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Startups Weekly: Is the wind going out of the AI sails? | TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly — your weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

After years of booming growth, the AI industry is now experiencing a significant slowdown in investment, as detailed in a recent report from Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI). The report highlights a notable decrease in both private and corporate investments in the AI sector for the second consecutive year, with overall investments dropping by 20% in 2023 compared to the previous year, Kyle reports. Despite this general downturn, certain segments like generative AI continue to attract significant funding, indicating a selective yet substantial interest in specific AI applications.

AI investment is slowing down for a few reasons, like the crowded market and the steep costs of building big AI models. According to Gartner analyst John-David Lovelock, the money is now flowing more toward big, established companies that are strengthening their positions, while it’s getting tougher for new players to get a piece of the pie. Investors are getting pickier and want to see real, solid returns instead of just throwing money at hopeful growth. (That isn’t stopping them from raising billion-dollar funds focusing on AI, of course.)

Despite these hurdles, there’s still a strong belief in the future of AI, especially in ways it can boost efficiency and spark innovation across different sectors. Right now, the market is just going through a bit of a cleanup, shifting from the wild spending of the past to a more thoughtful and sustainable way of funding. This change is key to creating AI solutions that actually work in the real world and can truly change industries, and worm its way into our battle-weary hearts.

Oh, and before we pile into the rest of the startup news this week … Do you have a pitch deck that might be a good fit for my Pitch Deck Teardown series? You can submit yours here — I’d love to take a closer look and potentially share it with TechCrunch’s readers, along with an in-depth review!

Most interesting startup stories from the week

The Humane Ai Pin. Image Credits: Brian Heater / TechCrunch

Oh hey! Look! It’s the triumphant return of TechCrunch old-timer Anthony Ha, who writes that Airchat, the latest brainchild of Naval Ravikant and Brian Norgard, is here to revolutionize social media with its groundbreaking concept: people talking to each other — shocking, right? This app, which is essentially a high-tech walkie-talkie, lets you follow others, scroll through a feed, and interact with audio posts that are also conveniently transcribed for those who can’t stand the sound of human voices. It’s currently climbing the social ladder on the App Store, all while being invite-only because nothing screams exclusivity like needing a golden ticket to listen to strangers ramble. Whether this will genuinely reduce online squabbles or just make them more melodious remains to be seen.

Airchat is like a tech-centric coffee shop where everyone’s buzzing about the latest in Silicon Valley, complete with a transcription feature that even gets Pokémon names right — because priorities. But don’t get too excited; it’s invite-only, making it another Silicon Valley whisper network. And while it’s all fun and audio games, the platform’s laid-back approach to content moderation could make it the Wild West of voice chats, where the only sheriff in town is the mute button.

  • Noname loses its unicorn horn: Noname Security, the cybersecurity startup that once strutted around with a $1 billion valuation, is now whispering sweet nothings to Akamai Technologies for a more modest $500 million.
  • Dude, where’s my phone: In a world where your smartphone feels like an extension of your hand, Humane is pitching a $699 wearable, the Ai Pin, that promises to be the next big thing — and hardware editor Brian takes a deep dive into where the company came from … and where it might be going.
  • Breaking out an army of ‘bots: Betaworks is diving headfirst into the AI pool, but instead of splashing around with the big LLMs, they’re floating a new idea — AI agents designed to tackle the mundane tasks we all love to hate. They’ve hatched nine of these digital minions from their latest “Camp” incubator, hoping to automate everything from email sorting to meeting scheduling.

Most interesting fundraises this week

Image Credits: Ramp / Ramp co-founders Karim Atiyeh, Eric Glyman and Gene Lee

Rippling, the HR tech darling that’s been vacuuming up venture capital like it’s going out of style, is at it again. This time, they’re passing around the Silicon Valley collection plate to the tune of $200 million in fresh capital, while also letting current shareholders cash out a cool $670 million. This latest fundraising fiesta, dubbed Series F, could puff up Rippling’s valuation to a breezy $13.4 billion. Not too shabby for a company that, just last year during the Silicon Valley Bank meltdown, had its CEO Parker Conrad frantically tweeting and dialing for dollars to make payroll. Now, with everyone writing record-breaking checks (and Coatue leading the round), it seems Rippling is less about the ripples and more about making waves.

