PlanGrid’s main failings and what she’s learned from them over the years. As she says in the opening paragraphs, “If these reflections help even one founder make one less mistake, I would consider this effort worthwhile.”

Is generative AI already becoming a bubble?: Rebecca surveyed more than 35 investors working in different geographies, investment stages and sectors about how they felt about generative AI – that is, ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion and other technologies in this direction. Interestingly, while several investors said they were generally positive about the new technology, they also admitted the sector was likely to get lost in its own hype.

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