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TikTok partners with AXS to sell tickets for live events worldwide | TechCrunch


TikTok said today that it has partnered with ticketing company AXS to sell tickets for events worldwide. The ByteDance-owned app is introducing this feature in the U.S., U.K., Sweden and Australia at launch. Users in these regions can tap on the events highlighted in videos or on artists’ profiles to buy tickets through AXS.

TikTok had signed a similar deal with Ticketmaster for U.S.-based events in 2022, and expanded the partnership in 2023 to sell tickets in 20 more countries.

The short-video platform said it will let certified artists promote their live events by adding AXS event links to their videos, and sell tickets via an in-app ticketing feature.

AXS also sells tickets on other entertainment services, such as Spotify and Bandsintown, through its AXS Anywhere program.

Last October, TikTok onboarded Tickets.com as a partner to sell passes for its first live music event.


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Meta opens Quest OS to third-party headset makers, taps Lenovo and Xbox as partners | TechCrunch


The mixed reality operating system that powers Meta Quest headsets can officially be used by third-party device makers, the company announced on Monday. Now called “Meta Horizon OS,” the open system allows developers to access technologies like eye, face, hand, and body tracking, high-resolution passthrough, and more.

Three major tech players—Asus, Lenovo and Microsoft’s Xbox—are the first companies to confirm they’ll be developing new devices that run the software. Most notably, Microsoft is teaming up with Meta to build a “limited-edition Meta Quest, inspired by Xbox,” according to the announcement. Asus and Lenovo, on the other hand, are building headsets designed for specific use cases. Asus is developing a headset dedicated to gaming whereas Lenovo wants its device to be for “productivity, learning, and entertainment.”

The company says all future headsets can connect via the same Meta Quest app on iOS and Android. Plus, the Meta Quest Store, which the company renamed the Meta Horizon Store, is open to third-party developers, allowing them to use Meta’s frameworks and tools to create new mixed-reality experiences.

Meta Horizon OS is a strategic move for the company and comes at a time when the VR/AR headset wars between Meta, Apple and Sony continue to heat up.

 


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Google bets on partners to run their own sovereign Google Clouds | TechCrunch


Data sovereignty and residency laws have become commonplace in recent years. The major clouds, however, were always set up to enable the free movement of data between their various locations, so over the course of the last few years, all of the hyperscalers started looking into how they could offer sovereign clouds that can guarantee that government data, for example, never left a given country. AWS announced its European Sovereign Cloud last October. The Microsoft Azure Cloud for Sovereignty became generally available in December.

Google Cloud’s approach has been a bit different. Back in 2021, Google Cloud partnered with T-Systems to offer a sovereign cloud for Germany. A few weeks ago, it also announced a new partnership with World Wide Technology (WWT) to offer sovereign cloud solutions for government customers in the U.S.

Now Google is renewing its focus on data sovereignty. For the time being, though, it looks like its emphasis is on partnerships, not building its own sovereign clouds.

Google Cloud’s hybrid and on-premises story has changed quite a bit over the last few years. From the Cloud Services Platform to Anthos, GKE On-Prem and likely a few others that time has long forgotten, Google Cloud has aimed to offer a solution for companies that want to use its services and tooling but because of regulations, security, cost or paranoia, don’t want their workloads and data to sit in the Google cloud. Google’s latest effort in this space is branded Google Distributed Cloud (GDC), a fully managed software and hardware solution that can either be connected to the Google Cloud or be completely air-gapped from the internet.

Of course, this wouldn’t be 2024 if Google didn’t put an emphasis on AI in all of these efforts, too.

“Today, customers are looking for entirely new ways to process and analyze data, discover hidden insights, increase productivity and build entirely new applications — all with AI at the core,” said Vithal Shirodkar, VP/GM, Google Distributed Cloud and Geo Expansion, Google Cloud, in Tuesday’s announcement. “However, data sovereignty, regulatory compliance, and low-latency requirements can present a dilemma for organizations eager to adopt AI in the cloud. The need to keep sensitive data in certain locations, adhere to strict regulations, and ensure swift responsiveness can make it difficult to capitalize on the cloud’s inherent advantages of innovation, scalability, and cost-efficiency.”

At Cloud Next, Google Cloud’s annual developer conference, GDC is getting a slew of updates, including new security features (in partnership with Palo Alto Networks), support for the Apigee API management service and more. Developers can also now use a GDC Sandbox in Google Cloud to build and test applications without the need to work with the physical hardware. What’s maybe just as important as these new features is that GDC is now ISO27001 and SOC2 compliant.

On the hardware side, Google Cloud is introducing new AI servers for GDC. These are powered by Nvidia’s L4 Tensor Core GPUs and are now available in addition to the existing GDC AI-optimized servers with the high-powered Nvidia H100 GPUs.

