Hey, folks — welcome to Week in Review (WiR), Zero2Billions’s regular meeting of the week on tech. If life gets in the way of following the main story in TC, don’t sweat it. You have come to the right place.
In this issue, we cover the 19-year-old MIT dropout “switching gunpowder” for the defense industry, as well as the VanMoof, the darling e-bike, which halted sales as executives headed for the exit door. Elsewhere, robotaxi haters in San Francisco have disabled AV with traffic cones, Twitter CEO Elon Musk launched an AI organization and Instagram’s Thread app hit 100 million downloads. Wow.
Read on for the week’s top stories — and if you haven’t already, sign up here to get WiR in your inbox every Saturday.
Hydrogen-powered defense: Aria writes about Mach Industries, a defense startup that has caught the attention of VCs and DoD. The company’s 19-year-old founder, Ethan Thornton, pioneered the R&D of hydrogen-powered platforms for the military, including unmanned aerial vehicles, ammunition and hydrogen generation systems.
VanMoof slips off track: Dutch e-bike startup VanMoof is foraying into the world of mobility with a venture backing of over $200 million. But his wealth seems to have taken a turn for the worse. The company stopped taking orders at the end of June, and sources claim that senior staff, including the CEO and co-founder, left the executive role as VanMoof looks to secure a bridge round to avert bankruptcy.
Pedestrians fight back: A decentralized group of safe walking activists in San Francisco realized they could disable the Cruise and Waymo robotaxis by placing traffic cones on the hoods of vehicles – and they’re encouraging others to do so, too. The protests come ahead of a trial that will likely see Waymo and Cruise expand their robotaxi service in San Francisco.
Threads hit another milestone: Despite lacking features like post search, direct messages, and hashtags, Instagram’s text-based app and Twitter competitor, Threads hit the 100 million sign-ups mark this week. Twitter Rival launched on June 6 (or June 5 in America), according to tracker.
Google Calendar gets availability sharing: This week, Google released new scheduling-related features for Gmail with Google Calendar integration, including quick event creation and easy availability sharing. Gmail will now have a calendar icon at the bottom of the conversation view, which will have two options — “Create an event” and “Offer your free time”.
Satellites are getting cunning: Starlink satellites are performing thousands of evasion maneuvers as low Earth orbit becomes more compact — adding to fears that a catastrophic impact is inevitable. SpaceX’s orbital communications satellite made more than 25,000 maneuvers in the six-month period between December 1, 2022 and May 21, 2023, double the number of evasion maneuvers performed by the Starlink satellite in the previous reporting period.
Making interstellar space travel a reality: Space propulsion company Pulsar Fusion has started construction of a large nuclear fusion chamber in the UK as it races to become the first company to fire a nuclear fusion powered propulsion system in space. Nuclear fusion propulsion technology, if proven commercially viable, could cut the journey time to Mars by half and the time to Titan, Saturn’s moon, to two years instead of 10.
Anthropic Claude 2 Release: This week, Anthropic, an AI startup co-founded by former OpenAI executives, announced the release of a new text-generating AI model called Claude 2. Anthropic claims that Claude 2 is superior to its predecessor, Claude 1.3 , in several areas and greatly capable in tasks such as searching through documents, summarizing, writing and coding, and answering questions on specific topics.
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On Equity, the crew talk about a variety of topics, including a new Chinese AI model that leaves them wondering who will really win the AI war; Founders Fund scoops up new partners; Connectic Ventures uses AI models to create an unbiased landscape for entrepreneurs; and cooling technology layoffs and inflation.
And more on Chain reaction, Jacquelyn interviewed Maria Shen, general partner on the investment team at Electric Capital, an early-stage venture firm focused on crypto, blockchain, fintech, and markets. In March 2022, the company announced that it was closing $1 billion for a pair of crypto funds — a $400 million vehicle to make equity investments in startups and a $600 million fund intended to invest directly in crypto tokens.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth comments, analysis, and surveys — which you know when you’re already a subscriber. If not, consider signing up. Here are some highlights from this week:
The light at the end of the tunnel: “There is good reason to believe that the massive correction in venture capital activity that we have seen over the last six quarters has worked itself out,” wrote Alex.
Amazon and the brands it kills: Haje reports on the fate of Digital Photography Review, best known as DPReview, which is considered one of the best review and news sites. Amazon acquired him in 2007, slowly replacing staff with contractors and freelancers until dropping them in March.
ESG, safe for now: Corporate executives probably make a lot of noise about ESG (environmental, social and governance) — some positive, some not. But Tim writes that when it comes to investors, concerns over sustainability are likely to persist.
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