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Okay, we haven’t done a newsletter since Wednesday, and while the U.S. team was chillin’ like villains, the rest of the team was hard at work, so here’s some of the highlights from the last half-week of TechCrunchy goodness! — Christine and Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Talking to yourself just went digital: Instead of having that internal monologue stay in your head, now you can play out all of your thoughts to yourself in WhatsApp, Jagmeet writes. The messaging platform began rolling out an easier way to talk to yourself today after completing beta testing.
- “Great Wall of porn”: That’s how Rita and Catherine describe the bot surge in China that is making it difficult to get any legitimate Twitter search results when trying to find out something about Chinese cities. Why, you ask? Rita writes that “the surge in such bot content coincides with an unprecedented wave of (COVID) protests that have swept across major Chinese cities and universities over the weekend.”
- Your calendar, only more productive: Get ready for your calendar to be more than just a place to record things you have to do that day. Romain writes about Amie, a startup that grabbed $7 million to link your unscheduled to-do list with your calendar. The app also enables users to be social with coworkers.
Startups and VC
Dubai-based mass transit and shared mobility services provider SWVL has carried out its second round of layoffs, affecting 50% of its remaining headcount, Tage reports. The news is coming six months after SWVL laid off 32% (over 400 employees) of its workforce in a “portfolio optimization program” effort geared toward achieving positive cash flow next year.
There’s a couple of new funds in town, too! Harri reports that Early Light Ventures plots a second, $15 million fund for software ‘underdogs,’ while Mike writes that BackingMinds raises a new €50 million fund to fund normally overlooked entrepreneurs. He also writes about Pact, an all-women led VC for mission-driven startups, backed by Anne Hathaway.
And we have five more for you:
- AI just wanna take a closer look: Ingrid reports that V7 snapped up $33 million to automate training data for computer vision AI models.
- Special delivery!: Brian explores Bionaut Labs and the $43 million round it raised for its tiny drug-delivery robots.
- Let’s get touchy-feely: This startup is bringing precision control for gamers to the humble keyboard, Haje writes.
- Sticking it to the card processors: Catherine reports that Atoa helps U.K. merchants cut down on card processing fees and raised $2.2 million in pre-seed funding.
- Dat Money for Dat Bike: Catherine reports that Dat Bike gets another $8 million to put more e-bikes on Vietnam’s roads.
Lessons for raising $10M without giving up a board seat
Over the last two years, intelligent calendar platform Reclaim.ai raised $10 million “using a more incremental approach,” writes co-founder Henry Shapiro.
“We’ve done all this without giving up a single board seat, and Reclaim employees continue to own over two-thirds of the company’s equity,” rejecting conventional wisdom that founders should “raise as much as you can as fast as you can.”
In a TC+ post, Shapiro reviews the process they used to identify follow-on investors, shares the email template used to pitch the SAFE, and explains why “a larger cap table means more founder control.”
Three more from the TC+ team:
- A different valuation: Interim rate of return: A better approach to valuing early-stage startups, by Andrew Ritter.
- Mistakes not to make: 3 mistakes to avoid as an emerging manager, by Champ Suthipongchai.
- Growing with great efficiency: Anna writes that growing efficiently is no problem at all, at least if you’re bootstrapped.
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.
Amazon’s recent cost-cutting measures seem to be affecting more than just its delivery business. Manish writes that the company is shutting down its wholesale distribution business, called Amazon Distribution, in India. Amazon had started this unit to help neighborhood stores secure inventory. The company didn’t say why it was closing this particular business down, but Manish notes that this is the third such Amazon unit to be shuttered in India.
Meanwhile, Natasha L reports that Meta has gotten itself into trouble again with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (aka, the agency that regulates data protection). Facebook’s parent company is being hit with $275 million in penalties for what the agency said was breaches in data protection that resulted in some 530 million users’ personal information being leaked.
Now enjoy six more:
- UnBlocked: After weeks of reports claiming this would happen, BlockFi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and it might be FTX’s fault. Jacquelyn writes that FTX was going to buy BlockFi, and then, well, you know what happened to them. Based on the bankruptcy filing, BlockFi owes some significant cash to creditors and is unfortunately now another high-valued, heavily backed crypto company that was unable to make it work in this environment.
- Into the sea, you and me: Haje managed to talk Apple into giving him early access to the Oceanic+ app and took the Apple Watch Ultra into the deep blue sea for our world-exclusive review. He also got all excited about the pricing model the app uses.
- I spy: The U.S. government is banning telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from several Chinese brands, like Huawei and ZTE, citing protection of the nation’s communications network. Carly has more.
- Yahoola takes this company in holy partnership?: Yahoo invests a 25% stake in Taboola, an advertising network, in a deal that will marry the two companies for the next 30 years, Romain writes.
- Safety concerns: The U.K. government expands its Online Safety Bill to criminalize those who take to the internet to encourage self-harm, Natasha L reports.
- An Apple a day: For his newest trick, Musk is picking a fight with Apple, reports Taylor.