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Hello, Crunchers! We’re pretty excited about Matt’s TechCrunch Live, where he talks to Cambly about how the company found profits after failing to raise a Series A. Mark your calendar for February 1! — Christine and Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3
- And we’re back!: That’s what Microsoft is saying after some of its services, like Outlook, Xbox Live and Teams, went down during a “change made to the Microsoft Wide Area Network,” Ivan reports.
- What you text is what you’ll see: We’ve been hearing about text-to-image lately, and today is no different. Remember in October when Shutterstock and OpenAI paired up to add some artificial intelligence to Shutterstock’s libraries? Well, today the stock photo giant is showing us the fruits of that labor with a generative AI toolkit to create images based on text prompts. Ingrid has more.
- Plugged in: BMW i Ventures gets a renewed charge from one of its newest investments, infusing $13 million into Bulgaria-based Ampeco, a company providing an electric vehicle charging management platform, Mike reports. As he notes, you might recall that BMW was an early investor in exited companies ChargePoint and ChargeMaster.
Startups and VC
Injective, a layer-1 blockchain focused on building financial applications, has launched a $150 million fund ecosystem initiative, the platform’s CEO and co-founder, Eric Chen, told Jacquelyn in her article, Injective launches $150M ecosystem fund to accelerate interoperable infra and DeFi adoption.
One of the most remarkable things about construction robotics is the sheer breadth of tasks that can potentially be automated, Brian writes. He believes the entire category is a prime target for robotics startups, given that it addresses the three big Ds of automation — dull, dirty and (quite often) dangerous. It makes sense, then, that Built buys fellow construction robotics firm, Roin.
Fun stuff. There’s five more, too:
- All Raise loses another CEO: Natasha M reports that another All Raise CEO steps down.
- Scooters heading to Madrid: Madrid selects Dott, Lime and Tier for scooter licenses, Romain reports.
- Harry Stamper would be proud: Asteroid mining startup AstroForge will test its metal refinery tech in space this year, reports Aria.
- Atomic brings R&D to RNA for drug discovery: Devin writes that, with new funding, Atomic AI envisions RNA as the next frontier in drug discovery.
- Training in VR: Paul reports that Gemba, a corporate VR training platform used by Coca-Cola and Pfizer, raises $18 million.
When it comes to large language models, should you build or buy?
Americans spent nearly $20 billion on pizza deliveries in 2021. Most people could probably bake one at home, but speed and convenience are powerful incentives at dinnertime.
The same holds true for machine learning algorithms: Should companies select open source models, license large language models without modifications, or customize them and pay much higher usage rates?
“While building looks extremely attractive in the long run, it requires leadership with a strong appetite for risk over an extended time period,” writes ML engineer Tanmay Chopra.
Three more from the TC+ team:
- Unflushing nutrients: We flush valuable nutrients down the toilet. Wasted wants to save them, Tim reports.
- Hiring plans under the microscope: Becca writes that startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans.
- From L to H: Dear Sophie: How do I change my L-1B to an H-1B through the lottery? by Sophie Alcorn.
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Big Tech Inc.
Frederic took a look at what Google was doing at this year’s Flutter Forward event and found that the open source framework got some new graphics capabilities, and is launching its first efforts to compile Flutter to WebAssembly and is working on some RISC-V support. He writes, “Virtually all of these capabilities still sit in canary branches and behind experiment flags, but they do show where Google plans to take this project in the months ahead.”
Now here’s five more for you:
- Roadblocks ahead: Jagmeet speaks to some gig workers in India about their daily working conditions, writing that “drivers face bust in the country’s digital boom.”
- Way mo’ layoffs: Alphabet’s self-driving technology unit Waymo was not immune to the umbrella company’s recent job cuts and quietly made its own layoffs. Rebecca has more.
- Naps over apps: Sarah reports that app downloads were stagnant in the fourth quarter on both the App Store and Play Store — usually it isn’t, she points out.
- The magic is in the ad targeting: Disney Advertising announced at its Tech and Data Showcase today that Disney+ advertisers will soon be able to take advantage of some of Hulu’s ad targeting capabilities, Lauren writes.
- It’s that time again: Rebecca has some details on what we might expect to see in Tesla’s Q4 earnings.