July 19, 2024
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.

  • Sending employees to the background: Checkr, once the background-checking darling of Silicon Valley, decided to thin its ranks by 382 employees, proving that even a $5 billion valuation can’t protect you from the harsh realities of a hiring freeze.
  • Is fintech circling the drain?: As Y Combinator’s Demo Days wrap up, it’s clear that fintech’s once-bulging slice of the startup pie is on a diet, shrinking from a hefty 24% to a mere 8% of the cohort in just two years. Maybe it’s just AI eating its proverbial lunch.
  • NoBigDeal: Aerospike, the NoSQL darling that started as a humble key-value store for adtech, just bagged a whopping $109 million to keep playing in the big data sandbox. With its eyes set on the AI prize, Aerospike is jazzing up its database with all the trendy features like graph and vector capabilities.
  • Web3 means … beauty?: Kiki World is making your bathroom the next blockchain battleground and has decided that what the beauty industry really needs is more voting and digital tokens. So that’s … a thing.
  • Say hello to the newest nearicorn: Guesty, the Airbnb of software platforms (or the software platform of Airbnbs), just bagged a cool $130 million to keep the vacation rental management party going. Even in a post-pandemic world, investors can’t resist the allure of a good booking spree. With a valuation nudging close to a billion, it’s clear that while you were busy canceling your travel plans, Guesty was plotting world domination one short-term rental at a time.

Moar transpo

A side view of a silver Faraday Future FF91

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…

mechanical keyboard

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.

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