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Despite Canva being worth in the region of $26 billion, it appears startups feel there is still plenty to be mined from this ;easy-to-use design platform’ arena. Admittedly, Professional Adobe tools remain fiddly for most people. Perhaps that’s why Berlin-based startup Kittl has now raised an €10.8 million ($11.6 million) Series A for its design platform which it claims allow people to “easily turn ideas into graphic products”. The latest funding round was led by Left Lane Capital. Also participating was Europe’s Speedinvest and a number of angel investors including Intercom Co-Founder Des Traynor, former Bebo CEO Shaan Puri, and product leaders from Calm, Amazon and Instagram. Left Lane Capital is a New York-based VC best known for investing in GoStudent, Wayflyer and Masterworks, among others. Co-founded by Nicolas Heymann and Tobias Saul, Kittl offers browser-based graphic design tools to create logos, labels, postcards and more. Kittl screenshot Over email, Heymann, co-founder and CEO told me: “With Kittl we allow users to create professional-grade designs fast and easily by removing the barrier of a tough learning curve. Our features are designed to make complex design processes simple and accessible with a few clicks. Our competitors either focus on basic tools that only allow a small range of creative freedom, or they take a lot of training and practice to get good at.” Kittl started out as Heritage Type, founded by Heymann and Tobias Saul in 2020, but went on to rebrand after raising a €1.6 million Seed round in October 2021. Notably, given that AI is probably going to replace a lot of these tools fairly soon, Heymann says they plan to “double down on existing A.I. and machine learning efforts.” “Kittl’s easy-to-use platform democratizes the creation of professional-grade graphic design,” said Magnus Karnehm, Principal at Left Lane Capital, in a statement. “Kittl has grown its user base and user engagement incredibly fast, and this is entirely thanks to their laser focus on creating a platform that spans ideation, creation, and ultimately monetization of graphic design.” This startup hopes to take on Canva, raising a $11.6M Series A for its design platform by Mike Butcher originally published on TechCrunch

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Nobody is going to accuse Angry Miao of making boring keyboards (or earbuds). The company’s previous releases, The Cyberboard, Am Hatsu and Am AFA, are as overengineered as they are unique. When the company first started teasing its new 60% board, it almost looked too conventional to be an Angry Miao product, but keeping with tradition, there’s a twist here. See, the AM 65 Less: AM Compact Touch is a wired and Bluetooth-enabled 60% keyboard with an HHKB layout — which means there are no function keys, no numpad and, as is standard for this layout, no arrow keys. Typically, keyboard enthusiasts then put those arrow keys on a separate layer, accessed through a key combo. As you can imagine, that can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you write a lot. But having their hearts set on this layout, the Angry Miao designers decided that instead of keyboard shortcuts, they could put a small touch panel on the front of the case. The argument here is that this offers the advantages of a small 60% keyboard and symmetric HHKB layout, while still featuring arrow key functions. Did I mention Angry Miao really likes to overengineer its products? Image Credits: TechCrunch Originally, the company had called the board the ‘AM 65 Less,’ but that caused a bit of confusion in the community, given that it’s not really a 65% keyboard either. The official name is now the AM 65 Less: Am Compact Touch. Angry Miao sent me a review unit in the Famicon-inspired ‘8-Bit’ colorway last month (there are seven variants in total) and I’ve been using it almost exclusively ever since. Despite the touch panel, this is the company’s most conventional keyboard yet. It features a hotswap PCB, so you can easily change the switches if you want to, south-facing RGB lighting, and with the exception of the high front, it looks pretty normal for a small keyboard. Image Credits: TechCrunch Let’s talk about the touch panel first, since it’s surely the most controversial aspect of the board. It works just as described and it does what it does well, but arrow keys remain infinitely more convenient. The promise here is that you won’t have to move your wrists as much because your thumbs can handle moving the cursor, since it’s already aligned with the touchpad. In reality, you’re likely going to move your hands more, because you’ll use your mouse more. For fixing the kinds of typos you catch while writing a word, it’s easy enough to go back a few letters. For anything more, which you can do by keeping your finger on the touchpad, it becomes a bit of a guessing game whether you’ll be able to time things right to stop the cursor where you need to. I ended up putting the cursor keys on a layer, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the touchpad, of course. Your mileage may vary. The fact that the touchpad is at the front of the board also means you can’t really use a wrist wrest, something that’s exasperated by the fact that the board sits at a non-changeable 10-degree angle. I ended up putting a wrist rest a few inches away from the board, leaving enough space to still use the touchpad, though I never found the high angle to be a problem. The company recommends a split wrist wrest for users who want to use one. Like all Angry Miao products, this one is unapologetically not for everyone. The fact that it feels and sounds fantastic makes up for its quirks, but I can’t help but wonder what an Angry Miao 65% board with arrow keys would be like. One of Angry Miao’s latest innovations is its adjustable leaf spring that lets you change the flex of the PCT and hence the typing experience from very hard to soft. Currently, most other keyboards use a gasket design and very flexible PCBs to allow for a softer typing experience. If done right, that usually works, but in many of the keyboards I’ve recently tested, it didn’t seem to make all that much of a difference. Here, you can really feel the difference between the various settings (though it does take a bit of work to open up the board and make those changes to the springs). In addition to the different springs, the board also comes with all of the necessary tools to change them out, as well as a very nice screwdriver, an additional bottom foam mat, cleaning cloth, replacement cables and screws. There is no carrying case. Instead, Angry Miao opted for a soft carrying pouch. The build quality here is impeccable. The company says the CNC milling of the aluminum case alone takes almost 6 hours, with the case then being sandblasted and painted afterwards (with all of the colorways using two colors: one for the part of the case up to the top of the first row of keys and another for the rest). Mechanical keyboard fans are nothing if not persnickety, but I think they are going to have a hard time finding fault with the execution here, be it the rounded corners, the painting or even the finishing on the inside of the board. You open the board from the top, which is a bit unusual, but it also makes it pretty easy to take it apart. Once inside, there are a few more connectors than you are probably used to — in part because of the battery and Bluetooth module. It’s also easy to see why the board sounds good. Not only is there plenty of foam, but also a nice copper weight (the whole keyboard weighs in at about 3.3 pounds). Add the battery and the result is a board with very little room to sound hollow. There is also no rattle from the screw-in stabilizers. If you own one of Angry Miao’s Cybermat charging mats, you’ll be able to wirelessly charge the AM 65 Less with that, too. The switches that come with the bundle version are Angry Miao’s Icy Silver switches. These are premium transparent linear switches, manufactured by TTC, with dual-stage springs and an initial force of 45 grams. There’s very little stem wobble here and they are very smooth, though one thing worth noting is that as I took off the keycaps, the switches often came out of the PCB with them. That’s not been a problem in daily usage, but worth mentioning nonetheless. The result of all of this is a keyboard that is a joy to type on. Every key press sounds like two pool balls hitting each other, which is what I personally look for. Like all Angry Miao products, the 65 Less doesn’t come cheap, though while high, the price isn’t completely outrageous in the world of higher-end mechanical keyboards. The standard base kit, without switches and keycaps will retail for $398, the bundle with switches and keycaps that match the variant you choose will cost $498. Given that the likes of Keychron barely charge $20 more to go from a barebones kit to a fully assembled one, that’s quite a difference, but a lot of these are custom designs and the company sells its switches for about $1 each. We’re also talking about some thick, high-quality keycaps — at least on the 8-Bit version I tested. For this version, the company is using the Cherry-profile JTK Classic FC keycaps, inspired by the Nintendo Famicom of the 80s, which, best I can tell, were first available in a group buy in 2020 and now available in stock at a number of vendors. These are triple-shot ABS keycaps with latin and hiragana legends that feature a mix of the original base kit and its novelties. Other variants feature keycaps the company created in collaboration with the likes of Domikey and others. Image Credits: Angry Miao While I haven’t tested these, there are also two special editions. For $450 for the base kit and $550 for the bundle, the Laser kit features LED light elements on the front left and right (inspired by Tesla’s Cybertruck, the company says). The Mech Love version, at $515 and $615, features customizable LED elements in the open spaces next to the first row and personalizable engravings on the back. It looks like the company may later make these additional LED modules available as add-ons, too. Whether these boards are worth that is going to be in the eye of the beholder. The fact that Angry Miao is launching all of these variations must mean that the company believes it’ll see a fair number of orders. It’s definitely the company’s most approachable product yet and while the prices may seem eyewatering, they are within the ballgame for higher-end custom keyboards, where they keycaps themselves can often cost $150 or more. Like with so many “hobbies,” at some point, you are paying a lot more for incremental improvements. Whether you want to own a keyboard that costs as much as a laptop is something you have to decide for yourself. It’s definitely the closest we’ve seen Angry Miao come to building a straight-up everyday keyboard. The pre-launch for all of these variants will go live on Indiegogo on February 2. Image Credits: TechCrunch Bonus: HyperX is launching its first artisan keycap today, Coco the Cozy Cat. The 3D-printed artisan from the gaming brand is available today (starting at 9am EST) and tomorrow and priced at $19.99. Apparently, this is the first in a series of time-limited designs the company plans to drop every month. This mechanical keyboard is something else Angry Miao’s AM 65 Less is both more and less keyboard than you’ll ever need by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