  • Ramping up rapidly: Ramp, the spend management startup that’s apparently allergic to profitability, has just bagged another $150 million to keep the lights on and the acquisitions rolling. Now valued at a cool $7.7 billion, Ramp is playing financial Tetris with a mix of old and new investors, including the star-studded lineup of Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, and Sequoia Capital.
  • And why do you think that is?: Two Chairs, the therapy startup that once championed the quaint notion of “actual human interaction,” has succumbed to the digital wave, swapping its stylish clinics for Zoom rooms. Fresh off a $72 million cash infusion, the company plans to keep expanding its digital domain, because while finding the right therapist online is still as tricky as a Sudoku puzzle, at least you don’t have to leave your couch to get disappointed.
  • Dust yourself off and try again: Rivos, the chip startup that Apple once accused of playing “Catch Me If You Can” with its trade secrets, has somehow managed to turn its courtroom soap opera into a $250 million funding fiesta. After Apple’s lawsuit drama cooled down, Rivos didn’t just walk away; they sprinted back to the lab to crank out chips that might just give the iPhone maker a run for its money.

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories …

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

  • You’ve been hacked: Apple is playing the digital knight in shining armor by sending out mass “you might be hacked” notifications to iPhone users across 92 countries. This isn’t your garden-variety phishing scam but a full-blown spyware drama featuring shadowy attackers and possibly a cameo by the infamous Pegasus spyware.
  • Tesla cuts staff: Tesla, in a classic pre-earnings panic move, decided to thin the herd by axing 14,000 of its workers, including some of the star players. Apparently, the electric car giant has been feeling the pinch from an ongoing EV price war, prompting a “company-wide restructuring” to supposedly boost productivity and brace for its “next phase of growth.” This corporate euphemism translates to cutting loose even high performers, particularly those unlucky enough to work on now low-priority projects.
  • Humanoid robotics shake-up: A day after retiring the hydraulic model, Boston Dynamics’ CEO discusses the company’s commercial humanoid ambitions with electric options.
  • Continuing to run Twitter into the ground: Elon Musk, in his latest bid to save his corner of the internet, has decided that the best way to tackle X’s bot epidemic is to hit new users where it hurts: their wallets. For the low, low price of an undisclosed fee, you too can prove your humanity and earn the privilege to post on the platform.
  • Hello, is the doctor in?: Hugging Face is always up for a challenge. This time, it has decided to tackle the Wild West of AI in healthcare with its latest creation, Open Medical LLM. This new benchmark is essentially a Frankenstein’s monster of existing medical test sets, stitched together to see if AI can actually handle the big leagues of healthcare without accidentally suggesting leeches for a headache. It’s a noble effort to bring some standardization to the chaotic realm of generative AI, which has been thrown into healthcare settings with a mix of high hopes and crossed fingers.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Startups Weekly: Let's see what those Y Combinator kids have been up to this time | TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly — your weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to receive the Startups Weekly newsletter in your inboxes.

It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiime of the yeaaaaaaar … That’s right, we’re back with all the you-can’t-miss companies from the current batch of Y Combinator startups. AI was, not shockingly, the biggest theme, with 86 out of 247 companies calling themselves an AI startup, but we’re reaching bubble territory given that 187 mention AI in their pitches. We have a couple of roundups for you, including the 18 most interesting, and the TechCrunch staff favorites.

Meanwhile, I wrote up an in-depth interview with the founder of Ember, the hot-mug company, about (among other things) how he split his company in half to be able to woo MedTech and life sciences investors.

Most interesting startup stories from the week

Image Credits: PM Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Startups losing money is nothing new, but this week, Devin summarizes why Trump’s Truth Social is different in a few key ways. In a nutshell, the whole thing is playing out like a bad reality TV show, where the plot revolves around hemorrhaging money and the suspense is whether it’ll run out of cash before viewers change the channel. With a debut on Nasdaq as $DJT, thanks to a merger with the desperation darling of the finance world, a SPAC, Trump Media & Technology Group’s (TMTG) financial lifting of the veil reveals a $58 million loss on a meager $4 million in revenue. This isn’t your typical Silicon Valley “burn cash now, profit later” saga; it’s more of a “burn cash now, and that’s it” kind of story. Unlike startups that thrive on VC life support while disrupting industries, TMTG’s lifelines are fraying, with no explosive user growth, no VC sugar daddies, and the unenviable position of being publicly accountable while trying to juggle a business model that seems to repel advertisers like it’s made of antimatter. As the stock flops around lacklusterly, the reality sets in that TMTG’s story might be less about pioneering digital media and more about how to lose friends and alienate advertisers, all while the credits roll on what could be the most expensive episode of “The Apprentice” ever produced.

