US Tiktokers are angry that their favorite app is in danger

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By Alex Wilhelm

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Welcome to TechCrunch AM! If you're near Boca Chica, Texas, look to the skies today, because there's a massive rocket launch happening. We also have notes on the latest TikTok mess, the state of deep tech in Europe, the rebirth of meme tokens, several hot funding rounds, and what’s hot in the robotics industry.


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TechCrunch Top 3

  1. By the time you read this, SpaceX's Starship should have tried to launch again: The third launch of SpaceX's space-faring vessel is scheduled for this morning. This launch of the massive rocket follows a far-improved second attempt, though that ended in the destruction of the vehicle. No matter, things blowing up is part of the process of learning how to send bigger, more powerful ships into space.
  2. TikTok users incensed about potential ban: A bill to force a divestment of TikTok from its Chinese parent ByteDance or ban the app outright is heading to the Senate, and the President has already indicated that he will sign the law if it reaches his desk. Many TikTok users, Amanda Silberling reports, are unhappy with these moves and are actively protesting it. (It's worth noting that the EFF is also opposed to the bill.)
  3. Will content deals help OpenAI secure its dominance? OpenAI's new content deals with leading news organizations in Spain and France has resulted in people in tech, like Hunter Walk, raising concerns. Walk argues that if innovation in AI is predicated on payouts to companies who hold rights to media, then AI's progress will be constrained to the most wealthy companies. It's a valid argument, but I wonder why media must be valued very low so that tech companies can profit handsomely? Perhaps instead of up-front payments, media rights holders could be paid on the back-end of revenue generation?
TechCrunch Top 3 image

Image Credits: SpaceX

Don't miss these

Don't count Europe out: Europe's position in the world of deep tech – the hard stuff replete with both technology and business risk – has been a question for some time. The good news is, a lot of smart money is betting that Europe does indeed have a long-term seat at the deep tech table: Venture firm Elaia's third deep tech seed fund, DTS3, has reached a first close of €60 million. The fund is expected to reach €120 million by early next year.

Solana, meme tokens rise once again: Covering crypto is like watching a particularly stubborn boxer in the ring. No matter what sort of battering the industry takes, it eventually gets back on its feet and continues where it left off — meaning, there's a lot of technical work happening to make blockchains more useful and powerful. The current crypto thaw has pushed up the value of well-known tokens associated with the bitcoin and ethereum blockchains, as well as the worth of Solana – a former venture darling – and other less popular crypto tokens like 'dogwifhat,' 'jeo boden,' 'doland tremp' tokens.

OmniRetail shows it's possible to run a profitable e-commerce biz: Venture investment has slowed in Africa over the past couple of years, and many unprofitable e-commerce businesses in the region are suffering due to the lack of funding. OmniRetail's asset-light model may be the right strategy to mimic in these times, given that the company says it's currently profitable dating back to last November.

Lago's open-source billing platform raises $22M: Today's French startup in the news is Lago, which started off building marketing tools before pivoting into billing, a space it discovered was even more broken among potential customers. The company's $15 million Series A and $7 million seed round were funded by FirstMark, SignalFire, Y Combinator, New Wave, Addition and others.

Meet your future robot overlords helpers: If you are worried about having to deal with AI-robot overlords, the robotics industry's actual progress should put you at ease. Reflex Robotics drew crowds at an industry event thanks to its wheeled robot that can quickly snag goods from shelves at various heights. If that doesn't bake your noodle, how about inventory management with a drone that files from a robotic base? No? Then check out TruckBot, which appears to be a robotic arm-slash-conveyer belt. Companies are today building focused tools to help remove some human drudgery from the world. That's good, as long as the robots don't realize we're giving them all the worst jobs, and strike back file a grievance.

Ireland leaked COVID vax data: The Irish government fixed a vulnerability two years ago in its national COVID-19 vaccination portal that exposed the vaccination records of around a million residents. Why is a security fix from years ago in the news today? The details of the vulnerability were not disclosed until this week, a delay that was predicated on "attempts to coordinate public disclosure with the government agency that stalled and ended." See, everyone is bad at cybersecurity!

Lightspeed's Alex Kayyal will talk Series A pitfalls at TechCrunch Early Stage 2024: That's going to happen in Boston next month, so see you there!

There’s still more to read:

  1. Over in India, Reliance is buying Paramount Global's 13% stake in Viacom18 for $517 million.
  2. Nigerian identity verification and anti-money laundering startup Youverify just landed a $2.5 million deal from a corporate investor.
  3. Amazon's generative AI push for sellers continues with a tool to help retailers build new listings.
  4. Proton Mail has a new desktop app, but it is only available to paying customers.
  5. And to close out, the EU is investigating AliExpress for breaching Digital Services Act (DSA) rules.
Don't miss these image

Image Credits: OmniRetail

Before you go

All about Grok: Everyone talks about AI models from Anthropic, OpenAI, Mistral, Alphabet, Meta and the services built atop them. But what about Grok, X's LLM that Elon Musk says will be open-sourced this week? Kyle Wiggers has a piece with all you need to know about this chatbot that is purportedly unafraid to venture into waters other AI companies are being wary of.

Before you go image

Image Credits: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg / Getty Images

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