What we expect from MWC 2023
In a word: “telecom.” Network and enterprise have long played a key part in Barcelona’s big mobile show, but more than ever, such topics are going to have an outsized role at the event. The consumer element appears to be taking an increasing back seat at the event, which kicks off in earnest next Monday.
The truth of the matter is that Mobile World Congress was never a consumer tech show, per se, but the participation of various smartphone makers transformed it into a handy launching pad. CES (held back in January) is the place where every other category, from smart home and wearables to automotive and robotics, gets their time to shine, while MWC happily adopted the monitor of the big smartphone show.
Of course, a lot has changed since 2019, the last time TechCrunch attended the show in person — both for the industry and the world. Seems a million years ago now that we were all waiting with bated breath for the GSMA to finally pull the plug on the 2020 show. That year’s CES had managed to squeeze in, just under the wire (we can continue to debate the wisdom of that particular decision). As the weeks pressed on, however, it was increasingly clear that late February/early March was not an ideal time to hold an in-person international tech event.
The show returned in 2021, albeit pushed back by four months from its usual time. We weren’t there — nor were many people, for that matter. The show seemingly wasn’t at much risk of hitting its org-enforced attendance cap. The show provided a semblance of normality in 2022, when 60,000 showed up, per the GSMA (TechCrunch once again not among them). Honestly, not a bad showing, even if it was (understandably) down significantly from 2019’s 109,000.
As I’m often inclined to point out, the smartphone industry’s struggles predated the pandemic. The arrival of 5G had put some wind in its sails, but broader trends show that people just aren’t buying smartphones the way they used to. There were a lot of factors, including increased pricing on premium products, fewer groundbreaking innovations and the fact that mobile phones are just better now, slowing down the standard two- to three-year upgrade cycle.
The pandemic compounded everything, of course. Suddenly a lot of people were un- or underemployed and didn’t have the means to splurge on nonessentials. For a while there, people just weren’t leaving the house as often, shifting spending to things like PCs and tablets. In many markets, 5G’s momentum has slowed. Ongoing supply chain issues have also created bottlenecks. And then, of course, there’s inflation.
Toward the end of last year, it was hard to shake the sense that most consumer electronics companies had grown far more cautious with their release cadence. Probably not a bad thing, in terms of the planet, but likely more than a little troubling for shareholders. We’re also currently sitting around, waiting to see how massive layoffs at tech companies will impact the category, looking forward.
Another key trend that predates the pandemic is the move away from leveraging big trade shows to launch tentpole products. Nearly every big company began opting for its own events. Why share a spotlight when you can just make your own? The move toward virtual product launches during the pandemic made the gap even more pronounced. Frankly, even for hardware devices, the model is still perfectly fine for most.
This year, the GSMA expects 75,000 attendees. That’s a modest figure, compared to the halcyon days, but still a lot of people to stick in the Fira convention center in 2023. There are big names on the exhibitor list, including Samsung, Oppo/OnePlus, Huawei and Xiaomi. Some, including Samsung and OnePlus, just released new flagships, so don’t expect many fireworks there. Though the latter has already teased a “concept” device — results will vary on whether that rises to the definition of “news.”
Similarly, Qualcomm did its standard move of announcing the new flagship Snapdragon chip at its conference in Hawaii last year. We’re likely months away from the half-year refresh, though the company always seems to have some chip or other up its sleeve. I do, however, expect news from a number of the top Chinese manufacturers, including the aforementioned Xiaomi, ZTE and Huawei budget offshoot, Honor.
Other notable exhibitors include Nokia IP licenser HMD and HTC, which has effectively shifted all of its eggs into the Vive VR basket. VR/AR/MR/XR is an interesting one, of course. Probably not a huge presence outside of HTC, but everyone is seemingly contractually obligated to do something in the space these days. That said, Meta/Facebook and Sony won’t have a presence at this year’s show. Lenovo will, though. The company habitually releases a lot of devices at the shows it attends, and its subsidiary, Motorola, also seems to have something new on the horizon.
Looking at the speaker agenda, climate impact will (thankfully) be a topic. Lots of people seem to still be talking about the metaverse, for what that’s worth. The GSMA has also pivoted a lot of resources to sports for some reason, while Microsoft is readying a couple of talks about the cloud. AI doesn’t monopolize as much stage time as you might expect, and most of the smart home talk revolves around the introduction of Matter.
There’s also a panel featuring speakers from Samsung, ZTE and the European Space Agency titled “Ready to Talk 6G?” It’s a question that I frankly don’t know how to answer.
For me, personally, it’s going to be a great setting to sit down with some top executives at these companies and ask some difficult questions about where the hell the industry is going.
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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