  • IPOs are gathering steam … maybe?: Cybersecurity darling Rubrik, which has been guzzling venture capital like it’s going out of style, has decided it’s time to brave the public markets and files for an IPO. With a history of bleeding money, Rubrik’s tale is one of modest revenue growth, eye-watering losses, and a pivot to subscription models that’s as groundbreaking as deciding to sell software as a service in the tech world.
  • Accel rethinks India: Accel, the venture capital firm that’s been collecting Indian unicorns like they’re going out of style, is having a bit of an existential crisis with its Atoms accelerator program, realizing that in the eyes of founders, all VC money eventually starts to look the same — just a pile of cash with strings attached.
  • Crypto is back?: If the 2023 crypto venture landscape was an ice-cold pot of water, the first quarter of 2024 is the part where the bubbles start to form right before water boils, Tom Schmidt, a partner at Dragonfly Capital, said to TechCrunch in Jacquelyn’s overview of the VC investment space for crypto.

Chaos in automotive startup land

Tesla’s cybertruck exists now. That’s about the best thing your friendly correspondent can say about this design monstrosity. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington / Getty

Stormy weather continues to be the theme for the movers and shakers of the startup world: Transportation.

Canoo’s 2023 earnings report reads like a tragicomedy. The star of the show? CEO Tony Aquila’s private jet, which cost the company double its entire revenue for the year. In a year where Canoo managed to rake in a meager $890,000 by delivering just 22 vehicles, it simultaneously shelled out $1.7 million to ensure Aquila could jet-set in style. I guess in the fast-paced world of electric vehicles, nothing says “fiscal responsibility” quite like a private jet tab that overshadows your sales, even as the company picks clean the bones of its failed competitors.

Meanwhile, in the land of Fisker, the company momentarily misplaced millions in customer payments amid a frantic scramble to restructure its business model. This financial game of hide-and-seek, which diverted crucial resources from sales to sleuthing, highlights the company’s rather casual approach to tracking transactions, including, in some instances, handing over vehicles on the honor system. Fisker’s attempt to play catch-up with paperwork not only strained its relationship with PwC during annual report preparations but also left the company clueless about its actual revenue, all while teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. So, if you’ve ever felt bad about losing your car keys, at least take solace knowing you didn’t misplace the equivalent of a whole SUV stuffed full of dollar bills, or get yourself into an investigation about why the doors on the cars you manufacture won’t open.

  • Self-driving … into the abyss: Ghost Autonomy, a startup that once dreamed of making highways safer with its autonomous driving software, has ghosted the automotive world, shutting down operations despite a nearly $220 million séance with investors.
  • Riveting reading from Rivian: Rivian’s latest report card reads more like a cry for help than a victory lap. The EV underdog kicked off 2024 by building a smaller number of cars and delivering even fewer. With each EV sold last quarter costing them the equivalent of a luxury sedan in losses, Rivian’s journey to profitability looks … interesting.
  • Tesla takes a dip: Tesla’s latest delivery figures are so-so, as the company blames everything from arsonists with a vendetta against German factories to maritime mayhem courtesy of the Houthi rebels for its first year-over-year sales dip in three years. As if transitioning to the new Model 3 wasn’t enough of a speed bump, Tesla’s also juggling production of the Cybertruck and a mysterious lower-cost EV, all while trying to invent a revolutionary manufacturing process on the fly.

Most interesting fundraises this week

Kidsy’s catalog drew investor interest. Image Credits: Kidsy

Kidsy is the latest brainchild to emerge from the startup nursery. The company is essentially the T.J. Maxx of baby gear, swooping in to save parents from the financial black hole that is raising children by offering discounted, overstocked, and gently used items that were once destined for the landfill. Founded by a former business journalist and a software engineer, Kidsy has quickly become the superhero of the circular economy for baby products, managing to charm investors into an “oversubscribed” pre-seed funding round faster than a toddler can throw a tantrum.