Another interesting aspect to the GDC digital sovereignty story is that Google Cloud is emphasizing its partners, T-Systems, WWT and Clarence, which can deliver sovereign GDC-powered clouds on behalf of their clients.


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Evolution Equity Partners raises $1.1B for new cybersecurity and AI fund | TechCrunch


Cybersecurity has had a rough go of it lately, with investment in the sector dropping a precipitous 40% compared to the year prior. But there’s promising early — if preliminary — signs of a recovery.

The vast majority of chief information security officers reported higher budgets for 2024, according to the cybersecurity-focused VC firm NightDragon. And, despite lower overall investment in the cybersecurity industry in Q1 2024, the number of deals increased compared to Q1 2023, per recruitment outfit Pinpoint.

It’s against this backdrop that Evolution Equity Partners, a growth capital investment firm based in NYC, today launched a $1.1 billion cybersecurity and AI fund, the third such fund in Evolution’s history.

The fund — Evolution Technology Fund III — was oversubscribed, with participation from existing and new endowments, sovereign investors, insurance companies, foundations, fund of funds, family offices and angels. It’ll pursue investments ranging from $20 million to $150 million in cybersecurity firms and startups leveraging machine learning and AI to build “market-leading” platforms, Richard Seewald, managing partner at Evolution and one of the firm’s founders, told TechCrunch.

“The Evolution Technology Fund III has already backed fifteen leading cybersecurity companies, initiating its investment period over 12 months ago,” Seewald said. “We expect to invest in a portfolio of up to thirty companies in the present fund. We’ll work with management teams and founders, providing them with support and insight in areas including sales and marketing, product technology, human capital, M&A and business development, really enabling them to excel.”

With Evolution Technology Fund III, Evolution’s strategy will be to reserve ~75% of the $1.1 billion total for early-growth-stage companies, ~15% for later-growth-stage startups and ~10% for earlier-stage VC tranches, with investments to be made not only in North America but in Europe and Israel — a hotspot for security tech.

“Our strategy is to invest that fund in a diversified portfolio across the different stages of maturity,” Seewald said. “We believe that provides private markets investors with diversified exposure to cybersecurity opportunities.”

ESG will be another factor, according to Seewald.

“Evolution is committed to integrating material environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in its investment processes and ownership practices,” he said. “We actively engage with our portfolio companies creating diverse boards and leadership teams bringing varied perspectives to decision-making processes, reducing the risk of groupthink and enhancing accountability.”

We’ll hold them to it.

Evolution, which has offices in Palo Alto, London and Zurich in addition to New York, was founded in 2008 by Seewald and Dennis Smith, who met while working together at the cybersecurity giant AVG (now owned by Avast). J.R. Smith and Karel Obluk — the former CEO and chief scientist at AVG, respectively — joined Seewald and Smith to start Evolution after AVG went public.

Evolution’s 30-person teams manages around $2 billion in assets and has backed 60 companies to date; its previous fund was $400 million. Among some of the firm’s more successful bets are Arctic Wolf (which is planning for an IPO), Talon Cyber (which is reportedly in negotiations with Palo Alto Networks for an M&A deal), Snyk, Aqua Security, SecurityScorecard and Carbon Black.


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GGV Capital is no more, as partners announce two separate brands | TechCrunch


The VCs who long ran GGV Capital, the 24-year-old cross-border firm that helped serve as a bridge between the U.S. and China, have settled on two new brands roughly six months after announcing they would split their U.S. and Asia operations.

Veteran investors Jenny Lee and Jixun Foo just rebranded their Singapore-based operation as Granite Asia, as first reported in Forbes. Meanwhile, Hans Tung, a firm co-founder who lives in the Bay Area, announced on X on Saturday that the U.S. team is now called Notable Capital.

GGV Capital announced last fall that it was splitting up its team amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China, though it never cited the atmosphere as the explicit driver of the move.

Sequoia Capital similarly split up its operations last year as it navigated geopolitical tensions. In Sequoia’s case, the U.S. team held onto the storied brand, while Sequoia India & Southeast Asia was rebranded as Peak XV Partners, and Sequoia China was rebranded as HongShan, the Mandarin word for redwood.

The thinking in abandoning the GGV Capital brand, per a source familiar, was that because both teams are operating separately going forward, they felt it was best to develop new brands.

Granite Asia is being led by Lee and Foo, native Singaporeans. Lee is a regular fixture on Forbes’s Midas List of top-performing VCs, with nine IPOs in the last five years, including the smartphone giant Xiaomi and the software development company Kingsoft WPS, which went public in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Foo, whose title was formerly global managing director of GGV Capital, is meanwhile credited with deals that include the electric carmaker Xpeng Motors, which went public in 2020; ride-hail giant Didi, which is reportedly planning a listing in Hong Kong this year; and the delivery company Grab, whose shares have underperformed since it became publicly traded through a special purpose acquisition vehicle in late 2021. (It was reportedly in talks as recently as last month to merge with another beleaguered rival, GoTo Group.)

