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Startup Weekly: Drama at Techstars. Drama in AI. Drama everywhere.

Welcome to Startup Weekly—Haje’s weekly look at everything you can’t miss in the startup world. Sign up here Get it delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Looks like there’s a new twist in the Techstars drama, folks. CEO Maëlle Gavet is leaving, and co-founder David Cohen is returning to save the company—or at least try to. Gavet’s three and a half years in the job have been marred by controversy, from employee exoduses to the closure of the accelerator program faster than you can say “pivot.” Despite an $80 million deal with JPMorgan Chase turning into a Titanic-level disaster and a $7 million loss through 2023, she insists she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. As for Cohen? He’s thrilled to be back as CEO.

The most interesting startup stories of the week

Linktree just hit 50 million users, proving that everyone and their grandmother has a profile link these days. From 2.7 million in 2019, they’re basically the popular kids in school that everyone wants to sit with. Linktree is rolling out social commerce features so creators can set up shop on their pages and earn commissions from big brands like Adidas and Sephora. With these links already generating over $300 million in monthly sales, it’s clear they’re not messing around.

  • Find a Humane Home: Humane, the brainchild of a former Apple executive and creator of the $700 Ai Pin that no one cares about, is reportedly looking for a buyer. Apparently it’s looking for between $750 million and $1 billion, in case someone wants to add a wearable device that’s basically a smartphone but has commitment issues to its portfolio.
  • Sonos hugs your head: Sonos has finally given you what you asked for, and released its “most popular product ever.” No, it’s not a speaker that will please you, it’s the Ace headphones. For just $449, you’ll soon be able to own these over-ear headphones.
  • Coming soon to a roundabout near you: The UK has officially waved the flag for “driverless cars” – that’s what they call autonomous driving there. How bizarre! According to the Automated Vehicles Act, you may find yourself sharing the road with robot cars by 2026.
Beats, produced by Sonos, adopts the Sonos Ace headphone shape.
Image Source: Sonos

Trending this week: AI drama

It looks like OpenAI’s newest chatbot, Sky, did a great job imitating Scarlett Johansson’s voice, only to be voted out of the running! The AI ​​voice is too similar to Johansson’s iconic voice. OpenAI swears it wasn’t trying to recreate her sultry voice in Her, but the internet took notice of the uncanny resemblance anyway. CEO Sam Altman even mentioned “her” on Twitter, because, well, why wouldn’t you? Now that Johansson has hired a lawyer, faster than you can say “deepfake,” OpenAI has removed Sky’s voice from its products, and the legal establishment is scrambling to find a solution to this dilemma.

Meanwhile, OpenAI doesn’t seem to be too affected. ChatGPT’s mobile app just earned a huge amount of revenue from the launch of GPT-4o. Although OpenAI promised free access on the web, it decided to encourage mobile users to pay a $19.99 monthly subscription fee if they want to participate. Plot twist: people are paying more for it than Netflix subscriptions. In the first week alone, net revenue soared 22%, with a daily revenue of up to $900,000, and a total of $4.2 million from May 13th to 17th.

  • Don’t be like Scarjo, my brother.: Hollywood’s elite can now stash their digital doubles in CAA’s high-tech “theCAAvault,” like it’s Fort Knox for AI clones.
  • The Whitest Sausage Festival in Town: Despite years of complaints from women and people of color about being marginalized in the field of artificial intelligence, Meta apparently thinks diversity is overrated. So it assembled a team of business bros to guide its AI strategy. Cool, cool, cool.
  • Hit the road, Jack: Expedia’s latest news reads like a soap opera script: CTO Rathi Murthy and SVP Sreenivas Rachamadugu were unceremoniously kicked out for violating some mysterious company policy. The travel booking giant is keeping mum on the details, citing confidentiality. Murthy was touting new AI features just days before her abrupt departure — terrible timing!
Overview of the atmosphere when Citibank and Expedia launched their new travel credit card in New York on September 17, 2014
Expedia has undergone an abrupt change as some of its senior staff have been fired.
Image Source: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

The most interesting fundraisers of the week

Hello! In the latest episode of “How Much Money Can We Invest in Artificial Intelligence”, French startup H just received $220 million in seed funding. Yes, you read that correctly – Seed Funding. H’s founding team, which includes more ex-Google DeepMind employees than a Silicon Valley reunion, aims to revolutionize productivity with a “frontier action model.” Translation: They’re building robots to do our jobs better than we can. Remind me why I’m sitting here typing this press release with my fingers? Is this the 1920s?

  • The hardware is not too difficult: Forget everything you know about hardware engineering, because here comes Rollup. The startup has been lurking for three years, quietly raising $5.6 million from big names like Andreessen Horowitz and Thiel Capital.
  • Multi-layerQuickBooks may be the granddaddy of accounting software, but there seems to be a new kid on the block: Layer. The startup just raised $2.3 million and promises to make accounting a little easier for small and medium-sized businesses with its very fancy embedded features.
  • We don’t need roads: Forget robotaxis stuck in city traffic—the latest craze is self-driving cars that ignore road maps. With backing from venture capital firms and Uncle Sam’s Department of Defense, Overland AI and Potential are leading this cross-country self-driving revolution.
An ATV driving autonomously in an off-road environment
Image Source: Artificial Intelligence on Land

Other not-to-miss TechCrunch stories…

Welcome to the job market of 2023, when instead of flipping burgers yourself, you’ll be able to program a robot to do the job for you. Brian has compiled a list of 81 robotics companies that are hiring faster than you can say “AI.” From humanoid robots that might take your job (or make you coffee) to drones that make sure your Amazon package arrives before you even click “order,” there’s never been a more exciting (or terrifying) time to dive into robotics. So apply now and take your place in the brave new world of your mechanical overlords 🤖.

  • More money, more passengers?: Buckle up, Minnesota! Uber and Lyft drivers are getting a pay raise thanks to a new state deal, but don’t get too comfortable. Drivers will make more money starting in 2025 — while Uber’s rates are facing complaints about rising costs.
  • Oops, kid, you have no bank: Teen fintech startup Copper Banking hasn’t had a great week. Its banking and debit card products have come to an end due to the major bankruptcy of Synapse. The middleware provider went bankrupt and filed for Chapter 7 liquidation, which was then followed by a direct filing for Chapter 7 liquidation.
  • Will you be my friend?: Dating app Bumble, feeling friend-zoned as its core market overall declined, decided to pivot right into community-building platform Geneva. Bumble apparently realized that “Netflix and chill” doesn’t always mean a lifelong partner, so it plans to expand its focus from one-on-one connections to group hugs and friendship bracelets.
  • VinFast Horror: In a tragic twist that sounds like it was ripped from an automotive horror movie script, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating a crash in April in which a VinFast VF 8 SUV decided to play “hug the oak tree” in California — killing a family of four in a fire.
  • Don’t worry, we’ve got all your detailsWelcome to the digital age, where even your hotel stay could be the subject of spyware! At least three Wyndham hotels in the US have been caught using pcTattletale, a consumer-grade spyware application that has been secretly taking screenshots of guest details and customer information.

#Startup #Weekly #Drama #Techstars #Drama #Drama

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