  • A sticky startup indeed: Stripe, the payments behemoth, has swooned over a four-person startup named Supaglue, formerly known as Supergrain, in a classic tale of acqui-hire romance. Supaglue somehow caught Stripe’s eye — perhaps through the tech equivalent of a love potion mixed with mutual acquaintances and serendipitous meetings.
  • Google blesses nonprofits with $20 million: is throwing $20 million at nonprofits to play fairy godmother to their AI dreams. Twenty-one lucky nonprofits get to be the guinea pigs in a six-month tech boot camp, complete with AI coaches and Google employee minions, all in the name of making the world a better place — one automated task at a time.
  • Bla bla bla something something cars: From its humble beginnings as an online hitchhiking platform to becoming a unicorn with a penchant for hoarding millions and dabbling in buses, BlaBlaCar has had quite the ride. Now armed with a $108 million credit line and a newfound taste for profitability, it’s on a shopping spree for smaller companies.

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories …

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

  • No account required: OpenAI, in a move that screams “data is the new gold,” is now letting anyone chat with ChatGPT without an account, ensuring that even your grandma’s queries about knitting patterns can help train their AI, all while vaguely hinting at “more restrictive content policies” that are as clear as mud.
  • Just bumblin’ along: Bumble, once the belle of the IPO ball, now finds itself grappling with the modern dating dilemma of being ghosted by users for TikTok love stories. New CEO Lidiane Jones is on a mission to rekindle the flame by rethinking the women’s first-move mantra and flirting with AI, all while trying to make dating fun again without really changing the swipe-right culture.
  • Hey, that’s a good impression of me: OpenAI is basically saying “hold my beer” as it dives headfirst into the ethical quagmire of voice cloning with its new Voice Engine. The company insists it’s all about responsible innovation while simultaneously opening Pandora’s box to see how it can be used and abused. We can’t think of a single downside.… </sarcasm>
  • B nixes AI: Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” has been out for only a few days. But in the middle of the press release for “Cowboy Carter,” the singer made an unexpected statement against the growing presence of AI in music.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Startups Weekly: So are we all working from home now? | TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly — your weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

In the corporate tug-of-war over remote work, CEOs like Andy Jassy and Elon Musk are the old-school gym teachers insisting everyone get back on the field, despite the bleachers being perfectly fine. They argue that remote work is akin to slacking off, yet studies and employee sentiments suggest otherwise, highlighting that flexibility might just be the secret sauce to productivity and satisfaction.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are watching this unfold like a tennis match, wondering if these executives will ever match their strategies with the reality of modern work preferences. Ron has been working from home as a writer for almost as long as I’ve been alive. No wonder we call him Daddy Ron (we don’t, honestly, although that would be hilarious). In any case, Ron argues that working from home ain’t going away, and I can’t say that I disagree in any way — even as I’m writing this from my local pizza parlor. Working from home. Working from pizza parlor. Whatever, as long as it ain’t the office, amirite?

Most interesting startup stories from the week

Very checkr. Much security. Image Credits: Checkr

Mahbod Moghadam, whose roller-coaster career ranged from legal eagle to rap lyric annotator to blockchain enthusiast, died in March at the age of 41. He leaves behind a legacy as colorful and controversial as a graffiti-splashed back alley. Known for his edgy antics and brainchild projects like Genius and Wikipedia-but-on-blockchain Everipedia, Moghadam was a maverick who tried to shake up the digital content payment scene with ventures like HellaDoge, and even in his final acts, remained a thorn in the side of the establishment he helped create. As tributes roll in, the tech community reflects on a figure who was as much a provocateur as he was a pioneer, proving that in the startup world, being unforgettable is sometimes more impactful than being unimpeachable.

Moar transpo

Image Credits: Faraday Future

Look, I’m trying my best to have a balance of everything here on Startups Weekly. It ain’t my fault that the transportation team keeps punching way above its weight. Just read all of their stuff, okay, it’s all good.

In a twist that’s less surprising and more “Muskian,” Elon Musk refuted claims about Tesla ditching a budget EV for a robotaxi, only to turn around and hype an upcoming robotaxi reveal (even as Tesla throws in the towel for its entry-level-price car). Critics replied that he’s been promising that since 2016, but Full Self-Driving (FSD) continues to be a thorn in Tesla’s side.

Here’s some highlights from the past week:

  • Tesla fire sale: Tesla is slashing prices on its Model Y SUVs like they’re last season’s fashion, desperately trying to clear an inventory pileup that’s become as cumbersome as a traffic jam. Dropping prices by up to $7,000, Tesla’s discount bonanza highlights its struggle to balance production with actual sales.
  • The Apple falls far from the car: Apple, after packing in its electric car project, let go of 600 staff who were reportedly working on the project. I’d pay good money to see the prototypes …
  • A cagey claim: Faraday Future, which is running on fumes, is now facing accusations from whistleblowers that it’s been inflating its already scant sales figures. Against a backdrop of furloughs, near evictions, and federal investigations, the company’s drama seems more suited for a soap opera than Silicon Valley. Pass the popcorn, I guess?

