Hey, party people, it’s Kyle, who keeps stepping in for Greg to write the Week in Review while he spends time with his newborn. I don’t know about you, but it has been one week. I’m dead tired and thankful it’s over. But because the news never sleeps, I’m picking myself up with the help of a fourth cup of coffee. Wish me luck.
I’ve talked you out of it at this point, but I’m contractually obligated (not really, but still) to mention TechCrunch’s upcoming Early Stage 2023 event in Boston on April 20th. The one-day startup summit will include advice and takeaways from top experts, plus opportunities to meet other founders and share your own entrepreneurial experiences. Don’t miss it.
As for travel, it’s not too early to start thinking about this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which will take place at the end of September in San Francisco. Tickets are not available yet, but they will be in the near future. Sign up here for updates.
With the call to action out of the way (phew), here’s this week in tech news!
Stripe eyes an output: Mary Ann and Natasha write that fintech startup Stripe has set a deadline of 12 months to go public, either through a direct IPO or by pursuing a transaction on the private market. The payments giant was founded in 2010, so the fact that it’s exploring avenues to exit isn’t entirely surprising. But Stripe has not been immune to the global downturn, recently laying off 14% of its employees (around 1,120 people) and cutting its internal valuation multiple times. In a twist, Stripe reportedly sought 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 strengthen its cloud services business – specifically its DevOps offering. 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 launched a tool that lets customers create images based on text messages. Powered by OpenAI’s technology, specifically DALL-E 2, the tool creates images that are “ready for licensing” after they are created. 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 AI without permission from Getty or its licensors.
Bidet brand buys shower starter: Harry has the scoop on Brondell’s purchase of Nebia, the showerhead tech startup backed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and a host of other big names, including Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. The Nebia stood out when it launched with expensive nozzles that blasted users with a fine mist while saving up to 70% of the water a typical shower head squirts out. Co-founder Philip Winter told TechCrunch this week that Nebia’s products, including those they created 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 risk, has no immediate plans to release it. Called MusicLM, the system was trained on a dataset of 280,000 hours of music to learn how to generate coherent songs for descriptions such as “enchanting jazz song with a memorable saxophone solo and a solo singer” or “90s Berlin techno with low bass and strong kick.” The songs, remarkably, sound like a human artist might compose, albeit not necessarily as inventive or musically coherent.
No rest for Musk’s Twitter: Twitter owner and self-proclaimed “freedom of speech absoluteElon Musk is facing a legal challenge in Germany over how the platform allegedly fails to enforce its own rules against anti-Semitic content, including Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany – which has strict laws banning anti-Semitic hate speech – making the Berlin court a compelling arena to hear such a challenge. Musk, for his part, has repeatedly maintained that Twitter will respect all laws in the countries in which it operates, including European speech laws, although he has yet to make any public comment on this specific lawsuit.
Text until you drop: Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop via chatbot. Sarah gave it a shot and found that the experience leaves a lot to be desired. She writes, “It felt like the process of ordering a few basics has become an ordeal and has taken much longer than the traditional method of searching Walmart’s app and adding items to cart. If conversational commerce like this is the future, I’d say this is still a work in progress.”
Fluttering towards the future: Flutter, Google’s open source framework for building cross-platform apps for mobile, web and desktop, is coming along nicely. Frederick writes that at a recent conference, the tech giant highlighted the latest version of Flutter, which provides massively improved graphics performance, the ability to more easily embed Flutter code into existing web and mobile apps, and support for new architectures such as WebAssembly and RISC-V.
For your listening pleasure, TechCrunch has a number of compelling new podcast episodes lined up (as is the case weekly, I might add). At Equity, the crew took the mic to talk through the week’s deals, All Raise’s CEO departure, what Google’s antitrust lawsuit means for startups, how the downturn affected the way companies hire and why femtech stood out in 2022. On Found, Darrell and Becca was 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 tier-1 blockchain Aptos, which builds infrastructure for web3 apps and products.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and research – which you know if you already are. If you’re not, consider signing up. I doubt you will regret it. Just check out the highlights from this week:
Salesforce under siege: Salesforce is under threat from activist investor Elliott Management, which announced it was taking a multibillion-dollar position in the CRM leader. Ron examines what might be next for Salesforce as the company looks to cut costs and potentially sell off unprofitable parts of the organization.
Energy conversion is a winner with investors: Hours looking at investments in the energy transition, which took off last year. Businesses, financial institutions, governments and end-users worldwide sunk $1.11 trillion into low-carbon technologies, which was just over 30% more than 2021 and the second year in a row where 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 when the VC cash was flowing and the job market was hot. But many overcame the talent pool and then had to make major cuts and redundancies in 2022.