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Walmart is preparing to spend over $2.5 billion in India as the retailer doubles down on the opportunities it sees in India’s e-commerce and payments markets even as the firm contends with rising costs amid the market downturns. Walmart spent about $780 million earlier this month to the Indian tax authorities after PhonePe, in which the retailer owns a majority stake, moved its domicile to India from Singapore. Walmart is also looking to invest between $200 million to $300 million in PhonePe’s ongoing funding round, according to a source familiar with the matter. (PhonePe declined to comment.) The company, which owns majority stake in Flipkart, is now looking to spend about $1.5 billion to buy back e-commerce firm’s shares from early backers Tiger Global and Accel Partners, Indian newspaper Economic Times reported Thursday. India, the world’s second largest internet market, has become a key battleground for Walmart and Amazon. Amazon has spent over $9 billion in India (including investments for AWS cloud regions in the country) over the past decade. Walmart, which missed the e-commerce race in the U.S., has coughed up over $20 billion on Flipkart and PhonePe to buy the lion’s share in India’s e-commerce and payments markets. Flipkart leads the e-commerce market in India, according to Bernstein. And PhonePe commands over 40% of all transactions on UPI, a payments network in India built by a coalition of retail banks. UPI, which processes over 7 billion transactions a month, is the most popular way Indians pay online. As Walmart makes splashy moves, its rival is taking a different approach. Amazon has spent the past few months streamlining its business in India. It has shut some of the newer bets — food delivery, wholesale distribution, and an attempt at online learning. But the company, by all accounts, appears to be continuing to invest in its core e-commerce business in India.  Amazon faced a very public setback in the country last year after India’s largest retail giant Reliance outwitted the American firm into securing retailer Future Group’s assets. Amazon went public with its frustration, and then entered the quiet mode. In one of the first major announcements in two years in India, Amazon launched Amazon Air in the country earlier this week. But company’s top country managers were absent from the event, according to a person familiar with the matter. Amazon, facing ‘unfavorable’ regulatory environment, struggles to expand in India Walmart readies another $2.5 billion investment in India’s e-commerce and payments by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

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If you live in France and you want to add a security system to your home, you don’t have a ton of options. You can contact a home security company like Verisure and Homiris. But you’ll end up paying expensive subscription fees with long-term contracts. You can also buy your own security camera and connected sensors. But, in that case, there won’t be anyone monitoring your home for you. Qiara wants to modernize the good old home security market with live agents. The company wants to sell security products and subscriptions directly to end customers through its website without any long-term commitment. Users first choose the security products that they need from the company’s own portfolio of products. Qiara sells a camera, a door sensor, a keypad, a siren and a motion sensor. After that, users can pay €29.99 per month for the service with live agents. If an alarm goes off, the monitoring agent tries to call you and checks the video feed from the security camera. If you don’t answer the phone and there’s something suspicious going on, the company will call the police for you. The company gives you a €10 discount on your subscription fee for the first year. There’s also a cheaper subscription for customers who don’t need 24/7 monitoring — but that defeats the purpose of the service. In addition to the keypad, Qiara offers a mobile app that lets you trigger the alarm and look at the live video feed from the security cameras. You can configure your system so that it is automatically turned off when your phone is around thanks to Bluetooth. You can also enable a privacy shutter when you’re at home so that the security camera isn’t filming your family. All modules work with batteries except the security camera. If there is a power or network failure, Qiara can still protect your home thanks to Sigfox network support. Founded by Alexis Bidinot, a former executive at Iliad, the company has decided to design its connected devices in house. In many ways, Qiara looks a bit like SimpliSafe in the U.S. By default, you set up the security modules yourself and then you’re good to go — it’s a DIY home security system. So let’s see if Qiara can start from scratch and capture some market share in the home security market in France. Qiara is a new home security service for the French market by Romain Dillet originally published on TechCrunch

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Fabrice Grinda says he never intended to run a venture firm. He just really (really) enjoyed angel investing. In fact, by late 2013, when he was on the verge of selling the global classifieds marketplace OLX — his third business — he says he had already written checks to more than 150 startups with his longtime friend and OLX cofounder Alec Oxenford. “We’d been working together forever. It was really a family office that was angel investing at a massive scale,” Grinda recalls. Given that flurry of checks, potential LPs, including strategic investors, family offices, and founders began to express an interest in investing with them.  Oxenford ultimately decided instead to cofound another marketplace, launching Letgo in 2015. (It was later acquired by rival OfferUp.) But Grinda leaned further into investing with another friend and serial entrepreneur, Jose Marin, and by 2016, a Norwegian telecom company Telenor offered to solely fund a fund by the duo, giving them $50 million toward that end. Fast forward, and their outfit, FJ Labs, has evolved from a two-man outfit to a sprawling firm with 34 employees, including eight investors and four “full-blown partners.” It began to grow in earnest in 2018, when LPs committed to invest $175 million with the outfit. Now, Grinda is announcing that FJ Labs has garnered $260 million in capital commitments across a pre-seed fund and an opportunity-style “Series B and beyond” fund, with backing from family offices, institutional investors, and a wide array of founders, including of LinkedIn, PayPal, Supercell, Transferwise, MongoDB and Wayfair. Indeed, over time, FJ Labs has come to look less like a “lab” and more like a traditional venture firm, though Grinda rejects the comparison. “We are a venture fund,” he says, but one that does “angel investing at venture scale,” he insists. “We don’t lead. We don’t price. We don’t take board seats. We decide after two one-hour meetings over the course of a week whether we’ll invest or not because we have extraordinary pattern recognition that allows us to decide extremely quickly.” It sounds high risk, yet FJ Labs has results to show for its approach. Among its many investments, for example, it has bet early on outfits that have ballooned over time, including Alibaba, Coupang, Flexport, and Delivery Hero. Focusing on marketplaces and network effects businesses — which Grinda knows well — certainly helps. So does the portfolio that FJ Labs has built over time, which includes 900 active investments as part of what Grinda describes as the “world’s largest marketplace portfolio.” (Pitchbook data supports that FJ Labs was the most active venture outfit globally in the third quarter of last year.) It all builds on itself like its own kind of flywheel, Grinda suggests, pointing to the firm’s deal flow to underscore the point. Through FJ Labs’s 900 companies, it has connections to roughly 2,000 founders, and they “come back for their next companies, and send us their friends and employees,” says Grinda. Similarly, because FJ Labs is a “source of differentiated deal flow for the VCs, they invite us to their deals,” he says. FJ Labs will get bigger still if everything goes as planned. Grinda says that the “idea is to create an institution that is going to be a legacy and “be around “for decades.” It’s hard to imagine that Grinda, who is famously itinerant, could stick with venture capital so long. But he says to believe it. Right now there are three problems FJ Labs would like to help address, while also making money, and none of them are minor. The first is inequality of opportunity, the second is climate change, and the third is the “mental and physical well-being crisis.” One related bet is on User Interviews, a seven-year-old Brooklyn startup that helps user experience researchers source study participants across different demographics and behavioral criteria. (TechCrunch covered its newest funding here.) Other startups don’t easily fit into one of those three buckets, including Gravitics, a one-year-old Seattle startup that is developing living and work modules for space travel and that announced a $20 million round last year. (We covered that round, too.) Apparently, if there is a web3 angle, that also works. Just yesterday, a year-old London-based blockchain infrastructure company said it has $8.5 million in seed funding to build private sharding capabilities for blockchain networks, with participation from FJ Labs. A lot of the firm’s bets boil down to what FJ Labs’s perspective on what the future of humanity looks like, offers Grinda. “We have a perspective on the future of food, automobiles, real estate, work . . . we’re trying to solve the world’s problems; we’re also thesis driven.” You can find out more about what FJ Labs is funding and why from a story we published last month about the outfit, before FJ Labs closed its newest funds. “Most active investor” FJ Labs closes on $260M across two new funds by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

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German insurtech startup Getsafe is adding a fourth market with today’s product launch. In addition to Germany, Austria and the U.K., Getsafe is now going to offer insurance products in France. The company will first offer a home insurance product. Getsafe is trying to disrupt the insurance market with a focus on digital-first insurance products. It sells its products directly to end customers through its website and app unlike its German rival Wefox. In its home market, Getsafe originally started with a home contents insurance product. But it has greatly diversified its lineup of products with the addition of private health insurance, drone liability insurance, pet health insurance and even some financial products like private pension plans. In October 2021, when the company announced a Series B extension of $63 million, Getsafe had 250,000 customers. It now has 400,000 clients as it is about to accept new customers in France. Getsafe has its own insurance license from Germany’s financial regulator, BaFin. On the French market, the company is going to offer an all-in-one home insurance product. This kind of insurance products is particularly popular in France as home insurance is a legal requirement whether you own or you’re renting your home. It usually protects the house or apartment against fires or water damages as well as the contents of your home. It also includes home liability insurance. It’s going to be interesting to see if Getsafe manages to capture some market share as this is a crowded market. All legacy insurance companies offer home insurance products and still represent the majority of contracts. When it comes to newcomers, French startup Luko also started with home insurance and now has 400,000 customers. Last year, Luko acquired Coya, a German competitor. In other words, Getsafe and Luko now both operate in Germany and France. Lemonade, the publicly traded American insurtech, also launched its renters insurance in France. While Lemonade performed quite well on the stock market after its initial public offering, its shares dropped quite dramatically in late 2021 and 2022. The company’s market capitalization is now just above the $1 billion mark. Lemonade’s performance could have a chilling effect on the insurtech startup market. But that doesn’t seem to stop Getsafe as the company already plans to launch more products on the French market thanks to its digital-first approach and direct-to-consumer distribution strategy. You can expect a private health insurance product, some travel insurance offerings or pet health insurance plans by the end of 2023. Image Credits: Getsafe Getsafe expands to France starting with home insurance by Romain Dillet originally published on TechCrunch