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories…

Clicky clicky. Image Credits: Frederic Lardinois/TechCrunch

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

  • Zero-day price spike: Crowdfense, playing the role of a modern-day arms dealer, dishes out millions for hacks that could make iPhones and Androids spill their secrets, all under the guise of aiding government surveillance. Zero-day exploits are the new gold rush, with prices soaring as tech giants fortify their fortresses.
  • That’s fine, you can have my SSN. I wasn’t using it anyway: Greylock McKinnon Associates (GMA), a consulting firm that’s no stranger to sensitive data, recently joined the “Hacked Club” by losing over 341,650 Social Security numbers. While they were busy providing litigation support, hackers were busy lifting data. Insert rant about how dumb SSNs are anyway.
  • Something about keyboards and magnets: Look, I’m as surprised as y’all are, but if my analytics software is anything to go by, it seems people went gaga over Frederic’s piece on magnetic keyboard switches. If keyboard nerding is your thang, we’re really pushing your buttons here.
  • Dialing down the drama: Snapchat decided to tweak rather than trash its “Solar System” friendship ranking feature, which was causing more teen drama than a high school prom. It’s just another day at Snap, where the solution to tech-induced anxiety seems to be a toggle switch in the settings menu.
  • InstaTok: TikTok’s upcoming Instagram competitor app for sharing photos could be named TikTok Notes, according to screenshots posted by users. TikTok also confirmed the app was in development.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Startups Weekly: Big shake-ups at the AI heavyweights | TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly — your weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

There’s not that much news from me this week, but I’ve been doing a ton of prep for TechCrunch Early Stage taking place in Boston on April 25. It’s going to be a fantastic show, and you still have time to grab tickets at early-bird prices, if you’re quick.

Most interesting startup stories from the week

Stability AI bids adieu to its founder and chief executive, Emad Mostaque, who’s decided to chase the decentralized AI dream, leaving the unicorn startup without a permanent CEO. The company, known for burning through cash faster than a teenager with their first debit card, is now in the hands of interim co-CEOs Shan Shan Wong and Christian Laforte. Mostaque, in a dramatic exit, took to X to proclaim his departure was all about fighting the “centralized AI” bogeyman because, apparently, the real problem in AI isn’t rogue robots but who gets to control them.

Microsoft has orchestrated a heist worthy of a Hollywood plot, snagging the co-founders and much of the staff of Inflection AI, along with the rights to use their tech, for a cool $650 million. The deal, which to me seems more like a ransom payment than an M&A push, includes $620 million for the privilege of using Inflection’s tech and an extra $30 million to ensure Inflection doesn’t sue for Microsoft’s bold talent grab. Reid Hoffman, Microsoft board member and Inflection co-founder, took to LinkedIn to assure everyone that Inflection’s investors would sleep well tonight, with early backers getting a 1.5x return and later ones a modest 1.1x, despite the math not quite adding up. It’s pretty bold to describe a 1.5x return as a “good upside,” by the way — most early-stage funds would be pretty displeased.

  • They said your data would be safe: Facebook (now Meta) was caught red-handed with its digital hands in the Snapchat cookie jar. Dubbed “Project Ghostbusters,” Facebook’s covert operation aimed to snoop on Snapchat’s encrypted traffic, seeking to decode user behavior and gain a competitive edge.
  • Robinhood’s new credit card: Robinhood unveiled its Gold Card, a credit card so packed with features it might just make Apple Card users pause for a hot second. For the low, low price of being a Robinhood Gold member (because who doesn’t want to pay $5 a month for the privilege of spending more money?), you too can earn 3% to 5% cash back on everything.
  • Could Nvidia be the next AWS?: Nvidia and Amazon Web Services (AWS) might just be the tech world’s accidental heroes, stumbling upon their core businesses like a toddler finding a hidden stash of cookies. AWS discovered it could sell its in-house storage and compute services, while Nvidia found its gaming GPUs were unexpectedly perfect for AI workloads.

