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Goood [time of day] dear [name]. You know what we’re psyched about? The agenda for TC Disrupt just dropped, and it’s going to be an absolute corker of an event. Aaaah. Check out what’s happening on our four (Count ’em! Four!) stages, and check out the incredible lineup of speakers. Then get your tickets and book your flights — it’s gonna be awesome. See you there! — Christine and Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Facetime: While Mark Zuckerberg is promising better metaverse avatars, Estonia-based Ready Player Me is delivering. Andreessen Horowitz led the company’s recent $56 million raise into the company that is building dynamic, animated game avatars for virtual worlds, Ingrid writes.
- Driving away with secrets: Rita wrote a juicy one about a former Apple employee who left with more than just best wishes from his ex-colleagues. Xiaolang Zhang pleaded guilty this week to stealing confidential driving information from the tech giant and then going to work for an electric vehicle company.
- Light it up: Over at TechCrunch+, Tim reports on U.S. senator Joe Manchin’s ultimatum to car manufacturers that they either move more of their lithium-ion battery supply chain out of China or give up on some tax incentives that are part of the Inflation Reduction Act. Tim writes that this could backfire or that “the United States, at long last, is set to become a key player in the battery industry.”
Startups and VC
The world has gotten a lot more serious about privacy and data protection, but in many cases business models that rely on personalization of one kind or another have struggled to keep up. Today, a startup out of Paris called Ravel Technologies is emerging from stealth with an approach it believes could be the missing link between those two, Ingrid reports.
Though it’s typically difficult for new consumer social apps to gain widespread adoption, 9count’s apps (friend-finder Wink and dating app Summer) have already seen some early traction — and investors have taken notice, investing an additional $28 million, writes Sarah.
Five more we enjoyed today:
- DAO-ing to invest in you: Anita reports that while they set out to raise $10 million, this set of Y Combinator alums raised $80 million to back crypto startups.
- It’s the cycle of life: Natasha L introduces you to 28: A femtech startup that raised $3.2 million in seed funding led by Thiel Capital to connect women to the hormonal phases of their menstrual cycle for physical and emotional gain.
- Let your robots talk to my robots, and we’ll find a time: Scheduling job candidate interviews can be a logistical nightmare, but Kyle reports that ModernLoop aims to automate the process. The company raised $9 million.
- Hello, may I take your order?: Coming soon to a drive-thru near you: voice-activated virtual assistance. ConverseNow expands its drive-thru ordering tech as it bags another $10 million, reports Christine.
- High-stakes checkout blazes the way: Weeks after Dutchie announced a payment platform, Dutchie Pay, the company launched a new cannabis point-of-sale platform with its own dual-screen register, reports Matt.
Should founders announce down rounds? This PR expert says you have nothing to hide
If your home was damaged in an earthquake, would you feel embarrassed?
Similarly, founders need not feel squeamish about accepting funding that lowers their valuation, advises Kate Johnson, VP of PR at BLASTmedia.
“Rather than pretending a lower valuation didn’t happen, switch your mindset,” she writes.
“You have nothing to hide, and in terms of PR, no news is not good news. So, focus on adjusting your expectations.”
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
After reading about Apple’s ex-employee, we have more ex-employees who were in the news today, including Twitter’s former security chief, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, who blew the whistle on the social media giant’s alleged mismanagement of cybersecurity. That one was by Carly, but the team got to work on several different angles, and here were the fruits of their labor:
- Ingrid reported that Mudge’s report, which says “there are ‘millions’ of accounts that could be spam bots,” may help Elon Musk’s legal fight as he tries to end his proposed $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter.
- Sarah writes about Mudge’s claims that the platform was unable to guard against insider threats on January 6.
- Aisha also reported on Mudge’s claims that Twitter has “deficient moderation” for Spaces.
Meanwhile, in streaming land, Lauren writes about both “Thor: Love and Thunder,” coming to Disney+ next month, and HBO’s “House of the Dragon” series premiere, which snagged 10 million viewers. Also, look out for Netflix’s version of the popular “Heads Up” game, Aisha reports.
- In a rich man’s world: Billionaire Gautam Adani’s Adani Group wants to buy a majority stake in India’s NDTV so badly that it’s essentially a hostile takeover, Manish writes.
- Copycat?: Instagram wants in on the fun that BeReal has started with its candid photos at random times of the day and is testing a feature called “IG Candid Challenges,” Ivan reports.
- Sold!: It looks like Russian search giant Yandex finalized the sale of its media assets to YK, writes Natasha L.