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Generative AI is the tech industry’s buzzword of the moment. It’s no wonder — the VC firm Sequoia not long ago predicted that generative AI, which comprises AI that can generate text, art and more from prompts, could yield trillions of dollars in economic value over the long run. Is that simply the optimistic musing of a firm heavily invested in the space? Perhaps. On the other hand, generative AI has proven to be a labor savor. Supernormal hopes to demonstrate the value of generative AI with its tech, which creates meeting notes by integrating with Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other conferencing platforms. There’s lots of vendors in the meeting notes transcription space, which exploded during the pandemic as work-from-home setups became the norm. But Supernormal differentiates itself by extracting key details from meetings such as actions and decisions, relying on OpenAI’s text-processing AI to do the summarization work. It’s a strong sales pitch. Supernormal today announced that it raised $10 million in a funding round led by Balderton with participation from Acequia Capital and byFounders VC. The new cash brings the company’s total raised to around $12.9 million, which co-founder and CEO Colin Treseler says is being put toward product R&D and hiring. “Currently, Supernormal has a small team of 5, which it expects to grow to 25 by the end of 2023 — mostly across engineering, marketing and [customer] success,” Treseler told TechCrunch in an email interview. “The new funding will be used to further the mission of delivering end-to-end workflow solutions based on foundational meeting data and develop next-generation tools that deliver actions and insights from conversations across the organization.” Supernormal automatically transcribes and summarizes meetings. Treseler co-founded Supernormal with Fabian Perez, who he met while working at a Balderton-funded company 13 years ago. (Treseler’s also held product manager roles at Meta and was the chief of staff in Klarna’s risk management department, while Perez was the director of design at GitHub.) In 2020, the two spent two weeks brainstorming what to build next. After long sessions, they realized that they didn’t have any notes from the conversations, and that well-documented discussions were going to be critical to their success. “At an organization level, our meetings are a significant part of our work product that, until now, were ephemeral or too unwieldy to consume — who rewatches an hour-long meeting when the key notes are what are important?,” Treseler said. “We’ve heard in particular that for product managers, team leads and client-facing teams that this product is particularly transformative as it helps them keep track of key updates and milestones with ease.” To that end, Supernormal’s platform, powered by OpenAI’s GPT-3 model, writes meeting and call notes across templated categories like “presentation,” “customer discovery call” and “interview.” Supernormal extracts details like customer objectives and goals, Treseler explains, and after a meeting attempts to automate action items like follow-up emails, scheduling and making introductions. Supernormal is self-learning — as users edit their notes, they’re improving the quality of notes that they get in their next call. But they can also delete any stored data if they choose for privacy reasons. Image Credits: Supernormal “As companies contract, team members are going to be under pressure to continually hit deadlines and showcase value. A tool like Supernormal supports them at every stage of their job and takes that administrative pressure off them,” Treseler said. “It also takes the pressure off employees to be overly communicative and transparent, with Supernormal easily enabling this — helping to boost productivity and keep everyone connected regardless of location and time zones.” It’s here I should note that Supernormal’s capabilities aren’t super novel, no pun intended. Otter, a competitor, recently rolled out AI-generated meeting summaries. For transcribing and highlighting key moments in meetings, there’s also Headroom, tl;dv, Xembly and Fireflies.ai. But Treseler claims Supernormal is more affordable than most solutions on the market — less than $1 per meeting, on average — and already has a growing paying customer base. 50,000 users across more than 250 organizations including Netflix, Airbnb, and Snapchat are actively using the platform, he says, The trick for Supernormal will be achieving profitability given the high cost of relying on the OpenAI API. The most comprehensive GPT-3 plan costs around $0.02 per ~750 words, which sounds like a lot — until you consider a 30-minute meeting transcript ranges between 3,000 and 6,000 words. Another, more existential business challenge is the desire among remote workers to move away from frequent meetings. In a July 2022 survey from RedRex, workers said they spent an average of 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings; 71% believed their work time was often wasted due to unnecessary or canceled meetings. Moreover, over half of the respondents said that they actively wanted to reduce how much time they spent in virtual meetings. Treseler admitted as much — and was loathe to share Supernormal’s revenue numbers. But he believes the growth is sustainable. “As more companies have gone hybrid or fully remote, Supernormal is becoming an essential tool for distributed teams,” Treseler continued. “We’ve seen explosive growth as teams try to figure out the hybrid or distributed model. As soon as one team member is distributed, a meeting documentation tool is needed.” Supernormal raises $10M to automatically transcribe and summarize meetings by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

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French startup Welcome to the Jungle has raised a new $54 million (€50 million) Series C round. The startup helps other companies recruit new employees more easily by creating sophisticated profiles packed with a ton of information. In particular, Welcome to the Jungle sends a photo and video crew to your office so that they can shoot some high-quality photos and record some quick interviews with employees. Essentially, a profile on the platform should look like a feature article in a fancy magazine. Clients also add job openings and more information about benefits, corporate culture and the existing team. Job seekers can then browse job offers and learn more about companies on Welcome to the Jungle’s job board. The startup has also developed its own applicant tracking system and some companies use the platform directly for their hiring processes. And if you want to recruit more easily, companies can also optionally pay for exclusive content, boosted job offers, more metrics and integrations with third-party recruitment tools. Three existing investors are putting more money on the table — Revaia, XAnge and Bpifrance’s Digital Ventures’ fund. Five other investors are joining Welcome to the Jungle’s cap table — blisce/, Cipio Partners, Groupe ADP, Kostogri (Betclic CEO Nicolas Béraud’s investment company) and RAISE Sherpas. As Welcome to the Jungle originally started with tech startups, there are still a lot of highly-skilled job opportunities on the platform. If you’re living in France and you’ve graduated from a leading engineering or business school, chances are you’ve browsed Welcome to the Jungle at some point during your job seeking process. This is changing over time as the company keep adding new clients and industries. The company says that it currently attracts 3 million unique monthly visitors. It now works with 5,000 customers and the startup generates €30 million in annual recurring revenue. That’s an impressive revenue metric and it probably explains why the company has managed to raise €79 million since its inception in 2015. There are already more than 300 people working for Welcome to the Jungle. “It’s quite an achievement given the current economic climate. Now more than ever, we have what it takes to keep revolutionizing the staffing sector and start a new chapter in Welcome to the Jungle’s history,” co-founder and CEO Jérémy Clédat said in a statement. Up next, Welcome to the Jungle wants to expand to the U.S., which will require some localization efforts as well as new hires. This isn’t the company’s first international expansion as the platform is already live in Spain and Czech Republic. Of course, the startup also has its own profile on its platform to facilitate its hiring strategy. Welcome to the Jungle grabs $54 million for its slick job platform by Romain Dillet originally published on TechCrunch

