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The SEC leapt in this week, charging 11 people associated with Forsage, which the government watchdog says was running a pyramid scheme. I’m not one to embrace drama, but I also can’t wait for some of these stories to show up as Netflix documentary series. This particular case seems like a bit of a dumpster fyre. — Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Leaning out: After more than 14 years as the top operator at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg officially stepped down as the company-now-known-as-Meta’s COO, as per yesterday, Paul reports. Sandberg’s departure represents part of a broader restructuring at the company.
- FTC slams the (Open)door: Opendoor has agreed to pay $62 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission, which says the company’s claims that it helps people make more money by selling their house to the company rather than listing it on the open market were deceptive, Mary Ann reports.
- Shopify checks out Klaviyo: “We’ve been working closely with Shopify for years and this is a great next step,” Klaviyo CEO Andrew Bialecki told Kyle via email, after Shopify makes a $100 million strategic investment in the company. “I’ve talked with their product team and CEO many times — they’re big believers in our mission of empowering creators and they have a lot of respect for the products we’ve built and our customer-first, product-led culture.”
Startups and VC
“It was life-changing: I went into my local store, found my way to the garden center, looked at the selection and chose one. I went to the register and paid, and then I drove home. I was glowing for days. It was the best big box experience of my life,” quips Ron about his $5 spray nozzle purchase, revealing he’s so over customer experience surveys.
Apropos customer experience, Kyle reports that Sprig, a startup offering tools for user and software product research, today announced that it raised $30 million. It brings the company’s total raised to $90 million.
When beautiful art is available at the press of a button, what does that mean to artists? Haje wonders in an article where he includes 30+ AI-rendered pictures of Batman. If you’ve never seen Batman as cookie monster, you’re missing out.
According to Redpoint managing director Annie Kadavy, there will be fewer total companies started in the next year than there were in the last two. And, somewhat counterintuitively, the investor thinks that the looming slowdown is “a great thing.” Redpoint just raised another $650 million to invest in “tech’s riskiest founders,” Natasha M reports.
More startup universe:
- Put me on your cell phone: Aisha reports that Locket, a popular app for sharing photos straight to your family and friends’ home screens, has raised $12.5 million in funding.
- How come that Louis Vuitton was only $40?: Clothes, accessories and luxury goods are the most popular product items for counterfeiting, but that’s not where the problem starts and ends: The explosion of digital content has also led to a wide number of digital counterfeiters as well. MarqVision raises $20 million to nab counterfeiters, report Kate and Ingrid.
- What’s up, (hot)dog? Over the past decade and a half, Spread has become the most recognizable name in Japan’s vertical framing ecosystem. Now, after a $30 million raise, it eyes strawberries and alternative meat, Brian reports.
- It shows you the cart door: Jagmeet reports that Ottonomy, a startup working on solving delivery problems using autonomous robots, has raised $3.3 million as it looks to expand its market and deploy robots to existing customers.
Getting acquired is a legitimate strategy for building your business
The difference in probability between selling a startup or taking it public is an order of magnitude. The odds of your company being acquired are ten times greater than the likelihood of your CEO ringing the opening bell at the NYSE.
And yet, startup culture encourages participants to believe that they’re on a path to an IPO, regardless of their sector, says Yair Snir, VP and managing director of Dell Technologies Capital.
“In my experience, many founders are more motivated by the potential for impact. For these kinds of founders, my advice is to always consider acquisition as an option,” he says. “It might not be obvious at first, but an acquisition can be your best path to massive scale.”
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
The $300 Link is a 4K webcam with a half-inch sensor. The system uses AI to automatically adjust its positioning and keep the user centered in-frame. Think of it a bit like Apple’s Center Stage software, coupled with hardware, Brian reports in his closer look at Insta360’s gimbal-mounted 4K webcam.
A few more nuggets of Big Tech Wisdom:
- Oh, I see: Massive win for Innoviz Lidar tech, which will be included on all Volkswagen vehicles with automated driving capabilities, reports Rebecca.
- Hell non: French iOS developers have had it with Apple’s App Store fees, filing an antitrust suit, reports Sarah.
- Finally in the black: Looks like the changes Uber has been making over the past year are starting to pay off for the company, as it generates a massive pile of free cash flow in Q2, report Alex and Kirsten.
- Throwing (night)shade on the Zomato: Manish reports that Uber plans to sell 7.8% stake in Indian food delivery firm Zomato.
- Do u even tweet, bro: Twitter is testing a bunch of new features at the moment. Amanda spotted that the platform is testing a “tweets per month” counter.