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iOS gains new emoji, Showtime joins a pricier Paramount+, and Instagram launches Channels



Hey, TechCrunch besties. After a week in Korea and the Philippines, it’s great to be back in the States — and slightly more tan (i.e., burnt) than before. Massive thanks to Henry, who was forced to step in over the past two weeks thanks to my failing to realize that Korean Air does not offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Talk about a good sport.

If you’re wondering about Greg’s status, not to worry — he’s due to return from a well-deserved parental leave in a month and change. In the meantime, I’m here to nag you about TechCrunch’s upcoming headliner events.

TechCrunch Early Stage is fast approaching — it’s on April 20 in Boston this year, and it’ll host experts across the venture and tech landscape who’ll speak to solutions in getting a startup off the ground. (Also in Boston: City Spotlight, which kicks off February 27.) On the far horizon, there’s TechCrunch Disrupt (September 19–21), which promises to be an absolute blowout this year. Having taken a peek at the preliminary guest list, let me just say this: It won’t disappoint.

With those administrative bits out of the way, let’s get on with Week in Review. (If you want it in your inbox every Saturday, sign up here). Here are the top stories from the past several days!

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Dashed ambitions: Tage exclusively reports that allegedly Dash CEO Prince Boakye Boampong was temporarily suspended pending an investigation into financial impropriety at the company. Boampong, one of Africa’s best-known serial entrepreneurs, is reportedly accused of engaging in financial misreporting; sources tell TechCrunch that executives repeatedly concealed financials within the firm while laying off employees at will. Prior to Boampong’s alleged suspension, Dash had raised tens of millions in venture capital at an over-$200 million valuation.

New iOS, new emoji: Apple released the iOS 16.4 developer beta, which brought with it the next set of emoji coming to iPhones. Originally unveiled during the draft phase last year, the emoji span categories like food and drink, activity, objects, animals and symbols. Sarah writes that among the highlights are variations on the heart emoji, pushing hand gestures and a “shaking face” emoji. Curious users can check out the new additions by enrolling in Apple’s Developer Program.

Pony up for Paramount: Ahead of the launch of “Paramount+ with Showtime,” a new TV streaming service bundle that’ll see Showtime integrated with Paramount+, Paramount announced that it would be increasing the price of its Paramount+ Premium tier from $9.99 per month to $11.99 per month. It’s not an unexpected move — Paramount CEO Bob Bakish telegraphed the plans in early December — but it could nonetheless put Paramount+ with Showtime at a disadvantage as it competes with Warner Bros. Discovery’s upcoming HBO Max/Discovery+ service.

Feishu is the new Slack: Feishu, ByteDance’s Slack-like workplace collaboration app, surpassed $100 million in annual recurring revenue last year, Rita writes. ByteDance’s heavy investment in Feishu is telling of the state of enterprise software in China. At a time when Silicon Valley investors are heralding product-led growth, software in China is still largely counting on sales, marketing and services to recruit users.

Channeling Instagram: Instagram launched a new broadcast chat feature this week called “Channels.” Aisha reports that it lets creators share public, one-to-many messages to directly engage with their followers. Channels support text, images, polls, reactions and more. Instagram is starting to test channels with select creators in the U.S. and plans to expand the feature in coming months.

Salesforce under pressure: Salesforce is looking for new ways to cut costs as activist investors put pressure on the company. This week, Salesforce implemented stricter performance measurements for engineering, with some salespeople being put under pressure to quit or succumb to harsh performance policies of their own. As Ron writes, it’s probably related to the fact that activist investors have been circling the company, undoubtedly pushing management to increase productivity and reduce expenditures.

Safety concerns dog Tesla: Tesla this week issued a recall of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software, an advanced driver-assistance system that federal regulators say could allow vehicles to act unsafe around intersections. Affecting over 362,000 vehicles, the recall was motivated in part, Telsa disclosed, by concerns that FSD-driven vehicles might respond insufficiently to changes in posted speed limits, among other concerns. FSD beta software — from its name and Musk’s promises around its capabilities to its rollout and safety concerns — has been controversial, attracting scrutiny from regulatory agencies.