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There was a brief, beautiful moment for a few months in 2021 when it felt like robotic investments might be immune from broader market forces. We all fundamentally and implicitly understood this to not be the case, but it was a nice moment nevertheless. Truth is, there was a bit of insulation in there. There was still enough forward momentum to keep cruising for a bit, even as headwinds grew. But everything comes down to Earth eventually. Now that we’re roughly a month into 2023, we can begin assessing the damage. Looking at these graphs collated by Crunchbase, things seems fairly stark. Image Credits: Crunchbase A couple of top line points: 2022 was the second worst year for robotics investments over the past five years. The figures have been on a fairly steady decline for the past five quarters. Per the first point, 2020 was the lowest. It was also an anomaly, what with the global pandemic. Uncertainty doesn’t breed investing confidence. The full year figure is even more striking given how investor confidence extended into early last year. Things really started slowing down in Q2. A cursory look at the bar graph might suggest that 2021 is an anomaly. Yes and no. Yes, as far as acceleration. No, as far as the long view. The question is not if those bars will start growing year over year, but when. Image Credits: Crunchbase The same thing that stalled investments in 2020 accelerated them the following year. Even as things reopened, jobs were increasingly difficult to fill and companies across the board were in a desperate push to automate. As nice as it might be, we’re not ready to classify automation and robotics as “recession-proof” just yet. I do, however, suspect that those who control the purse strings fundamentally understand that these downward trends are more a product of the macroenvironment than anything specific to robotics. For some early-stage startups, however, that’s cold comfort. A lot of runways shortened dramatically this year. Consolation could come somewhere down the road, but in a lot of cases decisive action needs to be taken for those who suddenly find themselves unable to close a round that might have felt like a foregone conclusion 12 months ago. Given the choice between getting acquired and shutting down that some will inevitably face, it seems likely that M&A activity will spike. Sure there’s less money floating around, but few can turn down a good fire sale. In some cases, that will go a ways toward strengthening products and portfolios. Anecdotally, I’m seeing investments ramp up for the year, but that appears part of the natural cycle of companies waiting until after the holidays to announce. A proper bounce back, on the other hand, seems inevitable, but only those with high-powered crystal balls can say precisely when. The thing we thought was happening with robotic investments is definitely happening by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here. Hello, Crunchers! We’re pretty excited about Matt’s TechCrunch Live, where he talks to Cambly about how the company found profits after failing to raise a Series A. Mark your calendar for February 1!  — Christine and Haje The TechCrunch Top 3 And we’re back!: That’s what Microsoft is saying after some of its services, like Outlook, Xbox Live and Teams, went down during a “change made to the Microsoft Wide Area Network,” Ivan reports. What you text is what you’ll see: We’ve been hearing about text-to-image lately, and today is no different. Remember in October when Shutterstock and OpenAI paired up to add some artificial intelligence to Shutterstock’s libraries? Well, today the stock photo giant is showing us the fruits of that labor with a generative AI toolkit to create images based on text prompts. Ingrid has more. Plugged in: BMW i Ventures gets a renewed charge from one of its newest investments, infusing $13 million into Bulgaria-based Ampeco, a company providing an electric vehicle charging management platform, Mike reports. As he notes, you might recall that BMW was an early investor in exited companies ChargePoint and ChargeMaster. Startups and VC Injective, a layer-1 blockchain focused on building financial applications, has launched a $150 million fund ecosystem initiative, the platform’s CEO and co-founder, Eric Chen, told Jacquelyn in her article, Injective launches $150M ecosystem fund to accelerate interoperable infra and DeFi adoption. One of the most remarkable things about construction robotics is the sheer breadth of tasks that can potentially be automated, Brian writes. He believes the entire category is a prime target for robotics startups, given that it addresses the three big Ds of automation — dull, dirty and (quite often) dangerous. It makes sense, then, that Built buys fellow construction robotics firm, Roin. Fun stuff. There’s five more, too: All Raise loses another CEO: Natasha M reports that another All Raise CEO steps down. Scooters heading to Madrid: Madrid selects Dott, Lime and Tier for scooter licenses, Romain reports. Harry Stamper would be proud: Asteroid mining startup AstroForge will test its metal refinery tech in space this year, reports Aria. Atomic brings R&D to RNA for drug discovery: Devin writes that, with new funding, Atomic AI envisions RNA as the next frontier in drug discovery. Training in VR: Paul reports that Gemba, a corporate VR training platform used by Coca-Cola and Pfizer, raises $18 million. When it comes to large language models, should you build or buy? Image Credits: Jenny Dettrick (opens in a new window) / Getty Images Americans spent nearly $20 billion on pizza deliveries in 2021. Most people could probably bake one at home, but speed and convenience are powerful incentives at dinnertime. The same holds true for machine learning algorithms: Should companies select open source models, 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. When it comes to large language models, should you build or buy? Three more from the TC+ team: Unflushing nutrients: We flush valuable nutrients down the toilet. Wasted wants to save them, Tim reports. Hiring plans under the microscope: Becca writes that startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans. From L to H: Dear Sophie: How do I change my L-1B to an H-1B through the lottery? by Sophie Alcorn. 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. Frederic took a look at what Google was doing at this year’s Flutter Forward event and found that the open source framework got some new graphics capabilities, and is launching its first efforts to compile Flutter to WebAssembly and is working on some RISC-V support. He writes, “Virtually all of these capabilities still sit in canary branches and behind experiment flags, but they do show where Google plans to take this project in the months ahead.” Now here’s five more for you: Roadblocks ahead: Jagmeet speaks to some gig workers in India about their daily working conditions, writing that “drivers face bust in the country’s digital boom.” Way mo’ layoffs: Alphabet’s self-driving technology unit Waymo was not immune to the umbrella company’s recent job cuts and quietly made its own layoffs. Rebecca has more. Naps over apps: Sarah reports that app downloads were stagnant in the fourth quarter on both the App Store and Play Store — usually it isn’t, she points out. The magic is in the ad targeting: Disney Advertising announced at its Tech and Data Showcase today that Disney+ advertisers will soon be able to take advantage of some of Hulu’s ad targeting capabilities, Lauren writes. It’s that time again: Rebecca has some details on what we might expect to see in Tesla’s Q4 earnings. Daily Crunch: ‘Network issue’ causes cloud outage that takes down multiple Microsoft services for 4+ hours by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

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Around a year ago, Tier Mobility was winning the shared micromobility game. Fueled by its $200 million Series D fundraise in October 2021, the company went on to acquire three other micromobility operators and a computer vision startup, giving it access to e-bikes — a reach that extended beyond Europe and into the U.S. — and the tech needed to assuage politicians’ fears over safety. Today, Tier is in the midst of another round of layoffs. As a result of previous restructurings, Tier is laying off around 80 workers, some of whom are under the Nextbike umbrella, to make up for redundancies. Tier had purchased the German bike-share startup in November 2021 to expand its vehicle offerings beyond e-scooters. Tier said the layoffs announced Wednesday will affect 7% of its overall staff headcount. While some teams will be more affected than others, the restructuring affects employees across the organization. The most recent staff cuts follow Tier’s decision to let 180 employees go back in August, blaming a poor funding environment and uncertain economic conditions. The micromobility operator is also reducing the size of its Spin workforce by about 20 employees. Tier originally bought Spin from Ford in March 2022, a move that gave the company widespread access to the U.S. Seven months later, Tier then laid off almost 80 Spin workers and exited Seattle and Canada. The company went on to let go of an additional 30 Spin employees in December when it decided to leave another 10 U.S. cities. A Tier spokesperson told TechCrunch the company tried to rematch workers from redundant roles with any open roles at Tier and Nextbike to retain as many people as possible. ‘All-out growth mode’ to ‘profitability first’ How did Tier go from being the largest micromobility player in the world to now announcing layoffs every few months? Sure, the macroeconomic climate has affected most tech companies, and Tier is hardly the only micromobility operator to announce staff cuts (lookin’ at you, Bird.) It seems that Tier, like most other tech companies facing hard decisions, was expanding for a pace of economic growth that’s simply not being realized in pre-recession 2023. Tier CEO and co-founder Lawrence Leuschner said today’s round of layoffs is part of a pivot in the company’s overall strategy, “from all-out growth mode to a ‘profitability first’ mindset.” The restructuring will include the closure of “a small number of cities where we do not see a path to profitability” due to factors like unfavorable regulatory approaches, said the company. Tier did not say which cities it would exit, but the operator’s future in Paris currently hangs in the balance as the city votes whether or not to renew the permits of Tier, Lime and Dott. However, the city’s strict regulations might just make it unprofitable for Tier to be in Paris at this point. Tier is also shutting down a number of side projects, like its own vehicle design program and the Tier Energy Network, the company’s plan to place charging stations in retail stores to incentivize riders to swap scooter batteries for rewards. On the other hand, the company will be winding up its monthly scooter subscription service, MyTier. “Downsizing is challenging for any business and particularly difficult for a company like Spin, which has already made fundamental changes to the business to ensure its long-term future,” said Philip Reinckens, CEO at Spin. “We are confident that the measures to increase revenue while reducing costs via further integration with our parent company will accelerate the company’s path to profitability.” Micromobility in limbo: Takeaways from Paris and LA Tier Mobility and Spin lay off 100 more employees by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

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Dell is making an acquisition to beef up its cloud services business, specifically its offerings in DevOps: the company is buying Cloudify, an Israeli startup that has built a platform for cloud orchestration and infrastructure automation. Cloudify’s tools are used by cloud architects and DevOps engineers to manage containers, workloads, and more across hybrid environments. Dell did not officially announce the acquisition, but after sources contacted us, we noticed that Dell had actually published documents with the SEC pertaining to some of the share awards for Cloudify employees. A spokesperson has now also confirmed the purchase to TechCrunch. “Dell Technologies announced that it has completed the acquisition of Cloudify,” the spokesperson said. “This transaction allows Dell to continue to innovate our edge offerings.” Dell is not disclosing the value, or any other details, of the acquisition. Our sources tell us that the deal is valued at around $100 million. That would make it a solid exit for Cloudify. Originally the startup was spun out from GigaSpaces in 2017 — Nati Shalom, the founder and CTO of Cloudify, was also a co-founder of GigaSpaces. Since then, the startup has raised less than $8 million, according to PitchBook data. It has several strategic backers on its cap table: VMware, KPN, and Intel were all investors in Cloudify. Dell has been active in Israel since acquiring Exanet in 2010, which formed the basis of an R&D operation in the country. That acquisition was for a song, relatively speaking: Exanet was bankrupt at the time and the deal was done for $12 million. From what we understand, Dell had been looking for acquisitions in this space for a while. Cloudify’s pitch is at engineers who are grappling with managing network and data infrastructure at scaling organizations: it provides a platform that lets those DevOps engineers integrate and manage different products they may already be using — Ansible, Terraform, Kubernetes, ServiceNow, Jenkins, Azure, ARM and TOSCA among them — and automating the work of them working together. Avihai Michaeli, a startup advisor in the country, tells me that Dell long had its eye on Cloudify — which counts (in addition to its strategic backers) big names like AT&T, Cox, Accenture, and many more as customers. “Cloudify was challenging Dell in more ways than one,” he said. “For example it competed with Dell’s Enstratius.” Dell is reporting results for Q4 at the beginning of March. Its market cap is currently at $29 billion. Dell has acquired cloud orchestration startup Cloudify, sources tell us for around $100M by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

