Apple snaps up DarwinAI and Zscaler snags Avalor

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By Alex Wilhelm

Friday, March 15, 2024

Welcome to TechCrunch AM! Will TikTok get banned? Will it be spared? The controversy is now swirling towards the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress. If you aren't that interested in regulatory fights, don't worry, because this morning, you can read about a 2-year-old cybersecurity startup's huge exit, new import rules in India that could shake up its EV market, and Apple's latest buy: A small startup with a focus on, you guessed it, AI.


TechCrunch Top 3

  1. What's next for TikTok: In the wake of the House of Representatives' passage of a bill that would force a divestment of TikTok from parent company Bytedance or ban it in the United States, the proposed law is heading to the Senate. But the bill, Taylor Hatmaker reports, is not guaranteed to be passed. In fact, it's "far from apparent that the upper chamber of Congress shares the House's appetite for laser-targeting a single tech company with tailored legislation."
  2. Apple buys DarwinAI: The Canadian startup uses AI to watch components during manufacturing to help improve efficiency, and has raised $15 million during its time as a private company. With capital from BDC Capital, Obvious Ventures and others, the company also has methods for making AI models smaller and quicker, which could be useful for Apple's AI plans for its myriad portable devices.
  3. PornHub bows out of Texas: Age verification laws for adult content are gaining steam in the United States, leading to a legal scrap between PornHub and certain states. In the wake of a legal setback in Texas, PornHub and its sister sites have decided to vacate the state. Google Trends data indicates that searches for VPNs in Texas have spiked.
TechCrunch Top 3 image

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Morning must-reads

India changes import rules in boon to EV makers: Electric car companies that invest a minimum of $500 million in India, and "establish local manufacturing for EVs with at least 25% of components sourced domestically" will be allowed to import 8,000 cars at a reduced tax rate of 15%. Currently, imported cars can carry a 70% to 100% tax rate in India. Given how much of Tesla's manufacturing is based in China, the EV-maker may now have an easier road to selling in India.

How blockchain is tacking content authenticity: It seems we're back in the crypto bull-cycle, so it's worth paying attention to what companies are doing with blockchain tech. In a recent interview, TechCrunch's Jacquelyn Melinek spoke to Fox Corp's CTO Melody Hildebrandt about the push to verify content authenticity on blockchains. Given the AI-media kerfuffle playing out right now, Fox's collaborative project with Polygon has a pretty huge market to tackle.

Paytm lands payments lifeline, but issues remain: Paytm has secured access to India's UPI payment infra just days before its banking unit is set to shutter in the wake of a scrap with the country's banking regulator. The new setup is not as winsome for Paytm as its previous bank, but will allow it to compete with PhonePe and Google Pay in the country.

TFW your AI is not AI: A new commercial from clothing brand Under Armour ran head-first into controversy after it was dubbed the "world's first AI-powered sports commercial" by its creator. It turns out that the company used a bunch of human-created material in its creation. AI is cool, but saying things are AI when they are not is not.

Zscaler buys Avalor: Cybersecurity giant Zscaler is buying Avalor just 26 months after the startup was founded. With the deal reportedly worth $310 million, it's a material exit for the startup market. Zscaler is one of the fastest-growing software companies in the market today, and is worth just under $30 billion. Avalor "acts as a source of truth for cybersecurity assets, controls, identities, vulnerabilities, bugs and other data points, allowing security teams to aggregate, normalize, de-duplicate and track risk data from discovery to remediation," Kyle Wiggers writes.

Morning must-reads image

Image Credits: Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Getty Images

Don't miss these

  1. Abu Dhabi's ADIA eyes India's Pocket FM
  2. Google's I/O event returns May 14th and 15th
  3. The EU doesn't love Meta's 'pay or ads' model

Before you go

Mercedes Benz starts testing out humanoid robots: TechCrunch's Brian Heater writes that "pilot season has officially begun for the world of humanoid robotics." Amazon is testing Agility's Digit robots in some of its fulfillment centers, and more recently, Mercedes Benz has been working with Texas-based Apptronik, which builds a "general-purpose humanoid robot." Humans are expensive and robots don't need snacks or smoke breaks, so expect to see more of this.

Before you go image

Image Credits: Apptronik

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