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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Thursday, March 24, 2022! I am happy to report that Haje is taking on the day’s startups section, as he will be sharing the Daily Crunch writing load starting next week (along with Christine)! A big thanks to the two of them for jumping in and taking on this lovely letter.
Before we start the news rundown, a few house announcements. Our newest podcast, Chain Reaction, is now live! It’s focused on the crypto world and features Lucas Matney and Anita Ramaswamy. And from the events world, early-bird pricing on TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility is coming to a close soon, and you can register for our upcoming Austin shindig here. Now, to work! – Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Lapsus$ hacking group hit with arrests: After it became news that a minor might be at the center of the Lapsus$ hacker group, U.K. police made seven arrests. The world of cybercrime is lucrative, but the arrests underscore that governments do find some of the malefactors trying to extort money from companies and individuals alike.
- Instacart turns to software: Few companies had a better pandemic than Instacart. The company posted rocket-ship growth during COVID-19’s opening year as consumers turned to its service to get groceries brought to their homes while under lockdown. Then in 2021, the company’s growth moderated. To reignite growth, and generate perhaps higher-margin revenues, Instacart released a software suite this week. Our first read is that the news makes a lot of sense.
- Russia is blocking Google News: Search giant Google confirmed that “Russians are having problems accessing its news aggregator service, Google News, in the country.” The move comes after the Russian government blocked other non-Russian tech companies inside its borders. Given that internet access restrictions and authoritarianism go hand-in-hand, the news is not a massive surprise. But it does underscore the widening digital fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Startups and VC
The startup ecosystem has traditionally been less-than-friendly to women founders and investors, but Mimi Aboubaker argues things aren’t as dire as the common narrative seems to indicate. We still have a ways to go, but a deep dive into the data shows that we’re making a smidge of progress.
Valuations are valuable – there’s a trend going around where people are sharing their salaries with their co-workers, in part to keep the bosses honest about gender pay gaps. We are seeing a similar trend among startups sharing their valuations. Simetrik raising at a $100 million valuation, Digits raising at half a billion, and RapidAPI raising at a billion are some recent examples. Trust me; your competitors will know what valuation you raised at anyway, and you may help along some of your fellow entrepreneurs by sharing the valuations of your fundraise with reporters. (And journalists love it!)
As a fan of circular hardware, it pleases me that Oura is continuing its quest toward creating a ring to rule them all, a ring to find them, a ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them. In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie, the company today announced it has shipped its millionth ring. My precious.
Other awesome things happening across the startup ecosystem:
- Ola is planning to acquire blue-collar workforce fintech company Avail Finance at undisclosed terms.
- Reddit is exploring whether video reactions – think TikTok for Comments – is the future of how people interact on the interwebs
- If you’re a Twitter fiend (I sure am…) you’ll be delighted that Twitter now lets you search your DMs, at long last.
- EV chassis maker PIX just closed an $11 million round to start building its own vehicles. It raised the round from a single investor, a “major sanitation solution provider.” Gotta love the intrigue.
- Mozilla today launched a paid subscription to its Mozilla Developer Network, offering additional features starting at $5 per month.
Oh, and don’t miss Brian’s excellent Actuator newsletter, released today, which scans the world of robotics for signs of self-awareness, just in case we have to start gearing up for a Skynet invasion. Subscribe to that – and all other TC newsletters – here!
Using data to solve key pain points for today’s banking customers
Banks and fintechs have access to more data than ever, but many of the benefits have flowed in one direction.
Inflation and stagnant wages limit consumers’ ability to save, but services like buy now, pay later make it much easier to spend.
To give customers more financial support, “modern banks can use data and build trust to improve consumer financial health,” writes Uday Akkaraju, CEO of fintech firm Bond.ai.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
We often begin our startup coverage with a group, so why not do the same with our Big Tech notes today? Let’s talk about mobility. First up, Uber has landed a deal of sorts to list taxis in its app in New York City. The Uber-versus-taxi saga has been long, winding and complex. But I did not see this bit of news coming, frankly. Next up, LG is going to boost battery production in the United States with a $1.4 billion investment, which seems like good news. And Bird, the recently public e-scooter company, is testing solutions for folks who need other options for getting around. Which we are more than here for.
- You can’t stop apps: While Apple argues with some countries (like Holland) and companies (like Epic Games) about access to its own application marketplace and payments thereof, the larger app economy has kept on growing. TechCrunch reports that Q1 2022 saw some 37 billion downloads and $33 billion worth of consumer spending. That’s a lot — and why Apple wants to hold onto its rents.
- Coinbase pushes further into India: While the Indian government works to figure out how to tax the crypto world, companies are not slowing their roll. U.S. crypto trading giant Coinbase, TechCrunch writes, “is beginning to add support for payment instruments UPI and IMPS in India.” Why does that matter? It means that the company’s “crypto exchange [is] broadly functional in the world’s second largest internet market for the first time in years,” according to our own Manish Singh.
- Weibo added to delisting watchlist: A scrap over accounting standards regarding Chinese companies listed in the United States could lead to the delisting of Weibo, TechCrunch reports. Weibo, which is often called China’s Twitter, is worth around $6 billion today, or $26 per share, more or less. It was worth nearly $140 per share back in 2018. The saga of Chinese companies on U.S. exchanges is one of ebullience later replaced with uncertainty.