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Two years after the company formerly known as Facebook suspended then-President Donald Trump’s account, it’s bringing him back. Meta announced its decision to restore former president Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts on Wednesday, adding that it would do so in “the coming weeks.” The company was expected to weigh in some time this month on Trump’s fate. Meta’s semi-independent external policy committee the Oversight Board declined to decide the case itself when given the chance two years ago, but it did push the company to set a timeframe for Trump’s suspension. That two-year suspension period expired this month. As a general rule, we don’t want to get in the way of open debate on our platforms, esp in context of democratic elections. People should be able to hear what politicians are saying – good, bad & ugly – to make informed choices at the ballot box. 1/4 — Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) January 25, 2023 In tweets and a post on Meta’s blog, Facebook Global Affairs President Nick Clegg said that Meta was done evaluating if the “serious risk to public safety” that Trump posed two years ago remains. “Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out,” Clegg said. “As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks.” Clegg also cited new guardrails that will keep Trump operating within the rules, namely “heightened penalties for repeat offenses.” Meta issued updated rules this month that apply to public figures stoking civil unrest and under those guidelines Trump would be suspended for anywhere from a month to two more years if he offends again. The Oversight Board criticized Meta at the time for making up new rules for Trump’s open-ended punishment, which it issued after the former president incited violence during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Twitter was less equivocal, issuing Trump a lifetime ban from its services. Twitter’s own decision seemed permanent at the the time, but two years later SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased the social company, reversing that decision and many other suspensions that the company made in the course of enforcing its guidelines against hate and harassment. While Trump’s path to a mainstream social media return is now cleared, the former president might be in his own way. According to SEC filings, Trump remains under an exclusivity agreement with his own social media company Truth Social that requires he post content there six hours before sharing it to other platforms. Beyond that, Trump is “generally obligated” to stick with Truth Social rather than mainstream social networks like Twitter and Facebook, though the contract expires in June and he’s apparently eager do be done with it. Meta’s Oversight Board noted that was made aware of the company’s decision yesterday and while it had no role in dictating the outcome, it approved of the company’s process. “Today’s decision by Meta is a pivotal moment in the debate over the best way to handle harmful content posted by politicians on social media,” the Oversight Board wrote in a blog post. “As Meta wrote, there are arguments on both sides of the debate over where to draw the line on what content should be allowed online. Independent oversight of decisions related to speech on social media platforms is why the Board was set up — to ensure that companies act in a transparent and accountable manner.” This story is developing… Meta will restore Trump’s Facebook account ‘in the coming weeks’ by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

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Rhys Spence Contributor Share on Twitter Rhys Spence is head of research at Brighteye Ventures, a European edtech-focused fund. More posts by this contributor Edtech’s honeymoon might be over, but expect a second boom Despite creaky markets, European edtech is showing its resilience During the darkest days of the pandemic, money was no object in many developed markets. Governments, public sector organizations and many private companies moved heaven and earth to ensure public safety and adequate supply of core services. Quite clearly, spending reached unsustainable levels. But 2022 was the year when this “spending” slowed and was instead more widely rebranded and accepted as actually being “borrowing.” This realization justified the beginning of deep cuts in public spending compared to before and during the pandemic. Despite these cuts, which have been always slower to implement than communicate, inflation has been rampant across Europe and beyond, partially due to supply chain issues linked to the situation in Ukraine. Wages failing to rise in line with inflation as well as cuts to public services have led to a cost-of-living crisis in many markets. These conditions are not conducive to inducing confidence for investors or founders. Edtech, and education more broadly, usually one of the more resistant sectors during times of economic crisis, has not been immune to the downturn. Against this background, we formed our annual review of European edtech activity for 2022. For the first time since 2014, venture capital funding to European edtech startups saw a decline year-over-year, with startups raking in $1.8 billion in 2022 compared to $2.5 billion a year earlier. The global ecosystem has been on an upward trajectory, albeit less consistently, but the declines in new investment in 2022 were steep: globally funding declined to $9.1 billion last year from $20.1 billion in 2021. This is in line with macro trends in the public markets as well as other tech sectors (both trends were highlighted in our October report with Dealroom). Italy was the only European market to see a hike in both funding and the number of deals. Perceived declines in funding are being felt more acutely, given that 2021 was a boom year. Optimism that the pandemic was coming to an end and that the world was reopening extended to ambitious founders and early teams. This momentum carried through to the first half of 2022 for European edtech. Indeed, as we reported in July, European edtech funding was up 40% in the first six months of last year compared to a year earlier. But as we now know, that momentum faltered in the second half of 2022. Optimism ebbed away, and European edtech startups raised only about $400 million in the latter six months compared to $1.4 billion in the other half of the year. That said, the sector proved more resilient in Europe than in other major regions. It’s worth pointing out that the region saw more edtech deals happening in the second half than in the first half of 2022, but they were simply smaller and more early-stage rounds at lower valuations. Europe fared well compared to the rest of the world, though: Edtech VC funding only declined 28% in Europe, compared to a 64% fall in the U.S., a 46% contraction in India, and a 32% decline in the rest of the world. Funding fell the least in Europe and RoW, with the steepest drop once again in China Funding declined across markets but Europe saw a modest decline. Image Credits: Brighteye Ventures In Europe, we see the UK retaining the top spot in funding and deal activity. Edtech companies in the UK secured the most funding — $583 million across 81 deals, more than $200 million ahead of the next market, Germany, where startups raised $363 million across 34 deals. France slipped from the podium as funding and deal activity fell sharply from previous years Edtech funding in Europe by market. Image Credits: Brighteye Ventures Italy was one of only few European markets to see increased funding and deal number. Italy’s tech ecosystem has been growing gradually as momentum has built relatively consistently since 2010. It’s also promising to see the capital secured being spread across a range of sectors, with some of the largest rounds raised by companies in fintech, healthtech and real estate. As for edtech, the market has been on a steep upwards trend since 2020. Though edtech in Italy had a record year in 2019, largely driven by the large round raised by Talent Garden, it’s quite promising to see the upward trend in 2022 being driven by smaller, early-stage rounds of less than $15 million.2022 European edtech report: Smaller rounds and fewer deals, but more angel activity by Ram Iyer originally published on TechCrunch

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Last week, we learned Google’s in-house R&D group, Area 120, had been severely impacted by the broader Google workforce reduction, impacting teams working on some of Google’s more experimental ideas. However, we understand now that at least three Area 120 projects have been spared from these latest cuts, and will go on to “graduate” to other parts of Google later this year. These include Aloud, an automated and less costly video dubbing solution; a privacy platform for app developers called Checks; and Liist, a consumer app quietly acquired by Google last year. Most Area 120 projects have been developed in-house, making Liist a rare exception. The startup, which had raised $1.1 million in seed funding according to Crunchbase, offered a social bookmarking tool for saving places you find on the internet, including through apps like TikTok and Instagram. At Google’s Area 120, the team had been tasked with building a new consumer product. While Aloud and Checks have obvious utility, easily fitting into other parts of Google’s organization, Liist is perhaps the more intriguing of the three Area 120 survivors. Ahead of Liist’s acquisition, Google had spoken about the threat to its core search and advertising businesses posed by TikTok and Instagram. At an industry event, Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information organization, told an interviewer that the search giant’s own research found that young people now often didn’t start their searches for places on Google. “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he said. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.” When live, Liist’s bookmarking app had touted a variety of use cases which included things like saving places for travel inspiration, planning nights out with friends, creating lists of date night spots, and more. Users could vote on where they wanted to go or could plan trips together, too. The app was also among the first to integrate with TikTok’s Jump platform, which allows users to jump from videos to experiences provided by third parties — like saving a recipe to Whisk’s app after watching a video where the recipe is demonstrated, for instance. Liist’s app was shut down when the team joined Google, but co-founder David Friedl’s LinkedIn states the team has been working on a “Gen Z consumer product” within Area 120. No other details were provided. According to an internal email to the Area 120 team shared with TechCrunch, Liist and the other remaining Area 120 projects will now come under the purview of Area 120 Managing Partner Elias Roman, as they move forward. The email was penned by veteran Googler Clay Bavor, who you may recall had taken over Area 120 as well as other AR and VR projects as part of a 2021 reorg, which branded this group of projects “Google Labs.” Google reorg moves AR, VR, Starline and Area 120 into new ‘Labs’ team Roman will also now lead a set of “applied A.I.” products under Senior Director of Product Management at Google Labs, Josh Woodward. While the Area 120 layoffs are only a small percentage of Google’s recent cuts impacting 12,000 people, or 6% of its global workforce, the R&D group had spearheaded several innovations over the years that found success and exited to other parts of Google. These included the HTML5 gaming platform for emerging markets called GameSnacks, which integrated with Google Chrome; the technical interview platform Byteboard, a rare external spinout; an AirTable rival called Tables which exited to Google Cloud; an A.I.-powered conversational ads platform AdLingo, which also exited to Cloud; video platforms Tangi and Shoploop, which exited to Google Search and Shopping, respectively; and the web-based travel app Touring Bird, which exited to Commerce, among others. There were growing concerns, however, that Google no longer saw Area 120 as a key investment. Last September, the company slashed Area 120’s fourteen projects in development to just seven and told impacted employees they’d need to find new roles within Google. At the time, a Google spokesperson explained the group would be shifting its focus to projects that “build on Google’s deep investment in A.I.” and ” have the potential to solve important user problems.” Bavor’s new email to Area 120 employees similarly highlights how Google’s experimentation is now more intensely focused on the impacts of A.I. across Google products, not the other types of projects that Area 120 become known for in prior years. As Bavor writes: It’s clear that, as a company, we continue to face macroeconomic uncertainties. At the same time, there are enormous opportunities ahead of us in applying AI to reimagining so many of Google’s core products. With this as backdrop, I’ve made the difficult decision to wind down the majority of Area 120. For nearly seven years, Area 120 has been a source of bottom-up innovation across Google, and from it we’ve learned many lessons on how best to pursue zero-to-one opportunities. But with the unprecedented opportunities ahead of us, we need to shift to a model of new product development that is opinionated and focused. … I know this change is significant and unsettling. What hasn’t changed is the size of the opportunity ahead of us, especially in applied AI. Across our domains, I believe that Labs is doing some of the most important and potentially impactful work at Google. And now more than ever, the company is looking to us to execute well. I have full confidence that we will navigate this moment as a team and deliver in 2023. The email comes in addition to Google and Alphabet’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s email about the layoffs, which was publicly shared on Google’s “The Keyword” blog. Google declined to comment. Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator, severely impacted by Alphabet mass layoffs Google spares three Area 120 R&D projects, including team working on a ‘Gen Z consumer product’ by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