Stability AI CEO quits because you’re “not going to beat centralized AI with more centralized AI.” Image Credits: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

Trend of the week: Transportation trouble

The New York Stock Exchange has given EV startup Fisker the boot, citing its “abnormally low” stock prices. It seems Fisker’s financial runway is more of a tightrope, with shares plummeting over 28% in a single day, a botched deal with Nissan (or so the rumor mill suggests), and a triggered repayment clause in their loans that they can’t afford — painting a picture of a company teetering on the brink of a cliff. It won’t have helped, of course, that the EV manufacturer lost track of millions of dollars’ worth of customer payments.

  • Can Arrival’s scraps save Canoo?: The bankrupt Arrival sells its leftovers to Canoo, another EV hopeful teetering on the edge of viability, in a deal that’s less about innovation and more about Canoo desperately trying to cobble together a production line with Arrival’s yard sale bargains.
  • Sowwy, folks: Steve Burns, the ousted founder, chairman and CEO of bankrupt EV startup Lordstown Motors, has settled with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over misleading investors about demand for the company’s flagship all-electric Endurance pickup truck.
  • Letting the car self-drive for a month: Tesla is about to start giving every customer in the U.S. a one-month trial of its $12,000 driver-assistance system, which it calls Full Self-Driving Beta, provided they have a car with the compatible hardware.

Canoo delivers a Light Tactical Vehicle back in 2022. Image Credits: Canoo

Most interesting fundraises this week

Super{set} is doubling down on its bet on boring but bountiful data and AI-driven enterprise startups, having just added a cool $90 million to its war chest. This move comes hot on the heels of its $200 million exit from the marketing company Habu to LiveRamp. The company is not your average venture studio. With a lean portfolio of 16 companies and a penchant for turning venture capital investment memos from art into science, super{set} is on a mission to engineer practical applications. With their new digs on an entire floor of San Francisco’s 140 New Montgomery building, they’re not just investing in startups; they’re buying into the future of the city itself.

Tired of cramped hotel rooms and landlords with an aversion to IKEA, Alex Chatzieleftheriou decided to fill the gap himself. Fast-forward through a pandemic-induced boom in nomadic working, and Blueground is now gobbling up the competition faster than a tourist at a free breakfast buffet. With the acquisition of companies like Tabas and Travelers Haven, Blueground has expanded its empire to include over 15,000 apartments across 17 countries, proving there’s no place like a home you can book for a month. Despite the proptech sector feeling the squeeze from rising interest rates, Blueground’s recent $45 million Series D funding round and a hefty debt facility suggest that investors are still willing to bet big on Chatzieleftheriou’s vision of a world where everyone can live in a fully furnished apartment, at least temporarily.

  • $10 million for the microbe party: Wase has engineered a compact system that treats the gunky by-products of breweries and food processors on-site and turns them into biogas. This isn’t your grandma’s anaerobic digester; it’s a microbial rave, complete with electrically charged fins for the bacteria to party on, producing about 30% more methane and leaving behind less residual waste.
  • More money for diversity: New Summit Investments is on the brink of a significant leap in its impact investing journey, eyeing a $100 million target for its latest fund, dwarfing its previous $40 million fund closed in 2022.
  • New battery chemistry: In the quest to coax more capacity from electric vehicle batteries, automakers are increasingly turning to silicon. Ionobell, a seed-stage startup, which recently closed a $3.9 million extension round, claims its silicon material will be cheaper than the established competition.

Image Credits: Lyudinka/Getty Images (modified by TechCrunch)

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories …

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

  • Erm, what?: Marissa Mayer’s startup, Sunshine, went from Silicon Valley’s next big thing to pioneering the groundbreaking world of … managing contacts and sharing photos, leaving the internet collectively scratching its head and wondering, “That’s it?”
  • Dude, where’s your data?: Three years after a hacker’s “coming soon” teaser, 73 million AT&T customers’ personal details hit the internet, and while AT&T plays the silent game, customers are left verifying their own data leaks like a dystopian DIY project.
  • C’mon, Apple: In a move that’s less about innovation and more about playing gatekeeper, Apple’s takedown of Beeper’s quest to bring iMessage to Android users is now a DOJ exhibit on how to stifle competition and keep the blue bubble club exclusive.
  • Who needs privacy anyway: Glassdoor, the haven for anonymous company reviews, seems to have turned into a privacy nightmare by sneakily adding users’ real names to their profiles, making “anonymous” the most ironic word in their dictionary.
  • Welcome to Spotify University: Spotify, not content with just dominating your music, podcasts, and audiobooks, is now eyeing your brain cells with its latest venture into e-learning, because apparently, we all need another reason to never leave the Spotify ecosystem.

Software Development in Sri Lanka