Granite Asia will focus on startups in China, Japan, South Asia, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Notable Capital — which says it plans to continue investing in the U.S., as well as in Europe and Latin America — is being led by the same investors who’ve been based in its Menlo Park office for many years. That includes Tung, who is Taiwanese-American and whose deals include known brands like Airbnb, StockX and Slack; Jeff Richards, who has backed Coinbase, the Bluetooth-tracking outfit Tile and the software development company Handshake; and Glenn Solomon, whose deals include HashiCorp, whose software helps companies operate in the cloud (it’s reportedly weighing a sale right now); the publicly traded house-buying platform Opendoor; and the compliance automation startup Drata.

Oren Yunger, the newest member of GGV Capital, also remains on team Notable. Yunger had joined GGV as an investor in 2018 and was promoted to managing director last fall.

Another longtime managing director at GGV Capital, Eric Xu, who is based in Shanghai, will continue to oversee the original firm’s independently operated yuan-denominated funds.

Roughly two-and-a-half years ago, GGV Capital announced it had raised $2.5 billion for its new funds, marking its largest family of funds ever. The investors have since split those assets under management, along with the capital raised prior, such that Granite Asia is now managing a collective $5 billion altogether, leaving Notable Capital with roughly $4.2 billion based on GGV Capital’s assets under management at the time the split was announced.

Pictured above, left to right: Jeff Richards, Eric Xu, Glenn Solomon, Jenny Lee, Jixun Foo and Hans Tung 




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YouTube says over 25% of its creator partners now monetize via Shorts | TechCrunch


With TikTok potentially poised for a U.S. ban, YouTube is touting how well its own TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts, is paying off for creators. The company on Thursday said its short-form video platform now averages over 70 billion daily views and over 25% of channels in YouTube’s Partner Program monetize their videos through revenue-sharing on Shorts.

The news swiftly follows TikTok’s announcement earlier this month where the ByteDance-owned short video app said that its revamped creator fund had increased total revenue by over 250% in the last six months. TikTok’s year-old fund, which replaced TikTok’s $1 billion Creator Fund, is now exiting beta.

YouTube introduced monetization options for Shorts creators in September 2022, with its plans for expanding the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). Before, YouTubers producing long-form video content had to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours to qualify for revenue-sharing. But starting in early 2023, Shorts creators could meet a new threshold of 1,000 subscribers and 10 million Shorts views over 90 days. These creators would earn 45% of the ad revenue from their short videos.

That program is now one year old, the company says. What’s more, YouTube notes that creators participating in the partner program for Shorts often monetize in other ways, as well. Over 80% of YPP creators generating money through Shorts also earn from long-form advertising, fan funding, YouTube Premium, BrandConnects, Shopping and other means. That indicates that creating for Shorts is not necessarily a standalone endeavor for many, but rather serves as one aspect of creators’ larger businesses.

In total, YouTube says its 16-year-old YPP now includes more than 3 million creators around the world and has paid out $70 billion to creators, artists and media companies in just the last three years. That’s larger than “any other creator monetization platform,” YouTube notes, in a swipe clearly aimed at TikTok.


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Rabbit partners with ElevenLabs to power voice commands on its device | TechCrunch


Hardware maker Rabbit has tapped a partnership with ElevenLabs to power voice commands on its devices. Rabbit is set to ship the first set of r1 devices next month after getting a ton of attention at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at the start of the year.

The Rabbit r1 will ship with ElevenLabs’ tech, which will enable voice commands from the users and how the pocket AI device talks back to them. At launch, the feature will be available only in English with one voice option. ElevenLabs said that while r1 was poised for voice interaction from the start, the company’s low latency models will make interactions more human-like.

“We’re working with rabbit to bring the future of human-device interaction closer. Our collaboration is about making the r1 a truly dynamic co-pilot, ” ElevenLabs’ CEO Mati Staniszewski said in a prepared statement.

In January, Rabbit said that it will use Perplexity AI’s solutions to answer users’ questions on the device.

Earlier this week, Rabbit said that its first batch of $199 r1s will leave the factory by March 31, and will reach users within a few weeks. The company said users will be able to interact with chatbots, get answers from Perplexity, use bi-directional translation, order rides and foods, and play music through the device right out of the box.

The company’s CEO Jesse Lyu said earlier this month at a StrictlyVC event that rabbit is close to having 100,000 device orders.

Earlier this year, ElevenLabs raised $80 million in Series B from investors like Andreessen Horowitz, former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and entrepreneur Daniel Gross to get to the unicorn status. The company has been focusing on providing voice cloning services for creating audiobooks and dubbing movies and TV shows, ads and video game characters. Most recently, India’s audio platform PocketFM, which raised $103 million from Lightspeed, said that it is using ElevenLabs’ services to let creators convert their writings into audio series.