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Tesla just beat Wall Street revenue estimates for the fourth quarter of 2022. The company closed out Q4 with $24.3 billion in revenue, a 37% increase from the same quarter last year and a 13% bump quarter-over-quarter. Analysts had expected the company to earn around $24.2 billion, according to Yahoo Finance data. The electric vehicle maker had $1.4 billion in free cash flow at the end of Q4, which is down from the $3.3 billion the company had in the bank at the end of the third quarter. Investors today will be watching out for gross margins after Tesla slashed prices and offered multiple discounts on its vehicles. While Tesla as a whole closed the quarter with a 16% operating margin, automotive gross margins came in at 25.9%, which is the lowest figure in the last five quarters. Margins in the first quarter of 2023 might look worse, says Eric Schiffer, a Tesla investor and the CEO of private equity firm Patriarch Organization. “The outlook will still depend on the recent moves of Q1, which suggest some compression in demand,” Schiffer told TechCrunch, referring to January’s price cuts. The company acknowledged that average sales prices have “generally been on a downward trajectory for many years” and said the company would prioritize “affordability” so that it could grow into a company that sells multiple millions of cars annually. That will likely be a necessity for the automaker as it, along with everyone else, faces macroeconomic pressures, a looming recession and increasing competition from other automakers. “Tesla is not immune from the recession, and I still expect to see more recession-driven market pain,” said Schiffer. Earlier this month, Tesla reported vehicle deliveries of 405,278 in the fourth quarter. While those were record deliveries, the automaker still missed Wall Street estimates for the third quarter in a row. Similarly, Tesla’s 1.3 million vehicle deliveries in 2022 was also a record for the automaker, but that number misses Tesla’s own guidance of achieving 50% growth YoY and getting to 1.4 million deliveries. Regardless, Tesla still intends to grow production as quickly as possible “in alignment with the 50% CAGR target we began guiding to in early 2021,” and reach 1.8 million cars in 2023. On Tuesday, Tesla announced plans to invest an additional $3.6 billion into its Nevada gigafactory to build a battery cell facility and a Semi truck factory. During today’s earnings call, Tesla is expected to discuss future gigafactories like one planned for Indonesia and another, potentially, in Mexico. Tesla said it remains focused on “autonomy, electrification and energy solutions.” The company’s energy storage arm finished out 2022 with the “highest level” of deployments ever. Energy storage deployments increased 152% from Q4 in 2021 to 2.5 GWh, for a total 2022 deployment of 6.5 GWh. Tesla said demand for its storage products “remains in excess of [its] ability to supply.” The company said it  is ramping up production at its 40 GWh Megapack factory in Lathrop, California to address demand. Tesla’s solar deployments also increased 18% YoY in Q4 to 100 MW, with a total 348 MW of solar deployed in 2022. Tesla’s stock saw a 3.2% spike to $149 per share immediately after earnings dropped, but has since come back down to $144 in after hours trading. This news is breaking. Check back in for updates.  Tesla’s energy storage arm caps 2022 with ‘highest level’ of deployments ever Tesla reports $24.3B revenue in the fourth quarter, beating Street estimates by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

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The growth keeps coming for Tesla’s energy storage business. On Wednesday, the automaker said its home and utility-scale battery deployments reached 6.5 gigawatt hours (GWh) during its fiscal 2022, calling it “by far the highest level of deployments we have achieved.” That’s up from about 4 GWh in 2021. For context, the average American home consumes 10,632 kilowatt hours — just over 0.01 GWh — per year, according to the U.S. Energy Department. In the fourth quarter alone, Tesla said energy storage deployments reached 2.5 GWh — up from 2.1 GWh in Q3. Tesla’s energy storage business includes its Powerwall home batteries and much larger Megapacks. Tesla also updated investors on its solar business, saying deployments totaled 348 megawatts in 2022. In the final quarter of the year, the automaker’s solar deployments fell just short of recent highs, hitting 100 MW in Q4. The disclosures cap a supremely wobbly fiscal 2022 for Tesla. In July, the automaker’s solar energy arm announced its “strongest” quarter in four years, with 106 megawatts deployed in Q2. Tesla said something similar about its energy storage business in Q3, declaring in October that it recorded “by far the highest level [of growth it has] ever achieved,” with home and utility-scale battery deployments rocketing 62% year over year. Tesla also dipped its toes in the Texas retail electricity market with an invite-only plan called Tesla Electric. Yet, Tesla reportedly put solar roof installations on ice during this timeframe, and one of its Megapack batteries caught fire at a California power storage site in September, state utility PG&E said. Tesla also missed some Wall Street analysts’ expectations in recent quarters — falling short on revenue in Q3 and deliveries in Q3 and Q4. Earlier on Wednesday, Tesla’s stock price was trading at a two-year low. Tesla reports $24.3B revenue in the fourth quarter, beating Street estimates Tesla’s energy storage arm caps 2022 with ‘highest level’ of deployments ever by Harri Weber originally published on TechCrunch

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If you recently made a purchase from an overseas online store selling knockoff clothes and goods, there’s a chance your credit card number and personal information were exposed. Since January 6, a database containing hundreds of thousands of unencrypted credit card numbers and corresponding cardholders’ information was spilling onto the open web. At the time it was pulled offline on Tuesday, the database had about 330,000 credit card numbers, cardholder names, and full billing addresses — and rising in real-time as customers placed new orders. The data contained all the information that a criminal would need to make fraudulent transactions and purchases using a cardholder’s information. The credit card numbers belong to customers who made purchases through a network of near-identical online stores claiming to sell designer goods and apparel. But the stores had the same security problem in common: any time a customer made a purchase, their credit card data and billing information was saved in a database, which was left exposed to the internet without a password. Anyone who knew the IP address of the database could access reams of unencrypted financial data. Anurag Sen, a good-faith security researcher, found the exposed credit card records and asked TechCrunch for help in reporting it to its owner. Sen has a respectable track record of scanning the internet looking for exposed servers and inadvertently published data, and reporting it to companies to get their systems secured. But in this case, Sen wasn’t the first person to discover the spilling data. According to a ransom note left behind on the exposed database, someone else had found the spilling data and, instead of trying to identify the owner and responsibly reporting the spill, the unnamed person instead claimed to have taken a copy of the entire database’s contents of credit card data and would return it in exchange for a small sum of cryptocurrency. A review of the data by TechCrunch shows most of the credit card numbers are owned by cardholders in the United States. Several people we contacted confirmed that their exposed credit card data was accurate. TechCrunch has identified several online stores whose customers’ information was exposed by the leaky database. Many of the stores claim to operate out of Hong Kong. Some of the stores are designed to sound similar to big-name brands, like Sprayground, but whose websites have no discernible contact information, typos and spelling mistakes, and a conspicuous lack of customer reviews. Internet records also show the websites were set up in the past few weeks. Some of these websites include: spraygroundusa.com ihuahebuy.com igoodlinks.com ibuysbuy.com lichengshop.com hzoushop.com goldlyshop.com haohangshop.com twinklebubble.store spendidbuy.com If you bought something from one of those sites in the past few weeks, you might want to consider your banking card compromised and contact your bank or card provider. It’s not clear who is responsible for this network of knockoff stores. TechCrunch contacted a person via WhatsApp whose Singapore-registered phone number was listed as the point of contact on several of the online stores. It’s not clear if the contact number listed is even involved with the stores, given one of the websites listed its location as a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Houston, Texas. Internet records showed that the database was operated by a customer of Tencent, whose cloud services were used to host the database. TechCrunch contacted Tencent about its customer’s database leaking credit card information, and the company responded quickly. The customer’s database went offline a short time later. “When we learned of the incident, we immediately contacted the customer who operates the database and it was shut down immediately. Data privacy and security are top priorities at Tencent. We will continue to work with our customers to ensure they maintain their databases in a safe and secure manner,” said Carrie Fan, global communications director at Tencent. Read more: New York payments startup exposed millions of credit cards MoviePass exposed thousands of unencrypted customer card numbers Hackers stole passwords for accessing 140,000 payment terminals A network of knockoff apparel stores exposed 330,000 customer credit cards by Zack Whittaker originally published on TechCrunch