Snapping up users: Snapchat now has over 750 million monthly active users (MAUs). The company announced the milestone during its Investor Day on Thursday, Sarah reports. Snapchat said it sees a path to reaching over 1 billion people in the next two to three years, but whether it’ll actually achieve that remains to be seen. In any case, 750 MAUs puts Snapchat ahead of Pinterest (450 million) but behind Facebook (2.96 billion).

A Tetris movie: Apple TV+ this week released the first trailer for its movie “Tetris,” based on the origin story of the popular puzzle video game. Starring Taron Egerton, who plays American video game salesman Henk Rogers, “Tetris” tells the story of Rogers and his mission to secure the distribution rights of the game. The movie will premiere at South by Southwest film festival in March, after which Apple will release it worldwide on Apple TV+ (on March 31).


TechCrunch has a wonderful lineup of audio programming, in case you weren’t aware. In other words, we’ve got podcasts for days. This week on Equity, Mary Ann and Becca got on the mic to talk about Descope’s $53 million seed round, Phenomenal Ventures’ new fund and a Mexican neobank’s latest raise. On Found, Darrell and Becca talked with Alex Rappaport, the CEO and co-founder of ZwitterCo, which makes it practical for industries to recycle water and enhance product recovery with new filtration technology. And over at TechCrunch Live, the crew went live (not to be repetitive) with CFO-turned-CEO Christina Ross and her Mayfield Fund partner, Rajeev Batra, to talk about the story behind Ross’ company, Cube, and how it meets its customers where they’re at.


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:

An egg, but not: Price parity with traditional foods is one of the main challenges for alternative protein startups. However, the avian flu, a shortage of cage-free eggs and a subsequent rise in prices in late 2022 seems to provide an “in” for alternative egg companies to show they can compete. Christine takes a deep dive.

Down but not out: Natasha M writes how an emerging class of founders is reminding the tech ecosystem how collapse can be an activator. Laid-off talent is flocking to build startups within all sectors, from climate to crypto to the creator economy. And they’re hoping to course-correct where their alma maters — both Big Tech companies and small upstarts alike — went wrong.

Is the tech jobs market as bad as it seems?: Ron investigates the state of the tech jobs market, finding that — while some numbers are down — it’s not a clear-cut matter. His top-level observation? Tech workers, especially those with specialized skills like engineering, data science, AI and cybersecurity, continue to be in demand as supply lags behind the number of open jobs.


Just 7 days until the TC Early Stage early bird flies away



Budget-minded entrepreneurs and early-stage startup founders take heed — this is no time to procrastinate. We have only 7 days left of early-bird pricing to TechCrunch Early Stage 2023 in Boston on April 20.

Don’t wait…the early bird gets the…SAVINGS: Buy a $249 founder pass and save $200 before prices increase on April 1 — that’s no joke.

TC Early Stage is our only event where you get hands-on training with experts to help your business succeed. No need to reinvent the startup wheel — you’ll have access to leading experts across a range of specialties.

During this one-day startup bootcamp, you’ll learn about legal issues, fundraising, marketing, growth, product-market fit, pitching, recruiting and more. We’re talking more than 40 highly engaging presentations, workshops and roundtables with interactive Q&As and plenty of time for networking.

Here are just a few examples of the topics we have on tap. You’ll find plenty more listed in the event agenda.

How to Tell Your TAM: Dayna Grayson from Construct Capital invests in the rebuilding of the most foundational and broken industries of our economy. Industries such as manufacturing and logistics, among others, that formed in an analog world have been neglected by advanced technology. Dayna will talk about how, beyond the idea, founders can pitch investors on their TAM, including how they will wedge into the market and how they will eventually disrupt it.

