Magic Eraser comes to more devices, Spotify gains an AI DJ, and Netflix decreases prices
It’s Friday (or should I say, Fri-yay.) You’ve made it. Give yourself a pat on the back — and then go read the rest of this issue of Week in Review, TechCrunch’s newsletter summing up the past seven days in tech (sign up here to get it directly in your inbox every Saturday). I’ll continue to be your WiR emcee for the next few weeks until Greg returns from parental leave. Goodness knows I lack his wit, but I’ll try to make up for it in pith. Go easy on me, please.
First things first, I’m contractually obligated (not really… but maybe actually?) to highlight TechCrunch’s upcoming events this calendar year.
TechCrunch Live is making a special (virtual) trip to Boston on February 27 for City Spotlight: Boston, and it’ll be completely free. That’s right — free! No excuses for skipping out on this one. Beyond City Spotlight, TC will be back in Boston in April for Early Stage, which will feature expert-led sessions about growing an — you guessed it — early-stage company. Last but not least, mark your calendar for TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which takes place in San Francisco from September 19–21. It’ll be one to remember.
With the PSAs out of the way, let’s get on with the roundup:
Erase your mistakes: One of Google Pixel’s best photo-editing features, “Magic Eraser,” is now making its way to other Android and iOS devices. But it won’t be free. This week, Google announced that the popular tool, which uses AI to remove unwanted content from images, will become available to Google One subscribers and to existing Pixel owners. Google One subscribers will receive a small handful of other editing tools as well, like a new HDR video effect, exclusive collage Styles and more.
Facebook jail: Sarah reports that Meta will be reforming its penalty system based on the recommendations from the Oversight Board, the independent body of experts, academics, civic leaders and lawyers who now weigh in on appeals decisions made by Meta. The social network says it will reform its system to focus less on penalizing users by restricting their ability to post and more on explaining the reasoning behind its content removals, which it believes will be a fairer and more effective means of moderating content on its platform.
TikTok in cars: TikTok is making its way into vehicles, starting with the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class that’s coming to market in fall 2023. The car’s newly updated MBUX infotainment system, which will feature a “superscreen” that spans the entire dashboard, will allow drivers to click on the TikTok app and watch videos when the vehicle is parked. How’s that for TikTok overload?
AI in my Spotify: Spotify this week launched a new AI feature called “DJ” to better personalize the music-listening experience for its users. Similar to a radio DJ, Spotify’s DJ feature will deliver a curated selection of music alongside AI-powered spoken commentary about the tracks and artists you like, using what Spotify says is a “stunningly realistic voice.” Neat!
Price drop: Netflix decreased its subscription costs in more than 100 territories over the past week as customers continue to contemplate which streaming services to keep amid price hikes. The company has been under fire lately after rolling out password-sharing rules to Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain, but another potential reason for the price decrease is to fare better against competition such as Paramount+, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Hulu.
Military secrets: On Monday, the U.S. Department of Defense secured an exposed server that had been spilling internal U.S. military emails to the open internet for the past two weeks. The server was hosted on Microsoft’s Azure government cloud for Department of Defense customers, which uses servers that are physically separated from other commercial customers and as such can be used to share sensitive but unclassified government data.
Compute by OpenAI: OpenAI is quietly launching a new developer platform that lets customers run the company’s newer machine learning models, like GPT-3.5, on dedicated capacity. In screenshots of documentation published to Twitter by users with early access, OpenAI describes the forthcoming offering, called Foundry, as “designed for cutting-edge customers running larger workloads.”
YouTube goes multilingual: YouTube announced this week that it’s rolling out support for multilanguage audio tracks, which will allow creators to add dubbing to their new and existing videos, helping them to reach an international audience. The company says the technology to support multilanguage audio tracks was built in-house at YouTube, but creators will need to partner directly with third-party dubbing providers to create their audio tracks.
Here’s your weekly reminder that TechCrunch has a diverse array of podcasts for your listening pleasure. This week on The TechCrunch Podcast, Haje stepped in for Darrell to talk with Taylor about the Supreme Court cases that could change the internet as we know it. On Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn interviewed Alex Adelman, the co-founder and CEO of Lolli, a bitcoin rewards app that lets people earn bitcoin or cash back when they shop online or in person at over 10,000 stores. The Found crew spoke with Michael Chime, the co-founder and CEO of Prepared, which is leading the charge to modernize 911 calls by providing access to video and photos. And over at Equity, the gang covered trends such as the possible return of IPOs and accelerators that back the startups of laid-off tech workers.
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 ticket — college students pay just $99!
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.
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, Better.com 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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