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Amazon is deepening its ties to hit Dungeons & Dragons actual play series Critical Role, entering a multiyear deal with the growing role-playing content empire that will see any new adaptations spring up under the Amazon Studios umbrella. The company will also bring Critical Role’s second campaign to life, showcasing the ragtag fantasy group of reluctant adventurers known as the “Mighty Nein” in its own animated series. The campaign two adaptation will begin production soon but there’s no firm release date yet. Under the deal’s terms, Amazon will get first-look rights for any movie adaptation of Critical Role’s sprawling original fantasy world, crafted by dungeon master Matt Mercer. Critical Role’s episodes have aired on the big screen before — including the animated “Vox Machina” season 3 debut and a two-part live play special that served as an epilogue for campaign two, which wrapped up in 2021 — but to date Critical Role has yet to produce a feature-length movie adaptation. “With the success of our animated series ‘The Legend of Vox Machina,’ we are looking forward to continuing our relationship with Critical Role and expanding its universe with ‘Mighty Nein,’” Amazon Studios Head of Global TV Vernon Sanders said. “Expanding these iconic franchises for our global Prime Video customers continues to be an ambitious and rewarding journey and we are eager to see where this new series takes us.” As far as adaptations go, Critical Role is pretty safe territory for the tech giant’s experiments in original content. The show, which streams weekly on Twitch, boasts a famously committed community that buys up its books and merch, celebrating the group’s creative endeavors in whatever form they take. According to Twitch data that leaked in 2021, Critical Role was the highest paid streamer on the platform, with the long-form D&D actual play show beating out even the most popular pro gaming personalities. Critical Role’s second campaign could also bring new fans into the franchise. While the group’s first campaign followed a more traditional fantasy trajectory — hero archetypes, dragons and the like — the “Mighty Nein” campaign offers quirkier characters and an at-times subtle exploration of political intrigue and spirituality in an imagined world that often defies expectations. Critical Role, which began as a casual home game among friends in the voice acting community, has grown into an entertainment behemoth in a few short years. Amazon picked up Critical Role’s first campaign, “The Legend of Vox Machina,” in 2019 after the roleplaying crew smashed Kickstarter records by raising $11.3 million for an animated adaptation. The second season of “The Legend of Vox Machina” debuted on Prime Video this month and Amazon Studios ordered a third season of the show last year. Dungeons & Dragons content creators are fighting to protect their livelihoods Critical Role’s second campaign will get its own Amazon animated series by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

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Building and owning a home has been part of human life for as long as civilization itself. But in the past few decades, the lens through which we view real estate and property development has slowly blurred. It’s not a huge stretch to say that today, as tech increasingly permeates property development and housing, few except those operating in the sector can truly pinpoint what’s happening in the fast-developing world of proptech. So in order to pull back that veil, towards the end of 2022, we decided to take an in-depth look into the trends and tech in property development and construction. We spoke to a diverse array of investors about finance-focused proptech and the move towards greener proptech. But since we can’t get a full picture of the proptech space without delving into the tech driving so much of the change, we interviewed Momei Qu, managing director at PSP Growth, and AJ Malhotra, managing director at Insight Partners. They spoke extensively about the latest tech in property and housing development, where the next disruption is likely to happen, and other trends. (Editor’s note: This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.) TC: There’s a lot of overlap between construction tech and proptech. What would you say is the difference between the two? And where do they overlap? Momei Qu: We did not coin this term, but we like to use “built world” or “built environment” to capture both categories. Traditionally, we’ve referred to construction tech as solutions that touch things as they are being built (i.e., jobsite, field-level technology targeting AEC as an end customer), and proptech as solutions that touch things after they are already built (i.e., tenant engagement for office buildings, property management for rental properties). They overlap when there is something of value that applies to the entire lifecycle — construction data around plumbing that can be used for facility management, or outfitting a unit as a “smart home” during the construction phase. AJ Malhotra: I think of construction tech as a subset or segment of proptech. In my definition, proptech is any technology that touches the full lifecycle of a physical structure, including land acquisition, construction planning, construction execution, financing, leasing, property management, insurance and repair. Construction tech would fall into the buckets of planning and execution in the examples I just gave, and could also touch financing (for things like construction loans) and repair. What is your investment thesis for proptech in 2023? What sort of growth are you expecting in the sector? Qu: The sector has been hurt in 2022, in some ways disproportionally more than others, by the broader tech market reset. Several proptech companies were valued at over $1 billion in private financings or via SPAC, and virtually none of them have maintained a valuation above $1 billion today. I think part of what made it worse is the double whammy of general inflated multiples in tech/software, coupled with the fact that many proptech companies have a physical component that shouldn’t have allowed them to be valued like a software company to begin with. I think investors and companies in 2023 will exercise much more discipline, and likely won’t raise too much capital until they have really found a product and sales motion that works. As a growth-stage investor, we typically don’t get involved until we see significant traction anyway, and if they can show momentum and traction in this environment, we are more than happy to lean in in a big way. Malhotra: I think proptech in 2023 will certainly be challenged, mainly for two reasons.Proptech in Review: Investors predict slower growth in 2023 by Karan Bhasin originally published on TechCrunch

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The last year was a roller coaster ride in the AI world, and no doubt many people are dizzied by the number of advances and reversals, the constant hype and equally constant fearmongering. But let’s take a step back: AI is a powerful and promising new technology, but the conversation isn’t always genuine, and it’s generating more heat than light. AI is interesting to everyone from PhDs to grade school kids for good reason. Not every new technology both makes us question the fundamental natures of human intelligence and creativity, and lets us generate an infinite variety of dinosaurs battling with lasers. This broad appeal means the debate over what AI is, isn’t, might or mustn’t be has spread from trade conferences like NeurIPS to specialist publications like this one, to the front page of impulse-purchase news mags at the grocery store. The threat and/or promise of AI (in a general sense, which lack of specificity is part of the problem) has become a household topic seemingly overnight. On the one hand, must be validating for researchers and engineers who have toiled in relative obscurity for decades on what they feel is an important technology to see it so widely considered and remarked upon. But like the neuroscientist whose paper results in a headline like “Scientists have located the exact center of love,” or the physicist whose ironically-named “god particle” leads to a theological debate, it surely must also be frustrating to have one’s work bounced around among the hoi polloi (that is, unscrupulous pundits, not innocent lay persons) like a beach ball. “AI can now…” is a very dangerous way to start any sentence (though I’m sure I’ve done it myself) because it’s very difficult to say for certain what AI is really doing. It certainly can outplay any human at chess or go, and it can predict the structure of protein chains; it can answer any question confidently (if not correctly) and it can do a remarkably good imitation of any artist, living or dead. But it is difficult to tease out which of these things is important, and to whom, and which will remembered as briefly diverting parlor tricks in 5 or 10 years, like so many innovations we have been told are going to change the world. The capabilities of AI are widely misunderstood because they have been actively misrepresented by both those who want to sell it or drive investment in it, and those who fear it or underestimate it. It’s obvious there’s a lot of potential in something like ChatGPT, but those building products with it would like nothing better than for you, potentially a customer or at least someone who will encounter it, to think that it is more powerful and less error-prone than it is. Billions are being spent to ensure that AI is at the core of all manner of services — and not necessarily to make them better, but to automate them the way so much has been automated with mixed results. Microsoft invests billions more dollars in OpenAI, extends partnership Not to use the scary “they,” but they — meaning companies like Microsoft and Google that have an enormous financial interest in the success of AI in their core businesses (having invested so much in it) — are not interested in changing the world for the better, but making more money. They’re businesses, and AI is a product they are selling or hoping to sell — that no slander against them, just something to keep in mind when they make their claims. On the other hand you have people who fear, for good reason, that their role will be eliminated not due to actual obsolescence but because some credulous manager swallowed the “AI revolution” hook, line, and sinker. People are not reading ChatGPT scripts and thinking, “oh no, this software does what I do.” They are thinking, “this software appears to do what I do, to people who don’t understand either.” That’s very dangerous when your work is systemically misunderstood or undervalued, as a great deal is. But it’s a problem with management styles, not AI per se. Fortunately we have bold experiments like CNET’s attempt to automate financial advice columns: the graves of such ill-advised efforts will serve as gruesome trail markers to those thinking of making the same mistakes in the future. But it is equally dangerous to dismiss AI as a toy, or to say it will never do such and such simply because it can’t now, or because one has seen an example of it failing. It’s the same mistake that the other side makes, but inverted: proponents see a good example and say, “this shows it’s over for concept artists;” opponents see a bad example (or perhaps the same one!) and say “this shows it can never replace concept artists.” Both build their houses upon shifting sands. But both click, and eyeballs are of course the fundamental currency of the online world. And so you have these dueling extreme takes that attract attention not for being thoughtful but for being reactive and extreme — which should surprise no one, since as we have all learned from the last decade, conflict drives engagement. What feels like a cycle of hype and disappointment is just fluctuating visibility in an ongoing and not very helpful argument over whether AI is fundamentally this or that. It has the feel of people in the ’50s arguing over whether we will colonize Mars or Venus first. The reality is that a lot of those concept artists, not to mention novelists, musicians, tax preparers, lawyers, and every other profession that sees AI encroachment in one way or another, are actually excited and interested. They know their work well enough to understand that even a really good imitation of what they do is fundamentally different from actually doing it. VALL-E’s quickie voice deepfakes should worry you, if you weren’t worried already Advances in AI are happening slower than you think, not because there aren’t breakthroughs but because those breakthroughs are the result of years and years of work that isn’t as photogenic or shareable as stylized avatars. The biggest thing in the last decade was “Attention is all you need,” but we didn’t see that on the cover of Time. It’s certainly notable that as of this month or that, it’s good enough to do certain things, but don’t think about it as AI “crossing a line” so much as AI moving further down a long, long gradient or continuum that even its most gifted practitioners can’t see more than a few months of. All of this is just to say, don’t get caught up in either the hype or the doomsayers. What AI can or can’t do is an open question, and if anyone says they know, check if they’re trying to sell you something. What people may choose to do with the AI we already have, though — that’s something we can and should talk about more. I can live with a model that can ape my writing style — I’m just aping a dozen other writers anyway. But I would prefer not to work at a company that algorithmically determines pay or who gets laid off, because I wouldn’t trust the those who put that system in place. As usual, the tech isn’t the threat — it’s the people using it. Don’t be sucked in by AI’s head-spinning hype cycles by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

