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OpenAI launches an API for ChatGPT, a startup attempts a humanoid robot, and Salesforce turns it around



TGIF, my TechCrunch homies. It’s that time of week again — the time for Week in Review, where we recap the past five days in tech news. As always, lots happened, so let’s dig in sans delay.

Well, perhaps with a slight delay. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that TechCrunch Early Stage, TechCrunch’s annual founder summit, is around the corner — on April 20, to be exact. Set in Boston this year, Early Stage will host sessions with advice and takeaways from top experts and provide opportunities to meet entrepreneurs taking incredible journeys. Trust me, it’ll be worth the trek.

Disrupt, TechCrunch’s flagship conference, will also be well worth the trek. (And I’m not just saying that because yours truly will be participating — I swear it!) This year, Disrupt will feature six new stages with industry-specific programming tracks, inspired by our popular TC Sessions series. Experts across climate, mobility, fintech, AI and machine learning, enterprise, privacy and security, and hardware and robotics will be in attendance and will have fascinating insights to share.

So, signed up for both events? Great. Now, here’s the Week in Review!

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ChatGPT in API form: OpenAI introduced an API that’ll allow any business to build ChatGPT tech into their apps, websites, products and services. (As a refresher, ChatGPT is the free text-generating AI that can write human-like code, emails, essays and more.) Snap, Quizlet, Instacart and Shopify are among the early adopters.

Becoming human: A startup, Figure, emerged from stealth this week promising a general-purpose bipedal humanoid robot. (Brian broke the news of the startup’s existence in September, in case you missed it.) The Figure robot’s alpha build, which the company completed in December, is currently being tested in its Sunnyvale offices. It’s focused on a wide range of manual labor tasks for now.

Warrantless surveillance: Zack reports that the Secret Service and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit repeatedly failed to obtain the correct legal paperwork when carrying out invasive cell phone surveillance. The findings were published last week by Homeland Security’s inspector general, tasked with oversight of the U.S. federal department and its many law enforcement units, which said that the agencies often used cell-site simulators without obtaining the appropriate search warrants.

Salesforce turns it around: This week, Salesforce reported its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, including revenue that topped expectations and guidance that came in ahead of street estimates. It was a much-needed win for the company, which was facing increasing pressure from activist investors, including Elliott Management.

Hydrogen powered: Startup Universal Hydrogen took to the air this week with the largest hydrogen fuel cell ever to fly. The 15-minute test flight of a modified Dash-8 aircraft was short, but — as Mark writes — it showed that hydrogen could be viable as fuel for short-hop passenger aircraft. (Many technical and regulatory barriers stand in the way, however.)

Pause your streak: Ivan reports that Snapchat will allow users to pause their Snap streaks — where you send a snap to your friend once every 24 hours — so they don’t have to worry about breaking them if they decide to not access the app for a while.

New nonprofit for AI: A community-driven AI research group, EleutherAI, is forming a nonprofit foundation. Funded by donations and grants from backers, including AI startups Hugging Face and Stability AI, former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, Lambda Labs and Canva, the nonprofit plans to research issues around large language models along the lines of OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Ceasing “Succession”: The official trailer for the final season of “Succession” premiered this week, and it appears that the series is ending with an epic mic drop. As Lauren writes, the HBO series was not only hugely successful, with its 13 Emmy wins and five Golden Globe awards, but it was also an interesting commentary on the media industry. Creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong has admitted to taking inspiration from lots of places, including the Rupert Murdoch playbook.


Like Elon Musk’s meddling with Twitter, the TechCrunch podcast machine never stops. This week on Equity, Mary Ann, Becca and Alex gathered to riff through the week’s biggest startup and venture news, including what’s happening in the land of NFTs, AI versus crypto in venture hype cycles and Amazon’s unlikely partnership. And on The TechCrunch Live Podcast, Matt Burns spoke with Sagi Eliyahu, CEO and co-founder of Tonkean, and Foundation Capital partner Joanne Chen, all about addressing blind spots in leadership and the best ways for founders to work with their board of directors.


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:

The “branding” issue for female VCs: The goal of being a VC is to generate returns for limited partners, and there’s an understanding that a diverse startup ecosystem will lead to better outcomes for all. But Natasha and Rebecca write about how balancing those two, for female VCs, has often manifested in different, often frustrating ways.

Jumping on the AI bandwagon: Camilla Tenn, a PR consultant for Eleven International, writes on whether tech startups should shift their messaging toward AI-related topics. If AI-related coverage can get a new, unknown brand into its target publications today, she argues, it could help get the brand’s pitch deck in front of potential investors tomorrow.

Turning open source into a business: Despite the premise of open source software distribution being “free,” multibillion-dollar companies like Red Hat, MongoDB, GitLab and Elastic have already broken ground building profitable businesses with open source at their core. But is it possible for a smaller open source project to find its way into this land of commercial opportunity? Victoria Melnikova investigates.


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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