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Gary Tan leads Y Combinator, the world's most powerful startup program. Late last week, he tweeted — that is, X-ed — telling politicians to “die slow.” He has since deleted the tweet, but the drama has been the talk of the town this week.
Still, Tan's drunken sloppiness served as a welcome distraction from another flurry of technical layoffs over the past week (not the ones you'd expect – it's true). The layoffs were close this week, as some of our TechCrunch colleagues were laid off, including some of my closest friends who I've known and worked with for a decade. Our paths will cross again, friends!
Ok, so what Otherwise Getting stuck in the world of startups? Let's dive in.
Lots of interesting opening stories this week
“We're almost there, promise!” Plex, the media streaming underdog, raised $40 million in their tenth round of funding in a confusingly named Series C-3 round. The company is still chasing the profitability milestone, and Plex is betting big on becoming a major player in the streaming game — from ad-supported content to social sharing features. Whether they cross the profitability finish line or add more features leaves a cliffhanger worthy of its own drama series. Maybe Plex will commission it next.
In a masterclass in how not to win friends and sway regulators, Apple takes the crown with its dramatic response to regulatory compliance demands. Undoubtedly at the mercy of the young, the company has reluctantly introduced changes required by laws such as Europe's Digital Market Act, but has raised fears about the potential risks these changes could pose to consumers. Despite its vast resources, Apple chooses to play the victim, warning that these regulatory adjustments are harmful to its user base, which appears incapable of making informed decisions. This approach risks burning bridges with developers fed up with Apple's antics, but also risks damaging its political goodwill.
Grab a Fitbit, here's a sickbit: In a world obsessed with fitness tracking, Visible says, “Grab my wearable” and introduces illness tracking, because what we really need is a daily reminder of our chronic ailments. It's like having a pocket-sized friend whisper “Maybe not today” every morning.
A very interesting fundraiser this week
“The fundraising cycle, once you start it, takes twice as long and requires three times the conversations,” Jesse Randall, founder of the platform Sweater Ventures, told Dominique-Madori in an interview. Here's what to know about raising a Series A right now. (TC+)
Metronome, a startup that wants to make complex billing uncomplicated, especially for AI companies, has closed $43 million in Series B funding. With roots in Dropbox and a client list that reads like Who's Who in Tech (think OpenAI and Nvidia), they're making the transition from subscription to usage-based billing much less complicated. Their secret sauce? Metronome is boasting 6x returns, keeping its valuation under wraps.
Hold the salsa, we've already got the chips: In the world of AI chips, where the norm is to throw money at problems hoping something sticks, Rebellion just won a $124 million Series B to join the fray. But this is Shake Out, an underdog story for the ages.
Can you smmmmm what the bot is cooking?: In a world where flipping burgers by hand is pretty much 2023, Chef Robotics just raised $15 million to convince commercial kitchens that the future will be assembling food by robots, not humans. Why chop onions when a robot can do it for you?
Reins in Robots: Throwing money at productive AI security is the new black – Aim Security just got $10 million to make sure your ChatGPT doesn't go rogue.
This week's big trend: layoffs. Again.
i know We thought it was all behind us, but . . . Oops.
In the latest plot twist in the saga of layoffs, giants like Microsoft and Alphabet are boosting their profits while simultaneously reducing their employee ranks. Meanwhile, in the scrappy underdog corner of startup land, struggling to get venture capital, many startups are stuck in a financial no-man's-land. It's a classic case of corporate “it's the best of times, it's the worst of times” proving once again that in the tech world, the more things change, the more strange the layoff announcements.
Cost must be controlled: In an ironic twist of corporate austerity, Brex, an expense management startup, has gone from growing its workforce to cutting nearly 20% of its workforce in a desperate bid to stop burning through $17 million a month.
Raising cash while cutting staff: FlexSport, already showered with $2.7 billion in funding, is eyeing another round of layoffs, proving that even with deep pockets, they're not beyond cutting the workforce. . . Again, just weeks after receiving an additional $260 million from Shopify.
Pay the piper: PayPal has decided to cut its workforce again, this time laying off 9% of its staff, or about 2,500 people. We can imagine that the strategy is based on the little-known fact that the best way to innovate is to ensure that there are fewer innovators around.
Other Unmissable TechCrunch Articles . .
Every week, I want to share some stories with you that don't fit into the above categories. It would be a shame if you missed them, so here's a random bag of goodies for you:
Back to work, cog: In a world where AI can also catch the “lazy bug”, OpenAI has decided to lower prices and restore the work ethic of its GPT-4 model, ensuring it no longer shies away from completing tasks. AI seems to be quietly on the way out, but fear not, the latest update promises a more attentive and cost-effective virtual colleague.
India's First AI Unicorn: The Ola founder's AI venture, Krutrim, grabbed the title in record time with a cool $50 million funding round at a valuation north of a billion clams, claiming to be India's first AI heavyweight without breaking a sweat.
You creep, stop looking: X's handling of the Taylor Swift deepfake saga proved just how low the bar has been set for content moderation. The incident highlighted the ridiculous inadequacy of current safeguards, especially those that make the Internet's Wild West a playground for the digitally inept.
More like Exit: Arrival, a commercial EV startup once celebrated for its innovative microfactory concept, has gone from a $13 billion valuation to potentially pocket change, proving that all that glitters is not gold in the SPAC world. Now its shares will disappear from the Nasdaq.
iGiveUp: Amazon's grand plan to take over the world with robot vacuums has been derailed, and their $1.4 billion deal with iRobot is now just dust. Meanwhile, iRobot, facing a future without Amazon's wallet, is cutting jobs and dreaming of the next big thing in home automation.