Founders, don’t put all your cash in one basket
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It’s too early to fully anticipate all of the consequences of Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse. But there is one prediction I am ready to make: Bank diversification is going to be a much higher priority for startups from now on. — Anna
A mostly ignored best practice
Whether you are an individual or a company, it makes sense to have more than one bank. Yet, many startups don’t.
Twitter is dying | TechCrunch
It’s five months since Elon Musk overpaid for a relatively small microblogging platform called, Twitter. The platform had punched about its weight in pure user numbers thanks to an unrivalled ability to both distribute real-time information and make expertise available. Combine these elements with your own critical faculty — to weed out the usual spam and bs — and it could feel like the only place online that really mattered.
Even if the average Internet user remained baffled by Twitter, it contained essential ingredients that made it a go-to source for journalists or other curious types wanting to earwig on conversations between interesting people — whether subject experts or celebrities. It was also therefore a place where experts and celebrities could find community and an engaged audience — without the need for layers of message-filtering middlemen. Twitter was where these two sides met and (sometimes) meshed in messy conversation.
There was an alluring (sometimes bruising) rawness to the medium. Yes, you could get the thrill of almost unvarnished opinions from celebrities on Twitter — at least compared to more curated social media feeds like Instagram. But the real pull and power of the platform came from the incredible wealth of knowledge any Twitter user could directly tap into — across all sorts of professional fields, from deep tech to deep space and far beyond — just by listening in on a discussion thread or sliding a question into someone’s DMs.
Above all Twitter was an information network; the social element came a distant second. Although it had a notable sideline as an unofficial dating app as it could be a great way to get a feel for someone’s personality without meeting them in person. (There are countless stories of people making friends or even life partners via encounters on Twitter.)
The running joke became ‘how is this site free?!’ Because the interactions could be so remarkable — so show-stopping or fascinating — that it felt incredible to encounter this kind of proximity (to knowledge or stardust) for free.
Well, Twitter is no longer free. Literally and figuratively. And we are all so much poorer for that.
Since Musk took over he has set about dismantling everything that made Twitter valuable — making it his mission to drive out expertise, scare away celebrity, bully reporters and — on the flip side — reward the bad actors, spammers and sycophants who thrive in the opposite environment: An information vacuum.
It almost doesn’t matter if this is deliberate sabotage by Musk or the blundering stupidity of a clueless idiot. The upshot is the same: Twitter is dying.
The value that Twitter’s platform produced, by combining valuable streams of qualification and curiosity, is being beaten and wrung out. What’s left has — for months now — felt like an echo-y shell of its former self. And it’s clear that with every freshly destructive decision — whether it’s unbanning the nazis and letting the toxicity rip, turning verification into a pay-to-play megaphone or literally banning journalists — Musk has applied his vast wealth to destroying as much of the information network’s value as possible in as short a time as possible; each decision triggering another exodus of expertise as more long-time users give up and depart.
Simply put, Musk is flushing Twitter down the sink. I guess now we all know what the dumb meme really meant.
On April Fools Day, the next — perhaps final — stage of the destruction will commence as Musk rips away the last layer of legacy verification, turning up the volume on anyone who’s willing to pay him $7.99pm to shout over everyone else.
Anyone who was verified under the old (and by no means perfect) system of Twitter verification — which was at least related to who they were (celebrity, expert, journalist etc) — will cease to be verified. Assuming they haven’t already deleted their account. Only accounts that pay Musk will display a ‘Blue Check’.
This is just a parody of verification since the blue tick no longer signals any kind of quality. But the visual similarity seems intentional; a dark pattern designed to generate maximum confusion.
If you pay Musk for this meaningless mark you’ll also get increased algorithmic visibility of your tweets and the power to drown out non-paying users’ tweets. Which mean all the fakes and imposters can (and will) overwrite the real-deal on Twitter.
Genuine users are rightly outraged at the idea of being blackmailed into paying Musk to prove who they are. These people — the signal amid the Twitter noise — are, after all, a core component of the value of the network. So of course they shouldn’t (and won’t) pay — and so their visibility on Twitter will decay. Which, in turn, will trigger more damage — as any remaining users wanting to find quality information will find it increasingly hard to come by… It’s death by irrelevance.
In a further twist, only paying users will get a vote in future Twitter policy polls — meaning Musk will guarantee populist decision-making is rigged in his fanboys’ favor. (But actually this just looks like pure trolling since he doesn’t stick to the outcome of poll results he doesn’t like anyway.)
The upshot is Musk is turning Twitter into the opposite of a meritocracy. He’s channeling pure chaos — just like the cartoon ‘chaotic evil’ villains love to. (And, well, as we’ve said before, Twitter is Musk’s calamity masterpiece.)
Nor does this gambit look like a moneyspinner for Musk, either. He’s clawed in just $11M in subscription revenue since relaunching Twitter Blue three months ago, per Sensor Tower. (Reminder: Musk paid $44BN for Twitter last October. And has already destroyed half that value, according to a recent leaked internal memo.) So, yeah, this ‘game of pwns’ has been verrrrrrrrrry expensive for Musk too. It’s an eye-watering lose-lose equation — unless you’re a spammer, basically. (Then, presumably, it’s a cheap way to spam Musk fanboys if that’s a useful thing to do?)
Making money out of Twitter doesn’t seem to be the point for the billionaire/former world’s richest man who obviously has wealth enough to throw plenty of borrowed billions down the sink. Although early in his takeover he trailed (trolled?) the idea of transforming Twitter into a billion user platform. But when it comes to growing revenue and users we must all surely agree that Musk been drastically — spectacularly — unsuccessful.
However if the point is simply pure destruction — building a chaos machine by removing a source of valuable information from our connected world, where groups of all stripes could communicate and organize, and replacing that with a place of parody that rewards insincerity, time-wasting and the worst forms of communication in order to degrade the better half — then he’s done a remarkable job in very short order. Truly it’s an amazing act of demolition. But, well, $44BN can buy you a lot of wrecking balls.
That our system allows wealth to be turned into a weapon to nuke things of broad societal value is one hard lesson we should take away from the wreckage of downed turquoise feathers.
You can say shame on the Twitter board that let it happen. And we probably should. But, technically speaking, their job was to maximize shareholder value; which means to hell with the rest of us.
We should also consider how the ‘rules based order’ we’ve devised seems unable to stand up to a bully intent on replacing free access to information with paid disinformation — and how our democratic systems seem so incapable and frozen in the face of confident vandals running around spray-painting ‘freedom’ all over the walls as they burn the library down.
The simple truth is that building something valuable — whether that’s knowledge, experience or a network worth participating in — is really, really hard. But tearing it all down is piss easy.
Let that sink in.
Zoom is adding new features to compete with Slack, Calendly, Google and Microsoft
Weeks after laying off 1,300 people (or 15% of the staff), Zoom is introducing new features to compete with numerous companies including Slack, Calendly, Google, and Microsoft. These features include AI-powered meeting summaries, prompt-based email responses, and whiteboard generation along with video “Huddles” and a meeting scheduler.
The company wants you to shift more of your work tasks to its tools. To that end, Zoom is opening up its email and calendar clients to everyone. The video conferencing company started testing these tools last year in a big explore area beyond meetings. There are also hosted email and calendar services on offer with end-to-end encryption protection and custom domains for paid users. Companies could use these services as an alternative to Microsoft Exchange and Google Workspace.
These days it’s difficult to spend a few hours without a company announcing generative AI features. Zoom is expanding its Zoom IQ assistant to provide AI-powered summaries and “ask further questions” even when you join a meeting midway. Once the meeting ends, the bot will post a summary to Zoom’s team chat feature. The assistant can also summarize the chat threads in the team chat.
Until now, Zoom IQ had the ability to record highlights, divide a meeting into chapters, and list action items automatically. Last year, the company also launched Zoom IQ for Sales aiming to provide insights from video calls for sales teams.
Zoom is promising a generative future with Zoom IQ helping users compose chats, emails, and whiteboard sessions, creating meeting agendas. The company is inviting users next month to try these features out with plans for a wider rollout later. The company said it is partnering with OpenAI for the AI features, but it didn’t specify if the partnership includes just API usage or more.
The company introduced some non-AI-focused products as well. It launched Zoom Scheduler in public beta — a Calendly-like tool to share availability to book appointments. Zoom also introduced virtual coworking spaces called Zoom Huddles where people can drop in or drop out at any time. This feature is similar to the Slack Huddles feature, which was introduced in 2021 to have a quick voice or video-based real-time conversations.
Zoom seems to be fighting many battles here. On one hand, it is introducing generative AI features to create emails, meeting agendas, and whiteboards to fight the onslaught of Microsoft and Google. Both of which have announced new generative AI features for workplaces. On the other hand, it is fighting a battle to be a relevant workplace tool beyond meetings that rivals Slack, Calendly, and Otter.
Recently, Slack announced a ChatGPT bot in collaboration with OpenAI. Meanwhile, the transcription tool Otter launched the OtterPilot assistant that automatically summarizes meetings. But that’s not it. Plenty of other meeting-related tools have been launching AI-powered summarization features in different formats.
Zoom’s stock has tanked more than 40% in the last 12 months. The company faced its first quarterly loss of $108 million since 2018 in the fourth quarter results for the 2023 financial year. It expects slowed growth of 1.1% this fiscal year with expected revenue between $4.435 billion to $4.455 billion.
Venti raises $29M for autonomous vehicle tech designed for industrial and logistics hubs
We are still likely many years away from wide-scale deployment — let alone adoption — of fully autonomous vehicles on our streets, but in the meantime autonomous vehicle companies focusing on closed-campus environments continue to raise funding and make headway in building self-driving on a smaller scale. In the latest, a startup called Venti Technologies is announcing that it has raised $28.8 million, a Series A that it plans to use to continue building out its software, partner with third parties for hardware (that is, vehicles), and to secure more deals.
Its target customer comes from the wide range of supply chain businesses that operate across warehouses, ports and other shipping and logistics environments where vehicles — currently driven by humans — are central to operations. Venti’s bet is that even with the high prices associated with self-driving vehicles, industrial customers will pay because longer term it will pay off for them.
“If you have a big logistics facility where you run vehicles, the largest cost is human capital — drivers,” Heidi Wyle, Venti’s founder and CEO, said in an interview. “Our customers are telling us that they expect to save over 50% of their operations costs with self-driving vehicles. Think they will have huge savings.”
LG Technology Ventures, the VC arm of the LG Group, is leading this round, with Safar Partners, UOB Venture Management, and previous investors Alpha JWC and LDV Partners also participating. Venti last raised $8 million, in the summer of 2021. Valuation is not being disclosed.
Venti is coming at the industrial market having had its fingers burned a little from its initial ambitions in the consumer market, where it worked on SUVs and a robo-taxi strategy, among other things, but discovered that the complexity of the scenarios was ultimately insurmountable.
“What I’ve seen is that “robo-taxi” is an extremely difficult problem to solve,” she said. “All of the chaos of the world is sitting in those city streets. Industrial environments are utterly different. It’s not a sexy space but the global supply chain is huge and it got whacked in Covid. They are still digging themselves out of that and we enable them to work better [now], and if another thing like Covid comes along.”
LG — an industrial giant itself both as a primary business and as a supplier to industrial businesses — is not a strategic partner currently, but Wyle said that this is the long-term hope.
“Venti is solving real-world problems for large customers in huge markets with technology that has proven safe, mature and capable of near-term driverless deployment,” said Anshul Agarwal, MD at LG Technology Ventures, in a statement. “We are impressed not only by the technology, which is more complete and rapidly able to provide value to end customers, but also by the world-class team.”
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