A SPAC?! In this economy?!

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By Alex Wilhelm

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Good morning, and welcome to TechCrunch AM for February 6! Today, we have Spotify rocketing through a new usage threshold, big money going towards small delivery robots, a host of AI startup news, good news for seed-stage founders, and even some Moon mining. It's a busy morning, let's get to it!

Alex

TechCrunch Top 3

  1. Spotify crests 600M users: In its quarterly report this morning, Spotify said it has crossed the 600 million monthly active user mark. That's about 7% of the global population, if my early-morning math skills are functioning correctly. Shares of the European tech giant are up nearly 8% in pre-market trading after it reported $3.97 billion in revenues, up 16% compared to the year-ago period.
  2. Little robots, big business: Starship Technologies, which builds rolling delivery robots, just raised $90 million in a round led by existing investors Plural and Iconical. Starship claims to be profitable, and plans to use its new capital to boost production. Last-mile delivery is tough to pull off profitably, but perhaps all that's needed are more cute little robots.
  3. Using AI to beat back doctor cruft: Ambience Healthcare just raised $70 million, TechCrunch reports. And, yes, it's another AI startup. But Ambience is building more than another way to lever AI to save a few corporate minutes. Instead, its software purports to "help clinicians complete the substantial administrative work required of them." If it can do that, then we could see substantial gains in healthcare worker productivity. Given the global shortage of care providers, that's a potentially big market. Hence the capital.
TechCrunch Top 3 image

Image Credits: Starship under a license.

Don't miss these

Smaller funds keep raising: Hot on the heels of Wonder Ventures raising $102 million for two funds, Episode 1 has raised $95 million for its third fund. These more modest capital vehicles are critical avenues for pre-seed and seed deals, which, of course, help the next generation of startups in their quest to scale and take down incumbents. Wonder is based in the United States, while Episode 1 has a European focus.

What's new in AI: Starting in China, the race to develop powerful generative video technologies is heating up thanks to Tencent. This week, the Chinese technology giant unveiled a new version of its open source video generation model, DynamiCrafter, on GitHub. It's not alone. Domestic competitors ByteDance and Baidu are also working in the field. With that much market cap arguing over who gets to build the future of AI video in China, I expect we'll all benefit from what is invented.

Elsewhere, AI is being put toward more day-to-day tasks, like reinventing the ever-disliked corporate training video. Thanks, of course, to AI technology, Colossyan just raised $22 million for the idea. Kyle Wiggers took the tech for a spin and found it to be a pretty credible option. Of course, using AI to save money on corporate training videos is one thing, but actually getting workers to sit still and watch them is another.

And over in the UK, the government has a £100 million plan to bolster its ability to understand and regulate AI, and is conserving the majority of the funds to establish nine research hubs to foster homegrown AI innovation in areas such as healthcare, math and chemistry. That sounds, well, pretty forward-thinking if I am being honest.

$1M for African edtech: The African startup market has seen its share of ups and downs, just like the edtech market itself. So when Klas raised $1 million for its African edtech solution, which enables users to create and sell ebooks, courses, and live classes, we sat up and took note. Techstars took part in the transaction, which is notable.

Meta to step up AI labeling: Meta has been in a fracas lately concerning what is allowed on its platform thanks to modern AI tools. Its oversight board is not happy with its recent choices, for example. Now, the company is working to better label AI-generated material that was built using technology sourced from rival tech giants. Meta has its own LLM play, of course, but it is far from the only progenitor of such tooling. So, working to understand and market what other models have built is good sense, given its massive platform reach, not to mention the upcoming elections.

A SPAC? In this economy? Lynk is forging ahead with its blank-check corporation, despite dwindling cash reserves in its partner SPAC. "No matter, we'll do it anyway!" the company appears to be saying. It's bold of the provider of satellite-to-network cellular connectivity to take the well-worn shortcut to the public markets given that most tech shops that have tried the SPAC route in recent years have seen their worth incinerated. Still, Lynk is doing something expensive and technically risky anyway, so a SPAC doesn't make zero sense.

And, even more: We're low on space, but there's still so much to cover. Cybersecurity startup Ionix just added $15 million to its $27 million Series A; fintech startup CRED is buying fellow Indian startup Kuvera to delve deeper into wealth management; and Saleor, which is building an open-source, headless e-commerce platform, just landed an $8 million seed extension round. Saleor will not only compete with Shopify, but also BigCommerce, which offers its own headless product.

Don't miss these image

Image Credits: Tencent DynamiCrafter

Before you go

As a science-fiction nerd, when someone says "technology for lunar in situ resource utilization," I stand up and take note. Moon mining? We're going to mine the Moon? Sign me up. I have used jackhammers before and have even done a good bit of concrete work. Send me first, Interlune.

Before you go image

Image Credits: Eva Marie Uzcategui / Getty Images

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