Pitch for the check you want 


Teacher preparing pencils for school day; aligning product team with product vision
Image Credits: Peter Dazeley (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

Tech’s guiding principles these days aren’t too difficult to find: discipline, focus and cash conservation. But I’ve always found those same focuses to be especially in conflict with what it means to be an early-stage founder pitching your vision: You have to have Elon Musk-level ambition, big dreams and the ability to sell a company to investors before there are any real metrics behind it.

In some ways, it’s the job of the investor to see the reason to say yes anyway. In other ways, the downturn is very much making early-stage founders professionalize sooner and sooner; philosophically looking more like the late-stage company pitching for its Series C than the buzzy pre-seed.

I’ve been noticing small things about how early-stage founders have changed their pitches, suggesting that the checks are currently less about the messiah and more about the monetization.

Read the rest of my column on TC+: “Founders change their pitch.”

In the rest of this newsletter we’re talking about AI attribution, venture layoffs and modern entrepreneurship. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram to continue the conversation. If you feel like supporting me extra, subscribe to my very free Substack.

We’re actually starting to see AI be a factor in tech layoffs

Layoffs are almost a daily occurrence during this news cycle — I covered Chief and Clubhouse layoffs within an hour of each other — but the reasons behind each reduction often lack specificity. Dropbox surprised me. CEO Drew Houston, who laid off 16% of staff this week, cited “the AI era of computing” in relation to the layoffs. “We’ve believed for many years that AI will give us new superpowers and completely transform knowledge work. And we’ve been building toward this future for a long time, as this year’s product pipeline will demonstrate,” he said.

Here’s what to know: I expect there to be more redundancies in workforces that are partially attributed to artificial intelligence. It’s not a new take: The concern I hear most often around AI is its ability, or intent, to replace everyone’s jobs. To break from that pattern is to land lots of snaps: Harvey AI, backed by Sequoia this week, is the buzz all over tech dinners for its pitch to supercharge lawyers.

dropbox glitch
Image Credits: TechCrunch

Venture’s down

TC’s Mary Ann Azevedo broke news this week: “Fintech-focused VC firm Anthemis Group lays off 28% of staff as part of restructuring.” She reports, “Anthemis declined to provide further specifics around its strategy moving forward, instead pointing me to this blog post from co-founder Amy Nauiokas. In the post, Nauiokas writes that the firm aims to “translate 2022’s reckoning in private markets into enduring change in the structure and method of early-stage investing.”

Here’s what to know: We don’t see venture layoffs often, even though I have a feeling many are ghosts these days. Reductions will continue — and maybe more loudly this time. Last June, Backstage Capital fired most of its staff, with now only two people remaining at the venture firm.  

Image Credits: PM Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

A modern take on an entrepreneur

On Equity this week, I interviewed Ocho’s Ankur Nagpal, the founder of the business owner-focused fintech, as well as Teachable and Vibe Capital. We spoke about everything from the temperature of solo GPs and how building in public has impacted his trajectory.

Here’s an excerpt we got within minutes of recording: “A great CEO … you have to be mildly sociopathic. And there’s a lot of stuff that I just like struggled with when it came to being CEO, because it would be against my values as a person,” Nagpal said.

Bright multi colored balls randomly arranged on pink strings blue background, used in post about Betterdata
Image Credits: Getty Images

Etc., etc.

  • A weird parallel: Instacart’s co-founder and former CEO Apoorva Mehta raised $30 million for his new healthcare startup, WSJ reported last year. That news makes it all the more interesting that Instacart’s current CEO, Fidji Simo, co-founded a healthcare clinic, according to Fortune. According to TechCrunch, what a weird parallel between a grocery delivery startup’s past and present leadership! Jokes aside, maybe it’s a nod to what Amazon tried to do with Whole Foods and One Medical, Instacart edition.
  • Big apologies: to those who I missed in Boston last week. I was ready to jump on stage but then food poisoning — from a coffee shop that shall remain unnamed — got the best of me. I heard it was a hoot, though, so check out TC+ recap posts coming at you soon.
  • Programming note: If you’re reading this on a browser, get this in your inbox too! Subscribe here and share it with your friends.
  • Of course: It’s already Disrupt season. Reminder that there’s a ticket for every budget and role.
  • And finally, I have a shameless plug: Scoops make me! If you hear about a venture firm or startup winning, raising, flailing, or, oh I don’t know, booting an executive because of internal happenings, tell me. I love seeing early pitch decks and term sheets too. Happy to talk about anonymity and explain more of my process and what I’m looking for. You can tell me stuff on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. No pitches, please.

Seen on TechCrunch

Muslims come into the frame in Southeast Asia’s fintech boom

Founded by Adyen and Affirm alums, Ansa aims to help merchants create virtual wallets for customers

There was just one fintech unicorn minted in the first quarter

Snap stock down 24% on weak earnings, ad revenue slump

Seen on TechCrunch+

After initially defying the global slowdown, African startups’ first quarter venture results fall

First Republic’s results are proof that the SVB meltdown was brutal for smaller banks

It’s beyond time we started worrying about unicorn exits

Threading the needle: 5 questions for National Grid Partners’ Lisa Lambert

Take care of yourself,


More TechCrunch

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

22 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck