Welcome to Startups Weekly. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.
It seems like Fizzle has dropped out of the VR conversation altogether, as each manufacturer and conversation refocuses its attention on AR. It’s not particularly new, but Apple’s flagship headset is a giant leap from virtual reality, embracing the mixed world more fully.
Apple hasn’t really added much to the conversation so far – the headset hasn’t started shipping yet, however – but you’d be in for a very spicy mix of spices out of touch with reality to bet against the Cupertino giants these days. This is a great opportunity for beginners.
Will we find humanity in AI?
There’s an old joke: Bob says to his friend, peering into the abyss of infinite space: “Do you think there is intelligent life out there?” Anna replied: “Why there – almost none here.” Hilarious, yes, but the punch line keeps on looping in my head as the AI trains keep hurtling along the track. Look, I don’t think artificial intelligence is inherently evil or good, but it has to be trained on something, and the best we have is a lot of human knowledge. Humans may not be inherently evil, but jeez, we’re not all that nice either.
This week, Devin noted that, in the midst of a writers’ strike, it was an insensitive time when Fable Studios showcased a fake episode of “South Park” created by AI.
Apple (you know, the giant Cupertino-based company. They make earbuds and such) was also in the news for AI for a bit. Relevant to startups, it removes the AI-powered content generator that mimics the Threads Meta app. Less relevant to startups, but I imagine it will give a nervous twitch or two, the company is reportedly testing a ChatGPT-like AI chatbot. Maybe Siri will finally cultivate some intelligence – because right now, she’s surprisingly subpar in the “intelligence” department. I may ramble on about that more in my column next week.
I’m not a fan of Shein, to be honest (by nature disposable clothing is terrible for the environment), but now there’s another reason to have problems with clothing manufacturers: Designers are annoyed that Shein is tearing up their work using AI and suing the company.
You doodle it, Stability makes it good: you’ve probably seen that “draw some circles, now draw another owl” memes that have been circulating the internet forever. This week, Stability AI takes the meme to a new level with Stable Doodle, a sketch-to-draw tool.
Bonjour, Bard: Google’s Bard chatbot has finally launched in the EU and supports over 40 languages. But, as you might expect, the EU is watching it closely, as privacy advocates are watching.
Goodbye, Joanne: Roboticist Joanne Pransky passed away recently and has left a lasting impact on the industry, bringing a uniquely human element to conversations about robotics and automation. A much needed addition to the conversation, if you ask me.
Off the chain. . .
… or maybe the chain broke. Fashion-forward bike company VanMoof met its death this week, and we wonder how the popular e-bike pioneer managed to pedal its way to bankruptcy last week, even when the market was booming. The company steered clear this week with a formal declaration of bankruptcy in the Netherlands.
On transportation, Tesla announced that the first Cybertruck has finally rolled off the manufacturing line, years after it was promised. Tesla also announced one of the wildest things I’ve ever heard in a hot minute – as someone who has been driving a Tesla FSD for a while, and turned the function off because I kept worrying about my life, it made my stomach laugh to learn that Tesla plans to soon license its FSD technology to other OEMs. It will be interesting to see what happens on both fronts, especially when the competition responds. Ford slashed the price of its F-150 Lightning EV pickup, and the manufacturer went for fuel with hands-off drive, when it released the BlueCruise 1.3.
When payday goes negative: It looks like Tesla’s director-level salaries were a little excessive there for a moment, and they paid $735 million to settle claims that they overpaid themselves.
Sure, it’s human: I rarely go for a drive without muttering about drivers doing spectacularly stupid things, but Cruise and Waymo blaming humans and their poor driving skills for robotaxi clearance delays seems a bit rich. That people are bad drivers should be the No. 1 thing. 1 is the most predictable, right? Safety regulators were baffled by the company’s advertisement, saying it was bad to use accidents by human drivers as a sales tactic.
Wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t catch fire, tho?: Rebecca reports that NYC gig workers need help accessing safe e-bikes amid a lithium battery fire.
Big trend in startup land
Startup layoffs have been in our headlines for most of the year. Our Equity Podcast ponders that tech startups may be in the trimming phase right now.
Fundraising has gone up and down a bit over the last year, but one thing that has been an overarching theme is whether startups can turn a profit — or at least have a clear path to get there. That led Alex to analyze at TC+ whether software startups are actually a good business.
Speaking of good business – it’s pretty much universally understood that “Shark Tank” is entertainment and there is a round of due diligence that happens after the cameras stop rolling. But Manish reported that “Shark Tank India” investors failed to deliver on promises, which grumbled (yes, that’s a word for sure) some event attendees.
Zero2Billions+ spoke with a founder who decided to take his place as CEO. It was a very honest and vulnerable conversation. You must read it. While I’m biased — I wrote it — this is a story rarely told about startups, but it’s very common.
There have been some fun outings in the past week. Here are a few of them.
The quick fix: Amanda reports that Passes acquired Fanhouse, after negotiations that appeared to last 24 hours, but some creators are concerned about the move.
Milking: Christine reports that Bobbie’s infant formula company raised $70 million, spending most of it to acquire rival Nature’s One.
Milking it again: It’s rare for venture capital firms to support startups again after exiting – especially those that are still private companies; however, that is exactly what happened with Performance Livestock Analytics (PLA) this week.
Top reads on Zero2Billions this week
Bench, bench, bench: Aria meets a 19-year-old MIT dropout working on a “gunpowder replacement” for the defense industry.
Not a fan, then: Amanda reports that after about two and a half years as CEO, Ami Gan is leaving OnlyFans. Chief strategy and operations officer Kelly Blair will take over as CEO.
I hope you’ll build me a website: Kyle writes that the Wix AI Site Generator tool, announced today, will allow users to make their point and create a website complete with a homepage, inside page, and text and images — as well as a dedicated business section for events, bookings, and more.
And finally, I tried buying articles on Zero2Billions. I know, I write for Zero2Billions, so it’s a pretty weird thing to do, but I spent $800 baiting some scammers. What I didn’t expect was to stumble into a Fiverr-powered rat’s nest of organized crime and assholes posing as my partners.
Get your Zero2Billions fix IRL. Join us at Disrupt 2023 in San Francisco this September to immerse yourself in all things startup. From keynote interviews to intimate roundtables to packed startup exhibition floors, there’s something for everyone at Disrupt. Save up to $600 when you buy a pass now through August 11th, and save 15% on top with promo code STARTUPS. Study again.