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Not to get all GrumpyManYellsAtCloud.gif, but I’m getting pretty tired of the myth of the dropped-out-of-college founders. Investors — and the broader ecosystem — have known for a long time that while there are some high-profile outliers, it’s much easier to build a startup if you have a fat Rolodex, some experience, and perhaps a few failures under your belt. I know Hollywood doesn’t think it’s nearly as good of a story, but . . . perhaps it’d be good to balance things out a little on that front.
Apropos meddling: Those robots have been hard at work generating smut, and Kyle reports that as AI porn generators get better, the stakes get higher. Perhaps as a result of that story (and the internet reaching fever pitch over AI porn), an interview we did with the Unstable Diffusion team last year is hella trending again on TechCrunch.
Apropos even more meddling: It seems that even very experienced founders get things pretty wrong from time to time, too — Elmo isn’t done running Twitter into the ground, it seems. This week, the burning wreckage of a social media site officially changed its logo to X. That has had some, er, curious side effects, including a lot of rebranding and renaming. Uniting the themes of smut and social media, Twitter Videos has so far resisted to rename itself, and one social media account (NSFW) seems to hint at why.
More AI. Always more AI
I know, it seems like there’s always an AI section in Startups Weekly at the moment. Don’t blame me — blame the flamin’ hot news coming out of that vertical at the moment.
On TC+, Nick Zamanov penned an article about how his company tried using OpenAI to generate marketing strategies — and was delighted to discover that it worked.
Meanwhile, OpenAI just released a neat feature that introduces customized instructions for ChatGPT. Instead of having to type “write me a three-section newsletter in the style of TechCrunch’s Startups Weekly, and smatter in some really dumb jokes,” you can configure that as the default behavior. Writing newsletters is going to be so quick in the future, I swear. (Just kidding: I’ve tried. ChatGPT’s attempts at writing this thing were as dull as dishwater. My job is safe for another week or two.)
The bots are coming to the Androids: ChatGPT comes to Android, and soon became available in the U.S., India, Bangladesh and Brazil. OpenAI plans to release the app in more countries very soon.
I’m sure that wasn’t a stressful job: After just 18 months in the job, OpenAI’s head of trust and safety Dave Willner steps down. The company’s CTO Mira Murati will manage the team on an interim basis while they find a replacement.
Let’s translate this from corporate-ese into bot-speak: A startup that’s building tools to help prepare enterprise data to get gobbled up into large language models, Unstructured raises $25 million.
The art of changing your mind
This week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the job of a founder. I already mentioned the TechCrunch+ piece I wrote about startups not just being a young person’s game, and I spoke with a founder who decided to replace himself as the CEO of his own company. Earlier this week, I also spoke with DeeDee Deman, who has spent the past 50 years headhunting CEOs, to get some tips on how you can think about finding a new CEO for your startup.
While on the topic of replacements — Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz moves on, almost 40 years after he joined the influential venture fund. He’s going to continue board work with a handful of companies but is planning to hand over most of the workload to other Sequoia partners.
Companies are still going public. Just not startups: It’s been a drought in the tech startup IPO space, but on TC+, Alex crunched the numbers and realized that there’s still a lot of activity — and it’s making startups look silly as hell.
Optimizing for impact: More and more companies are thinking about climate — and impact investors are flocking to the segment. That scares me a bit, but Agnes Svensson, the chief impact officer at Norrsken VC, shares five key questions climate tech founders should ask impact investors.
One of the most amazing social experiments: Reddits r/place is an incredible experiment, where a logged-in user can place a single pixel on a canvas every 5 minutes. It’s one of my favorite things about the internet, because it requires something utterly rare: coordination and teamwork. Of course, redditors used this year’s evolution of the game to shout loudly about the API changes that have sparked a revolt on the social media site.
Pulling into the pit stop
Autonomous trucking company Aurora sells $820 million worth of stock in order to continue its drive toward launching an autonomous trucking business in 2024. Around the same time, Waymo put the brakes on its self-driving trucks program.
Meanwhile, peeking at Tesla’s business fundamentals, Rebecca reminds us that the company is an automaker, not a tech company — and that its margins look a lot more like Ford than, say, Salesforce.
Time for another U-turn: We’ve been flip-flopping on this one for a while, but it seems like GM has changed its mind once again, saying it isn’t going to kill off the Chevy Bolt EV after all. Personally, I think that’s great. We need smaller, more affordable EVs.
Tapping the zap: Seven of the largest automakers today announced a joint venture to create a massive EV charging network across North America.
Topping up at home: In smaller charging news, Voltpost raised a $3.6 million seed round to bring EV charging to the curbside.
Top reads on TechCrunch this week
In addition to some of the big hitters sprinkled throughout above, here are some of our mustn’t-miss stories for the week:
Maybe it’s just taking a nap?: I argued that VR as a category is dead and failed to find a killer app. AR is picking up the mantle, but we’ll see if it can do better.
I dunno, maybe hide better?: Zack reports that North Korean hackers targeting JumpCloud may have forgotten to mask their IP addresses properly, researchers say.
Buy it, then kill it: Aria reports that SpaceX has made only one acquisition to date (that we are aware of), but Swarm Technologies is halting new device sales. It seems that the acquisition may have been an aqui-hire, as Swarm’s founders are finding senior positions across SpaceX.
Stalking for cash: Zack had a couple of popular articles this week. He reported that Spyhide stalkerware is spying on tens of thousands of phones, and he dug into how TheTruthSpy stalkerware made its millions.
Enough, already: It’s getting more and more frustrating to report on this, but startups with all-women founding teams raised just $1.4 billion in H1, Dominic-Madori reports. That’s a paltry 1.6% of all venture funding invested. Mixed-gender teams picked up 28%.
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