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Hello, you crunchy Crunchers! If you’ve been slacking and not bought yourself a Disrupt ticket yet, that’s cool, we still love you. But here’s a hot tip: This is your last chance for super-early-bird tickets, so maybe get on that sooner rather than later! — Christine and Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3
- All roads lead to acquisition: Manish writes that after Japan’s Geniee acquired AdPushup-operator Zelto for $70 million. He called the deal “a remarkable turnaround” for Zelto, a company that has stared down a few near-death experiences, including cash flow and product market fit problems, during its 10-year-old life.
- Sweet (South) Carolina, bup, bup, bup: VW-backed Scout Motors has plans to build a $2 billion factory in South Carolina to produce its all-electric vehicles. Tim Stevens has more.
- Fined: Manish also writes about India’s central bank, which fined Amazon’s payments unit over $370,000, claiming the company was noncompliant with certain know-your-customer guidelines.
Startups and VC
While most established automotive players call the shots from sprawling, corporate palaces, Scout bases much of its operations — at least for now — out of a WeWork near Washington, D.C., Tim Stevens reports. Scout Motors’ base of operations will eventually “anchor” near the $2 billion factory in South Carolina that was announced Friday, and the company plans to bring rugged, retro cred to the EV era.
And we have five more for you:
- Oh no, madam!: Jagmeet reports that Indian startup Yes Madam exposed sensitive data of customers and gig workers.
- Looking beyond the Matrix: Prog.ai wants to help recruiters find technical talent by inferring skills from GitHub code, Paul reports.
- Hydrogen takes to the skies: Mark reports that Universal Hydrogen takes to the air with the largest hydrogen fuel cell ever to fly.
- I like what you did here: Indent raises $8.1 million of funding for its AI-powered customer video review tool, Kate reports.
- Better update those security protocols: BetterHelp owes customers $7.8 million after FTC alleges data mishandling, Amanda writes.
To fix the climate, these 10 investors are betting the house on the ocean
Tapping the ocean for energy led to disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Today, wind power and wave action are just two technologies leading investors to take a closer look at ocean conservation technology, reports Tim De Chant. To learn more about the opportunities they’re chasing and to discover how climate change is shaping their investment thesis, he surveyed:
- Daniela V. Fernandez, founder and CEO of Sustainable Ocean Alliance, managing partner at Seabird Ventures
- Tim Agnew, general partner, Bold Ocean Ventures
- Peter Bryant, program director (oceans), Builders Initiative
- Kate Danaher, managing director (oceans and seafood), S2G Ventures
- Francis O’Sullivan, managing director (oceans and seafood), S2G Ventures
- Stephan Feilhauer, managing director (clean energy), S2G Ventures
- Sanjeev Krishnan, senior managing director and chief investment officer, S2G Ventures
- Rita Sousa, partner, Faber Ventures
- Christian Lim, managing director, SWEN Blue Ocean Partners
- Reece Pacheco, partner, Propeller
Three more from the TC+ team:
- AI front and center: At Upfront Summit 2023, AI is the omnipresent celebrity, Natasha M discovers.
- (Sub)stacks o’ cash: Alex wonders if perhaps Substack can grow just fine without venture dollars.
- AI for PR: Camilla Tenn argues that startup PR professionals should be jumping on the AI bandwagon.
TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!
Big Tech Inc.
It was only a matter of time before another company would try to mimic what Instacart has going for it. Today that is Uber. Rebecca writes that Uber is coming for Instacart with some updates to its one-year-old Shop and Pay feature that lets delivery workers opt in to receiving trips to do grocery or other retail shopping for customers before dropping off orders at the customer’s door. “Basically, it’s Uber’s attempt to follow the Instacart model, which is working well for the incumbent grocery delivery company,” she reports.
Autonomous trucking company Embark Trucks, which went public in 2021, is now laying off about 230 workers as it explores liquidating its self-driving truck assets, Kirsten reports.
And now here’s six more for your Friday:
- Can you hear me now?: While at Mobile World Congress, Brian reports that “pretty much everyone I engaged with this week echoed the sentiment that smartphones are in a rut. For the first time, however, it’s not a foregone conclusion that there’s a way of getting out.”
- Blast off: SpaceX’s acquisition of Swarm is paying off with new Starlink thrusters, Aria writes.
- Choo choo: Natasha L has an additional morsel from Mobile World Congress, writing that the “metaverse hype was hanging like a multicolored fog.”
- Sound the alarm: The U.S. government is warning that Royal ransomware is targeting critical infrastructure, Carly reports.
- Social (media) scene: Ivan reports that Twitter Blue is now available in over 20 countries while Aisha reports that Meta has new Facebook Reels features, including expanding video length to 90 seconds.
- Oops: A government watchdog found that Secret Service and ICE conducted warrantless stingray surveillance. Zack has more.