Welcome to Startups Weekly, with your shiny, newly minted host, best regards. If you’ve seen my name on TechCrunch, it’s probably because of my popular Pitch Deck Teardown series, where I take a startup’s pitch deck and celebrate the good, mock the bad, and use both to learn more about how the world of VC pitching looks like. This week I published the 50th installment of the series (hurray!) with a deep dive into the deck that Danish company Ageras used to raise $36 million from private equity investors. If you’re feeling brave, I’d also like to take a loving, educational hack-and-slash to your pitch deck. Keep going, it’s gonna be fun. Maybe.
OK, that’s it rather enough navel gazing, let’s move on to what’s happened in the world of startups.
Startups are always acquired mainly for their staff. Investors generally don’t like it when that happens – it’s usually not a great result for them – but it can be a great way for startup founders to get a soft landing when a company hits the dr… I mean …when an opportunity presents itself.
That doesn’t seem quite what happened to Ring founder Jamie Siminoff. Brian reports that Siminoff was secretly working on another startup called Honest Day’s Work. The company was acquired by Latch (best known for its smart locks), who promptly invited Siminoff to take over as CEO. The lesson here seems to be that if your recruiting efforts fail initially, buy the entire company your desired CEO works for.
Apropos recruiting – if you have the budget to spare, there’s an awful lot of incredible team members available right now; we’ve summarized all the tech layoffs so far this year.
Generative AI is going mainstream
The first time I reported extensively on generative AI on TechCrunch in 2021 was on an early version of ChatGPT-3. The novelty of asking an AI to co-write an article with me seemed exciting – boy, how far have we come.
Since then I’ve experimented extensively with ChatGPT, and I keep coming to the conclusion that it can’t replace me as a writer rather yet, but we’re getting eerily close to that point. I also had a bit of an existential crisis when I co-founded an avocado-oriented octopus cult called the Octo-guacamolians and wondered if maybe deep down I was an AI myself.
Fast forward to this week, when Kyle reports that no one really knows what’s written by an AI anymore, and Frederic notes that Google has announced PaLM 2, its next-gen major language model. Annoyingly (and perhaps suspiciously), the search giant hasn’t shared many details about how it trained its model. “What we found in our work is that it’s not really the kind of model — that bigger isn’t always better,” DeepMind VP Zoubin Ghahramani said in a press briefing, laying out more questions than answers.
Meta, in turn, goes heavy on AI as well. Kyle reports that the company is developing custom chips for AI training, and Ivan added that the company has been rolling out generative AI features… for advertisers.
Climate technology still has its time in the sun
You know what scares the hell out of me? The fact that VCs are finally starting to take climate change seriously means they believe they can generate outsized returns within a venture capital fund’s 7-10 year time horizon (that’s how VC works, after all). To make that financial sense, they know something many of us have known for a long time: Climate change is about to change everything.
The silver lining is that where there’s massive, somewhat predictable change, there’s opportunity.
I reported that Pale Blue Dot announced a new $100 million fund, and it promptly announced it was backing Amini, an African climate technology start-up that is solving the scarcity of environmental data with a $2 million investment such as Tage reported.
Perhaps that investment in a company led by a woman of color was prescient, as Tim and Dominic-Midori published a few articles on TC+ this week, concluding that without black representation in climate technology, “the planet will burn,” and that VC would funding for female climate tech founders is abysmal — the pair delved into how the VC community could improve that.
Tough times for budding criminals
In a truly baffling story, Kate reports that Terraform’s Do Kwon is pleading “not guilty” to charges of traveling with false documents. The disgraced founder was arrested in March, reportedly in possession of Belgian and Costa Rican passports. The founder was released on bail, which seems astonishingly foolish for a person arrested for allegedly holding some fake passports. It screams “flight risk” to me, but what do I know?
Meanwhile, Amanda reports that time is up for Elizabeth Holmes, after the court ruled she had had enough of the former Theranos founder’s shenanigans. Holmes must report to jail at the end of the month to serve an 11-year sentence and pay nearly half a billion dollars in restitution to the victims of their fraud.
Criminals become criminals, but it is somewhat reassuring that the justice system tries to keep everyone by roughly the same rules. (LOL, who are we kidding, but at least there are also startups working on criminal justice reform.)
As for crime and data hijacking, our security reporting team knocks it out of the ball park with a ton of incredible stories. Here’s a word of explanation:
My favorite top reads on TechCrunch this week
Best startup advice from TechCrunch+ this week
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