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Gig workers get paid, Fidelity slashes Reddit’s valuation and AI conquers Minecraft

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Hey, folks, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter that recaps the week in tech. Hope the summer’s treating y’all well — it’s a balmy 90 degrees here in NYC! — and that some much-needed R&R is on the agenda.

Speaking of “agenda,” mark your calendars for Disrupt, TC’s annual conference, kicking off in September. Whether you’re a startup rookie learning the ropes or a founder hell-bent on changing the world, Disrupt will deliver the tools, knowledge and connections to help you make it happen. You don’t want to miss it.

Elsewhere, stay tuned for City Spotlight on June 7 (Wednesday), which will highlight Atlanta, Georgia, this go-round. Atlanta has emerged as one of the buzziest new hubs in the nation, with booming cybersecurity and software-as-a-service sectors as well as a slew of investors looking to back the hot new startups coming from the metro. Among the speakers at City Spotlight will be mayor Andre Dickens — we’re looking forward to hearing his perspective.

Now with the PSAs out of the way, here’s your WiR!

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Fidelity sours on Reddit: This week, Fidelity, the lead investor in Reddit’s most recent funding round in 2021, slashed the estimated worth of its equity stake in the social media platform by 41% since the investment. The devaluation, part of a broader trend that has hit a variety of growth-stage startups across the globe in the past year, raises uncertainties about whether Reddit will maintain its initial intent to reportedly go public at a valuation around $15 billion.

Amazon Prime Data: Amazon is considering offering low-cost or possibly free nationwide mobile phone service to Prime subscribers in the United States, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The tech giant is reportedly in talks with Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish Network and AT&T.

Gig workers get paid: Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based ride-hail and delivery companies will have to reimburse California gig workers potentially millions of dollars for unpaid vehicle expenses between 2022 and 2023. The back payments come from a provision in Proposition 22, the controversial law that classifies gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees and promises them half-hearted protections and benefits.

Volkswagen’s ace in the hole: Volkswagen is betting big on the upcoming ID.Buzz electric van. With availability of the vehicle still a year out, the automaker is counting on years of pent-up anticipation to not only sell the bus shrouded in nostalgia, but to also have it act as a halo product to bring customers to the brand’s entire EV lineup.

Shopify launches Shop Cash: Shopify’s Shop app is introducing a new rewards program called Shop Cash, the e-commerce platform announced on Friday. The new program is funded by Shopify and earns shoppers 1% back on purchases made using its Shop Pay online checkout service.

Stripe gets into credit: Stripe wants to make it easier for businesses to access credit. The private financial infrastructure giant announced a new charge card program today from Stripe Issuing, its commercial card issuing product. Denise Ho, head of product at Stripe, gave TechCrunch the exclusive details — go read the piece by Mary Ann.

AI conquers Minecraft: AI researchers have built a Minecraft bot that can explore and expand its capabilities in the game’s open world — but unlike other bots, this one basically wrote its own code through trial and error and lots of GPT-4 queries. Called Voyager, this experimental system is an example of an “embodied agent,” an AI that can move and act freely and purposefully in a simulated or real environment.

YouTube Shorts, in minutes: Dumme, a startup putting AI to practical use in video editing, is already generating demand before opening to the public. The Y Combinator–backed company has hundreds of video creators testing its product, which leverages AI to create short-form videos from YouTube content, and it has a waitlist of over 20,000 pre-launch, it says.

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Need a new podcast to get your weekend started right? Good news — TC has you covered (and then some). On Equity, the crew took a look at the latest from Web Roulette, Stripe’s acquisition of Okay, what Klarna’s Q1 means for the fintech market and QED and a16z’s early-stage strategies. Found spoke with Dr. Stacy Blain, the co-founder and chief science officer at Concarlo Therapeutics, about the company’s novel therapeutic solutions for drug-resistant cancer. Over at Chain Reaction, Gary Vaynerchuk, the chairman of VaynerX and the CEO of VaynerMedia and NFT collection VeeFriends, spoke on his experiences in the creative media industry. And the TechCrunch Live folks dove into how AI doomerism is overblown — and why the blowhards doing the blowing want it that way.

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TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:

Competition concerns in the age of AI: AI is rapidly changing how businesses sense, reason and adapt in the market. But these groundbreaking capabilities are creating an upheaval in how companies engage with competitors and consumers. Henry Hauser is counsel in Perkins Coie’s antitrust and litigation practice groups. He muses on this in an informative piece.

Salesforce becomes a data company: Could the data exhaust being generated by the Salesforce family of products become more valuable than the products themselves — at least in terms of new revenue adds? This piece explores the possibility.

Why don’t more scientists become founders?: Why is it so common to see outsiders bringing research out of the lab and not the scientists themselves? It’s a complex issue to unravel, but Rebecca does it deftly.

More TechCrunch

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.

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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.

15 hours ago
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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…

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

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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.

17 hours 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.…

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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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.…

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As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

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