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Disney Advertising held its annual Tech and Data Showcase today, revealing plans to roll out some of Hulu’s ad targeting capabilities to Disney+. When Disney+ launched its ad-supported tier last month, advertisers couldn’t target ads to specific audiences. By giving Disney+ advertisers access to Hulu’s ad-targeting tools, they can learn a user’s age, gender, and geo-location, which will likely help advertisers make more effective ads and bring in more revenue for both the ad agencies and Disney. In an exclusive interview with Digiday, Disney Advertising president Rita Ferro said Disney+ would get Hulu’s ad targeting capabilities beginning in April. By July, the full suite of tools will be available across Disney’s streaming portfolio, including ESPN+. Disney+ launches its ad-supported tier to compete with Netflix “The past few years we have been focused on building a complete, proprietary ad server for the entire Walt Disney Company. This gives us control over how we deliver ads, how we insert ads, formats of ads we use, how we integrate with programmatic networks, which really just gives us the complete flexibility to reimagine how we want to sell in the future,” said Aaron LaBerge, CTO of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. “That Ad server is now powering Hulu and is at the heart of the ads on Disney+.” Unlike other streaming services, Disney built its own proprietary technology for digital ads, which means Disney has more control and can focus on delivery behavior for its ad partners. The Disney Ad Server (DAS) allows the company to use first-party data. When Netflix launched its ad-supported tier last November, it partnered with Microsoft to run ads off the Xandr platform. This means Netflix must rely on a third-party vendor. The Disney Ad Server delivers nearly half a billion million ad impressions per day, noted Jeremy Helfand, Executive Vice President, Advertising Platforms, Disney Media, Entertainment & Distribution. Helfand also said that Disney+ will soon get features like biddable on programmatic capabilities and 18+ targeting later this year. Disney’s Audience graph, which launched about ten years ago, gives advertisers “three times higher match rates,” claimed Director of Advanced Analytics and Data Solutions, Christine Chung, during today’s showcase. Chung added that Disney Select, the company’s first-party segment offering, is built on over 100,000 audience attributes taken from 235 million devices and User IDs. During today’s Tech and Data Showcase, the company added that it plans on automating 50% of its ad sales by 2024. Ferro told Digiday, “We’re at 35% right now, and that’s before the full integration of all of these [ad products and services from Hulu].” Other announcements include a premiere streaming measurement deal with TV outcomes-based company EDO (Entertainment Data Oracle), which will give Disney access to EDO’s engagement metrics. “With EDO’s predictive, behavioral engagement data that correlates to market share growth, advertising leaders like Disney can know and predict the effectiveness of Convergent TV campaigns,” said actor and filmmaker Edward Norton, who’s also the co-founder & chairman of EDO. Disney also announced the expansion of a multi-year relationship with Samba TV to measure reach and frequency across all connected devices. Disney strikes a big adtech deal with The Trade Desk as Disney+ expands into ads Disney+ advertisers will soon get Hulu’s ad targeting capabilities by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

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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. The worst for startups is likely still to come. This isn’t a pattern that companies are going to want to fall into again when the market recovers and subsequently ramps up. And maybe they won’t this time around, because VCs are likely going to start paying a lot more attention to how companies are spending their money on hiring. While many of the huge layoff numbers of the past year come from public names like Amazon and Microsoft, startups have also made notable cuts. Some, including Better.com, Bolt and Vimeo, have conducted multiple rounds of layoffs in the past year. Many expect layoffs among startups won’t slow down this year. But there’s hope we won’t see this again. Angela Lee, a professor at Columbia Business School, angel investor and venture partner, said founders generally state their hiring plans on a slide at the back of their pitch deck that breaks down how they plan to spend the money they raise. Traditionally, she said, that was a throwaway slide that didn’t get much thought from VCs. But it won’t be anymore. “It is not to say, ‘do not hire’ — it is just that we need to see the double click now on why,” Lee said. “You need X number of million of dollars for what? Why do you need a chief data scientist and architect?” Startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans by Rebecca Szkutak originally published on TechCrunch

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Amid declining ad revenue and advertiser exits, Twitter announced today that it has teamed up with ad-tech companies DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science (IAS) to tell advertisers if their ad is placed around inappropriate content. The program, available first for U.S.-based advertising campaigns, allows brands to analyze the content adjacent to— primarily tweets above and belove the ad — all types of ads, including promoted tweets. Now, Twitter says brands running their ad campaigns will have insights into what kind of tweets are appearing around their ads and the reason behind that. Companies can also use Twitter’s adjacency control tools to fine-tune their campaign to filter out keywords. DoubleVerify and IAS said that its tweet scanning solution will cover Twitter’s Home timeline first and then expand to profile and search placements. In addition to addressing brand safety concerns, the new system aims to provide suitability scores to help brands figure out if their ads are shown alongside tweets that might not go well with the brand’s image. For instance, an electronic brand may not want its ad to appear alongside a tweet talking about e-waste. In a call with TechCrunch, Nayef Hijazi, VP of product marketing at DoubleVerify said that the company is able to look at the tweets before and after the ad and classify them according to the company’s own safety and suitability settings. This provides them insight into how their ads are appearing on Twitter. The company said that Twitter will promote this partnership in its own way to let advertisers know of this service. But it is not clear how the social media platform will package this up. Both DoubleVerify and IAS will have access to real-time data from Twitter to measure ad performance, we understand. This follows Twitter’s recent crackdown on third-party apps, signaling that Twitter is concentrating on developer initiatives that could bring in revenue — and arguably, much-needed revenue at that. Twitter’s various monetization plans around subscriptions or payments are ideas that may only pan out in the long term, if at all. In the near term, however, Musk is facing the first interest payment on the debt he took on to buy Twitter. The only real solution to Twitter’s financial crisis is getting advertisers to come back. “Twitter is committed to promoting a safe advertising experience for people and brands, and this commitment has never been stronger.” AJ Brown, Twitter’s Head of Brand Safety said in a statement. “Validation of the context in which ads serve according to Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) industry standards is incredibly important to us and our customers.” Twitter had first teased this advertising initiative in a December blog post, published shortly after Elon Musk’s takeover of the social network in late October. The post also detailed the launch of adjacency control tools to help brands present their ads from appearing around content with certain keywords. The announcement had arrived at a time when the Tesla and SpaceX exec had already made a number of missteps that worried advertisers enough to see many pause spending on the network. Specifically, brands were concerned about changes to moderation policies and layoffs impacting trust and safety teams, which could lead to their ads being shown alongside toxic content. Over 40 civil rights groups also wrote an open letter pressuring advertisers to pause spending, and many brands seemed to agree a reassessment was in order as Twitter worked through its transition in leadership. The social network also lost its trusted top ad exec Sarah Personette in November. Reports at that time noted that companies like General Mills, Audi, and Pfizer had already paused spending on Twitter, and soon others followed. Data from analytics firm Pathmatics provided to TechCrunch noted that several companies including Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Best Buy didn’t spend any ad money on the platform in December. Musk, however, downplayed the concerns, blaming “activist groups” for the drop in social media companies’ decline in ad revenue. Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists. Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022 But his posturing was not representative of reality. Days later Musk hosted a Twitter Spaces conversation to reassure advertisers that the company is committed to stopping fake accounts and reducing hateful content. The conversation stemmed from the fact that some users were able to take advantage of the ill-thought-out Twitter Blue subscription which offered anyone a verification mark, which some used to impersonate brands. According to Pathmatics, Twitter spending of the top 30 advertisers dropped 29% year-on-year in 2022. The data suggested the top 30 brands spent $11.3 million in the first week of September on Twitter. That spending came down to $6.5 million the last week of the year.  Pathmatics’ estimates don’t include any data about incentives offered by Twitter. Last month, Twitter tried to lure advertisers back with multiple incentives including added impressions and matched spending, according to a report from the Financial Times. The company also launched a keyword search module under beta today to allow marketers to show ads when people search for specific terms. Today we are rolling out Search Keywords Ads to all advertisers as a beta test — Twitter Business (@TwitterBusiness) January 25, 2023 Musk has tried to boost the company’s money-making ability by pushing the Twitter Blue paid plan on multiple platforms along with a discounted annual plan. He has also proposed a costlier plan to get rid of ads. Earlier this month, The Information reported that Twitter’s fourth-quarter revenue fell by 35% year on year according to internal documents seen by the publication. While Twitter’s latest partnership with DoubleVerify and IAS focuses on increasing insights into brand safety, its content moderation decisions are not reflective of that. The company today reinstated the account of white nationalist Nick Fuentes who had praised Hitler in the past. Twitter had to ban him hours later following the outrage. The social media company is facing a lawsuit in Germany for failing to filter antisemitic speech. Twitter partners with DoubleVerify and IAS on brand safety initiative amid advertiser exits by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

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B2B is looking a lot more than B2C these days: From Figma to Slack, individuals and teams can sign up for tools that their entire organization will end up adopting. This concept is also known as product-led growth. The definition of product-led growth is almost tautological: As a vendor, it basically means that you’re using your product as the driver of growth for your company, Amplitude chief product officer Justin Bauer told TechCrunch. The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday. But under this self-explanatory concept, there’s a major change at play. The biggest change, Bauer said, “is that the customer relationship now starts with the product versus ending with it, which is how B2B traditionally worked.” While the rise of PLG has upended the traditional top-down sales funnel, it hasn’t replaced sales. However, it does have profound implications for sales teams, but these don’t get discussed often enough. The rise of product-led sales, or why product-led growth requires a sales makeover by Anna Heim originally published on TechCrunch

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