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There we go, today it’s Friday! We’re planning to spend some quality time with a headset and a collection of amazing TechCrunch podcasts — here’s our roundup of this week’s episodes, enthusiastically curated and collected by Henry. We’re taking Monday off for Juneteenth. If you’re outside the U.S. (or not fully up to speed inside the U.S., for that matter), this article from the New York Times is a great introduction.
Also, Haje appears to be running a fever today, so if some of the jokes in this newsletter make even less sense than usual, let’s blame it on him running on three-and-a-quarter brain cells today. — Haje and Christine
The TechCrunch Top 3
Getting to Mars with fewer people: Not sure if it is a coincidence, but commenters to our story from yesterday felt the group of SpaceX employees, that circulated an open letter challenging Elon Musk’s Twitter behavior, should be fired. Today, Darrell brings us news that this may have indeed happened for some of that employee group. He reports that other employees did not appreciate being inundated with unsolicited offers to join the group and took their own action with corporate. See here for more on Musk’s plan for Twitter.
Integrating into Alibaba: Cainiao, the logistics service operated by Alibaba, made its debut in Pakistan to support Daraz, an e-commerce company there that Alibaba bought in 2018. Rita reports that it’s likely Cainiao will now follow Alibaba as it expands its footprint around the globe.
Some fresh perspective for VC: We got double a treat from Dominic-Madori today. She interviewed a number of Black Gen Z VCs who successfully broke into an industry that had traditionally not included them. You can read her interview with Fearless Fund’s Arian Simone here or under today’s TC+ section.
Startups and VC
Today in startups, Brex mentions it is “less suited to meet the needs of smaller customers” and that the company is exiting the small business space while still catering to startups, Mary Ann reports.
We’re also intrigued by Immutab’s half-billion-dollar fund to boost web3 gaming adoption, as Jacquelyn reports today. Also, can we just say, our crypto, blockchain and web3 reporting has really found its stride over the last couple of months, so definitely keep an eye out for more on that front going forward. Start with our web3 tag on the site and work your way through some of our previous stuff, too!
The best of the rest:
A roundup of the robot revolution: If you are into robots, definitely subscribe to Brian’s Actuator newsletter. This week’s issue, “Funding the robot revolution,” is particularly good, if you ask us, but he’s consistently a great source for keeping a finger on the robotic pulse. Do robots even have pulses? Answers on a postcard or tweet, pls.
Reddit? I barely know it: Social news giant Reddit is buying machine learning platform Spell, reports Taylor, presumably to improve its spam hunting and recommendation algos.
More bank, less banking: For LatAm’s small businesses, Mono aims to be the “first bankingless bank,” reports Christine.
That’s a lot of cheddar, you guys: Rohlik bags $231 million even in a market that appears to be a little bored of food delivery startups, Ingrid reports.
That’s it! No crypto for you! Thai crypto exchange Huobi announced it is closing in July, writes Rita.
Investor? I barely know or: (These puns don’t even make sense! Don’t worry, we’ll send him back to bed as soon as this newsletter is done.) We did enjoy this guest column from Tory Reiss, where he explains how he turned their investors into a great source of customer feedback.
Fearless Fund’s Arian Simone on why a downturn is business as usual for minority founders
In the U.S., Black women are the most entrepreneurial demographic, but they’re also more likely to fall into a funding gap when they need access to capital.
Out of $330 billion in VC funding that startups received last year, “less than five Black women raised money past the Series A stage, and one of them was Rihanna,” reports Dominic-Madori Davis.
To help level the playing field for minority women working in tech and consumer packaged goods, entrepreneur Arian Simone co-founded Fearless Fund in 2019 with business advisor Ayana Parsons and actress Keshia Knight Pulliam.
The fund has backed 31 companies to date, and despite the chill in the markets, it has no plans to slow down.
“Companies that are venture-backed have seen their fair share of horror stories,” said Simone. “They don’t typically get rattled by the current macroeconomic climate.”
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
Privacy is a good thing, so it’s nice to see WhatsApp come out with a new feature that lets you hide your profile photo, bio and “last seen” status from people you don’t want to see, Aisha reports. The new privacy opt-in goes by “My contacts except…” and is where you can list those people.
We now go across the pond to a pair of stories by Natasha L. In the first one, we find out that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be coming back to the U.S. The U.K.’s home secretary granted the extradition request after several attempts by the U.S. to bring Assange back to be tried for conspiracy to hack and computer misuse, she reported. In Natasha’s other story, she does a deep-dive into the region’s data reform study, one of those being replacing cookie pop-ups with browser-related opt-outs. In case it is tl;dr, she says, “plenty of uniquely British red tape is also incoming for your digital operations.”
Don’t forget to read these, too:
Snap, uh, snaps to it with new paid tier: If you like being the first to test out or know about new app features, Snap’s got something for you, Ivan writes.
Blocked: Carly reports that popular proxy service company Rsocks, known to be run by Russian cybercriminals, had its website seized by the U.S. government.
Shopping with remotes: Roku and Walmart claim they are the first streaming and retail partnership to enable shoppable ads while streaming your favorite shows, Lauren reported.
Well, that prediction came true: Manish writes about TikTok moving all of its U.S. data to Oracle servers after, you guessed it, some new claims surfaced that user data was being accessed from China.
Good news for parents of young children: The FDA has cleared the COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 6 months, Darrell reported.
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