How to Think About Accelerators and Incubators: Founders often hear they should get involved with an incubator or accelerator, but when is the “right” time for early-stage founders to apply to these types of startup support ecosystems, and how can they best engage if accepted? In this talk, Harvard Innovation Labs executive director Matt Segneri will cover everything from the types of incubators and accelerators available to early-stage founders, to what startups should consider before applying, and tips for getting the most out of these ecosystems.

How to Raise Outside of SV in a Down Market: Silicon Valley’s funding market tends to be more immune to macroeconomic conditions than elsewhere in the world. So how do you raise outside the Valley bubble? General Catalyst’s Mark Crane has ample experience on both the founder and VC side from all over Europe, as well as a firm understanding of the funding landscape in the northeastern U.S., so he’ll give practical advice on how to stay alive and thrive.

At TechCrunch Early Stage you’ll walk away with a deeper working understanding of topics and skills that are essential to startup success. Founders save $200 with an early-bird founder ticketcollege students pay just $99!

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Twitter will kill ‘legacy’ blue checks on April 1



Twitter has picked April Fool’s Day, otherwise known as April 1, to start removing legacy blue checkmarks from the platform.

Despite the significance of the day Twitter chose, the removal of legacy checkmarks has been anticipated for months now. Musk tweeted in December that the company would remove those checks “in a few months” because “the way in which they were given out was corrupt and nonsensical.”

Since then, legacy blue checkmark holders have been seeing a pop-up when they click on their checkmark that reads, “This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.”

Before Musk acquired the company, Twitter used checkmarks to verify individuals and entities as active, authentic and notable accounts of interest. Verified checkmarks were doled out for free.

Today, Twitter users can purchase a blue check through the Twitter Blue subscription model for $8 per month (iOS and Android signups will cost $11 per month, due to app store costs). There are also other checkmark colors and badges available for purchase to denote whether an account is a business or a government, for example.

Twitter says the purchase of a checkmark gives users access to subscriber-only features like fewer ads on their timeline, prioritized ranking in conversations, bookmark folders, and the ability to craft long tweets, edit tweets and undo tweets.

The news comes within hours of Twitter also announcing the availability of the Blue subscription globally.

Twitter did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for more information about how many users have already signed up for Twitter Blue.

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Roofstock, valued at $1.9B last year, cuts 27% of staff in second round of layoffs



Proptech company Roofstock has laid off about 27% of its staff today, according to an email sent to employees viewed by TechCrunch. The cuts come just five months after the startup laid off 20% of its workforce.

The company’s website states that it has 400+ employees, or “Roofsters” as they’re dubbed, but it is not known if that figure is current.

Roofstock, an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes, one year ago raised $240 million at a $1.9 billion valuation. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led that financing, which included participation from existing and new backers including Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and others. Roofstock has raised a total of over $365 million in funding since its 2015 inception, per Crunchbase.

According to the email seen by TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Gary Beasley said today’s reduction in force (RIF) was “in response to the challenging macro environment” and the “negative impact” it is having on Roofstock’s business.

He added that the company was not expecting to have to cut more staff so soon but that it needed to “right size” in an effort “to reduce cash burn rate” and ensure it has “adequate capital runway until the market eventually turns.”

Beasley sent the email because apparently, the Zoom meeting where it was addressed “maxed out on attendees.”

Oakland, Calif.-based Roofstock lets people buy and sell rental homes in dozens of U.S. markets. The premise behind the company is that both institutional and retail investors can buy and sell homes without forcing renters to leave their homes. Meanwhile, buyers can also presumably generate income from day one. 

At the time of its raise in March 2022, the company said that it had facilitated more than $5 billion in transaction volume, more than half of which had come from the last year alone.

Just days before its last round of layoffs last year, Roofstock made headlines for selling its first single-family home using NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

Rising mortgage rates and a slowdown in the housing market led to challenges for many real estate technology companies in 2022 that continue this year. Opendoor, Redfin, Compass, and Homeward were among the other startups that also laid off workers. IBuyer Reali also announced it was shutting down after raising $100 million the year prior.

TechCrunch has reached out to Roofstock but had not heard back at the time of writing but multiple sources confirmed that layoffs had taken place today.

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