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Happy Friday, Crunchers! It’s 27 May 2022, and we are slinking into a long weekend because it’s Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. There’s no newsletter on Monday — Haje is going wine tasting in Sonoma, and Christine is planning to spend Monday sitting on the sofa doing absolutely nothing, which we celebrate wholeheartedly. We’ll see you back here on Tuesday!
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Golden goose: Manish was on fire today, writing not one, but two of our top stories of the day. The first is about Jar, an Indian fintech company that is looking at a $50 million Series B round. The country’s citizens have bank accounts to save money, but Jar helps them do something they may not be as familiar with — invest. And the company has chosen to start with something Indians are known to love, gold.
- Revolving door: Manish’s second story has to do with another Manish — Manish Maheshwari, the former head of Twitter India, who left a startup he co-founded after just 6 months. Our Manish reported in December that Maheshwari left his post at Twitter to start edtech company Invact Metaversity with Tanay Pratap. The arrangement didn’t seem to work out as planned, with some company hiccups involving getting product out the door and some leadership disagreements.
- Sometimes it’s not meant to be: In Substack’s case, a fresh round of capital. Connie went over the details yesterday of them attempting to raise a Series C, but then calling it off when favorable terms with investors didn’t transpire. Today, Alex peels away some of the onion layers to explain why Substack’s goals, based on its Series B raise in 2021, didn’t translate well in 2022’s investment environment.
Startups and VC
Earlier this week, Anita reported that Adam “WeWork” Neumann is back with a new startup, and raised backing from a16z. In today’s Chain Reaction podcast, Anita and Lucas discuss whether Neumann truly deserves $70 million and another chance. We’re comprehensively confused why anyone would place another bet on him, and we’ll no doubt be following his new startup closely.
A few more gems for ya:
- Hot germ summer: Harri covers the story of Colorfix’s $23 million Series B round, and its mission to dye fabrics with bacteria.
- Sweet protein: Joywell uses a proprietary microbial fermentation process to produce sweet proteins that taste like sugars, but with none of the downsides. It just raised $25 million, Christine reports.
- Mystery startup o’clock: Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley is on the co-founding team of a new startup called LivingCities. The founding team doesn’t have an awful lot to say about what exactly they’re building, Lucas writes.
- Be pear, or be square: Connie takes a look at the 9 teams that just presented at Pear’s demo day.
Ride or die-sel
Diesel prices alone are driving about 17% of the inflation we’re seeing today, and Tim writes a rousing piece about how gasoline and diesel are perhaps not the greatest, especially given that the economy is peeking over the cliff into an abyss whose depth equals our general optimism around climate at the moment.
Perhaps that’s exactly what’s needed: Maybe when economic and climate interests align, we find the pot of “yay we can live on this planet for a few more years” at the end of the rainbow.
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Big Tech Inc.
- Sony’s live service plans: Sony is going all in on its live service offerings. This follows the company’s acquisition of Bungie earlier this year. Sony laid out plans this week for its company life after the acquisition, which includes investing heavily into the live service gaming sector, though it did not go into specifics on which of its franchises would get the treatment.
- Snap to it: We thought Snapchat was just individuals pushing out small “snaps” to other individuals, but the social media giant has bigger plans than that. Its snappy new feature, “Shared Stories,” is a riff on its “Custom Stories” feature to enable users to, well, you can see where we are going with this. Here’s how it works: Users added to a group can add their friends, too, to make it easier to share their stories. Don’t worry, if someone in the friend group is not your cup of tea, your stories won’t be shared with them.
- Database debacle: Voto Consulting, a New Jersey talent-acquisition firm, learned the hard way what happens when you don’t password-protect a database and leave it on the internet. The résumés and personal information from some 30,000 workers was exposed. As Zack reports, the story gets way more interesting — something that you really need to check out for yourself.
- Drive time: In today’s transportation news, Rivian opened up its hood and rearranged some things with the company’s engine (yes, we know it’s an electric vehicle) in the way of hiring new COO Frank Klein. This comes amid some other leadership changes as its head of manufacturing said goodbye. Meanwhile, Tesla says it won’t open a manufacturing plant in India until it can first sell and service vehicles in the country. Manish lays out the back-and-forth going on between country and company: Country officials want cars to be built locally and for Tesla to follow its high import duties. Tesla doesn’t want to pay higher fees yet if the market doesn’t test well. Thus a superfun standstill.