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Daily Crunch: Mason raises $7.5M seed round to scale its no-code commerce engine

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Hello! And it’s Thursday! We are all waiting with bated breath for the latest installment of “Will Elon Actually Buy Twitter or Will He Squirrel Out of It” — the miniseries of indeterminate length and too many twists and turns to enumerate. Supposedly we’ll learn more tomorrow, but who knows. Also, what is time? And if we all leave Twitter in droves, where will we discuss all of this drama?

Our fave little story today was Romain’s, covering these adorable houseplants that can be used as air purifiers.

Haje is out tomorrow, so a very happy weekend from him, and Christine will look after all your crunchy needs tomorrow. Adios! — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Ixnay on the self-drivay: Darrell has had it with all the speculation and calls it: “Truly autonomous vehicles just aren’t going to happen. The evidence pointing to this has been mounting for years now, if not decades, but it’s now tipped the balance to where it’s hard to ignore for a reasoned observer — even one like myself who has previously been very optimistic about self-driving prospects,” he writes. Darrell, we love you, and we hope you’ve never been more wrong.
  • Closing the barn after the horse has bolted: We also have the latest on Elon Musk after his now-famous Twitter office sink video: Amanda reports on his open letter to Twitter advertisers that people have it all wrong about why he is buying the social media giant, but also that Twitter cannot become “a free-for-all hellscape.” Rebecca writes that Musk now says he won’t fire 75% of Twitter’s staff.
  • Avoiding that seller’s tax: Jagmeet writes that sellers on Amazon have to meet certain requirements to sell on the platform, but a startup called Mason is out to change that. The India- and California-based startup secured $7.5 million in fresh funding, led by Accel and Ideaspring Capital, to offer an Amazon-like selling experience but without requiring that “Amazon tax.”

Startups and VC

There’s a ton of new funds happening all at once, seemingly. Christine reports that Streamlined Ventures, led by Ullas Naik, secured $140 million in new capital commitments for its two newest funds. Haje reports that Human Impact Capital is a new $50 million fund investing in social impact startups, and Mike notes that Paris-based VC Satgana completes the first close of its €30 million fund to back climate tech startups.

Meanwhile, there were a bunch of mega-rounds that put the actual investment funds to shame; it’s a weird world when you can’t skim the headline numbers to figure out whether it’s a company raising a round or a new fund closing. We’re collecting a handful of ’em below.

5 tips for launching in a crowded web3 gaming market

Scarlet Ibis feeding among Laughing Gulls; web3 standiing out crowd
Image Credits: Chelsea Sampson (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Every online product requires some network effect, but gaming is unique: Without large, loyal and enthusiastic customers, there’s no way to build products that can be monetized.

Play-to-earn games (P2E) are particularly susceptible to this problem, which is why “building a game that succeeds in the long term means developing monetization strategies that can weather market ebbs and flows,” says Corey Wilton, co-founder and CEO of Mirai Labs, the gaming studio behind Pegaxy.

In this primer for P2E founders, Wilton shares suggestions for how to approach investors, explains why tokens are not a reliable fundraising vehicle and discusses the recent “shift toward Web 2.0 monetization.”

5 tips for launching in a crowded web3 gaming market

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

The New York Post had to do some deleting today after it was discovered that someone hacked into both the newspaper’s website and its Twitter account, Zack reports. The article headlines in question were racist and sexually violent in nature, and the newspaper told TechCrunch that an employee was to blame for the incident but did not go into further details on how it came to that conclusion.

Also, our team paid attention to earnings so you didn’t have to. Rebecca has a look into Ford’s third-quarter earnings, which she reports took a $2.7 billion hit related to Argo AI, which we reported yesterday was being shut down. Meanwhile, over at Meta, Amanda writes that Meta had yet another decline in its third-quarter revenue.

And now we have three more for you:

  • Googling: Google Cloud has entered web3 territory with a managed blockchain node service by taking on the heavy lifting there so that developers can do their thing, Ron reports. Meanwhile, Manish has details on a $100 million acquisition the search engine giant made in Alter, an AI avatar startup.
  • On an acquisition roll: Ron also reported on yet another Thoma Bravo acquisition. This time, it and Sunstone Partners announced the proposed acquisition of UserTesting for $1.3 billion. The company plans to combine it with its UserZoom, another company Thoma Bravo acquired in 2021.
  • Get your health advice here: YouTube says it will begin certifying channels for licensed health professionals, like doctors, nurses or therapists, who produce health-related content, Ivan writes.

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Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

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“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

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A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

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The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

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When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

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Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

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The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

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Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

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Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

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