But ElevenLabs has faced its fair share of criticism, with users trying to fool a bank’s authentication system, 4chan users mimicking celebrities and journalists documenting that it is easy to set up voice clones to generate problematic content. The startup has rolled out a tool to detect speech created by its platform and is also working on a tool to detect synthesized audio and distribute it to third parties.


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Matter Venture Partners raises $300M first fund to invest in 'hard tech' | TechCrunch


Wen Hsieh and Haomiao Huang, both Kleiner Perkins investors, left the firm in 2023 to start their own venture capital fund called Matter Venture Partners. The firm had backing from Kleiner and Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC.

Hsieh was a longtime KPer, having been there for 17 years; Huang had been there four years. With a passion for what they call “hard tech,” Hsieh invested in companies like microLED display technology company LuxVue, acquired by Apple; Amprius, which makes high-energy density lithium-ion batteries; drone maker DJI; and 3D printing company Desktop Metal, which went public via SPAC in 2020. Huang and Hsieh co-led investments in companies like the robotics company Dexterity and the CT scanning company Lumafield.

On Thursday, they announced the closing of a $300 million inaugural fund. Hsieh told TechCrunch it’s considered one of the largest “first funds” raised in 2023. The median venture fund raised that year was around $37 million, according to a PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor report.

Matter Venture Partners was initially going for a $200 million fund, and Hsieh acknowledged that “it was a tough time for everybody” — startups and venture capitalists alike — to raise money in 2023.

“We had gone into it anticipating such difficulty and had very modest expectations,” Hsieh said. “But to our surprise, it went really well for us. We closed $300 million last year, in its entirety, and were significantly oversubscribed.”

Knowing when to say “when”

Figuring out the best amount to close the fund is a bit like being “Goldilocks,” Hsieh said. Matter Venture Partners invests at the large seed rounds, Series A and Series B.

Wen Hsieh, co-founder of Matter Venture Partners. Image Credits: Matter Venture Partners

If a fund is undercapitalized, it may not be able to be competitive in deals or won’t be able to support portfolio companies across several rounds, he explained. Overcapitalized and it may have too much money to deploy within a two- or three-year lifetime fund cycle. That could also lead to writing too many checks or sizes of checks that are too big for the appropriate fundraising.

He believes that Matter Venture Partners’ focus on hard tech was the reason for the oversubscription. “The world has realized that most if not many of the foundational technologies and trends of our society today are built on hard tech,” he said. “That really puts wind behind ourselves. We came out successful and unscathed in a very positive way, and we’re very lucky to have raised money at a tough time.”

In addition to Kleiner LP and TSMC, individuals, entrepreneurs and family offices also back the fund. Hsieh, Huang and operating partner Mel Tang are also LPs in the fund.

Leveraging operating partners

Matter Venture Partners provides a unique aspect of having operating partners, which Hsieh said is typically something only larger firms have. One is Mel Tang, former CFO of video doorbell company Ring, which was later acquired by Amazon.

Tang has experience in operations, supply chain management and manufacturing unit economics, and Hsieh believes having expertise like this early-on in the life of a hard tech startup is a good value-add.

In terms of how Matter Venture Partners works with founders, the partners say they pride themselves on being company builders, but not at the expense of getting in the way of founders, Hsieh said. They like to be coaches, partners and jump in, all where appropriate.

All about hard tech

Haomiao Huang, co-founder of Matter Venture Partners. Image Credits: Matter Venture Partners

They put “hard tech” into six buckets: semiconductors everywhere, robotization due to blue-collar labor shortage, generative AI, manufacturing on-shoring and friend-shoring, energy building blocks and life science automation.

“The common theme around these six areas is that we like to invest in the next ‘picks and shovels’ for all six of these trends,” Hsieh said. “There are many gold rushes ongoing, but we would like to provide the ‘picks and shovels’ in every case. We like to fund them and entrepreneurs that contribute to these new innovations.”

So far, Matter Venture Partners has invested in six companies not made public yet. It also doubled down on a few that came from the pair’s Kleiner Perkins days, including Ambiq Micro, a company Hsieh described as “a key player in edge AI,” which is a concept of more easily running AI workloads.

“It’s all about low power,” he said. “The big talk is about how much energy does it consume for inference, or how much energy for training? Ambiq is a world leader in making ultra-low-powered chips. They’ve dominated wearables, and now they’re parlaying that into edge AI applications. The product is having a huge impact, and we’re riding a new wave of energy-efficient AI awareness.”

Ultimately, Matter Venture Partners will invest in between 15 and 20 companies with the new fund, Hsieh said.




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