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On the one hand, we could be upset that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but the sun hasn’t come out where Christine lives for several days, so she’s pretty stoked that wherever Phil lives has a ray of sunshine or two. In other news, Haje has to move house due to a flooded apartment, weather is real, and perhaps it’s time we start taking climate change seriously, y’all.
Meanwhile, for today’s Black History Month recommendation, we’re watching Angela Davis talking about how we can’t eradicate racism without eradicating racial capitalism. — Christine and Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3
- The List: Ron has been following the Salesforce layoffs announced last month and writes that although these were announced in January, some employees are just now finding out they are on the list. Ouch.
- Grocery store going digital…currency that is: Reliance Retail, India’s largest retail chain, is now accepting payments in digital rupees, known as Central Bank Digital Currency, Manish reports.
- The password is…: Dashlane, a password management company, published its source code to GitHub, which Paul writes is one of the first steps the company is taking to provide transparency about its platform.
Startups and VC
Lex, the hookup and social app that launched in 2019 with a nod to lesbian personal ads from the ’80s, is changing. Only, precisely how much will change is still an open question, Harri writes. Sure, the venture-backed startup behind the queer app gave it a new lick of paint last week, but in refocusing on “friends and community,” some users fear that Lex will also scrub away its beloved raunchy essence. “Keep Lex filthy,” the users are chanting.
The growing ease with which anyone can create convincing audio in someone else’s voice has a lot of people on edge, and rightly so, Devin writes. Resemble AI’s proposal for watermarking generated speech may not fix it in one go, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Here’s another bucket o’ stories for your reading joy:
- Pass the crayons: Ingrid reports that open source platform for designers and their coders Penpot draws up $12 million as its user count crosses the 250,000 mark.
- There’s something fishy about this: Christine writes that New School Foods’ filet looks and tastes like salmon, but it’s actually plants.
- Whale, whale, whale: Frederic reports that Triple Whale raises $25 million for its Shopify data platform.
- Don’t worry, bee happy: As the bee population declines, BloomX secures $8 million to apply AI and EVs to pollination, Mike reports.
- Bank grows horn: UK neobank Zopa just raised $93 million at a $1 billion+ valuation, Ingrid reports.
Optimizing freemium products: Challenges and opportunities
Offering a free sample in the hopes that the recipient becomes a paying customer is a core tactic at food courts, cosmetic counters, and inside software startups.
Freemium products are everywhere, but unless companies revisit and optimize their strategy, there’s no effective way to optimize conversions.
“Enabling freemium, especially for established products, can bring organizational and operational challenges even if it adds value to the business,” writes Konstantin Valiotti, product director of growth at PandaDoc.
In this article, he presents strategies for optimizing:
- User activation
- Conversion paths
- Product changes
- Where to place barriers and limitations
Three more from the TC+ team:
- Tearing into language learning: Pitch Deck Teardown: Laoshi’s $570K angel deck, by Haje.
- Gotta get pumped: Want to buy an EV or heat pump? New coin will help you defray the costs, by Tim.
- Hardware is hard? Well, then build it more like you make software: How Fictiv is making hardware manufacturing more like building software, by Haje.
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Big Tech Inc.
Samsung, Google and Qualcomm are poised to take us in and out of reality, Ivan writes. The trio is making a mixed-reality platform that Qualcomm’s Cristiano Amon described as “a new era of highly immersive digital experiences that blur the line between our physical and digital worlds. With our Snapdragon XR tech, Samsung’s amazing products, and Google experiences, we have the foundation to make this opportunity a reality.”
As a follow-up to his Apple HomePod review, Brian spoke to the company’s hardware VP, Matthew Costello, to discuss Apple’s approach of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
There’s going to be six more weeks of winter, so how about six more stories?
- It’s a trap!: Financial software firm Ion Group confirmed a ransomware attack that affected some of its trading and derivatives systems, Carly reports.
- That ad might be illegal: If members of the European Parliament get their way, political ads may face tougher targeting restrictions, Natasha L writes.
- All for You: TikTok has some new features, including a new system for enforcing post violations, and the test of a new one for the “For You” feed, Sarah reports.
- We’ve got your ticket to ride an e-scooter: Lyft wants to reshape shared micromobility with dockable e-scooter. Rebecca has more.
- Picture it, layoffs: Pinterest lays off another 150 people as a part of its “long-term strategy,” Ivan writes.
- Taking off: China’s EV upstart Xpeng got the green light to launch its electric vehicle takeoff and landing vehicle, Rita reports.