Hey TechCrunch friends. After a week in Korea and the Philippines, it’s great to be back in the States – and a little more tanned (i.e. sunburnt) than before. Huge thanks to Henry, who has been forced to step in for the past two weeks due to my failure to realize that Korean Air no offer Wi-Fi on board. Talk about good sport.
If you’re wondering about Greg’s status, don’t worry – he’s due to return from well-earned parental leave in a month and move on. In the meantime, I’m here to tease you about TechCrunch’s upcoming main events.
TechCrunch’s startup stage is fast approaching – it’s April 20th in Boston this year and will host experts from across the risk and technology landscape who will talk about solutions to get a startup off the ground. (Also in Boston: City Spotlight, which starts Feb. 27.) On the distant horizon is TechCrunch Disrupt (Sept. 19-21), which promises to be an absolute blast this year. After taking a look at the preliminary guest list, let me tell you this: it will not disappoint.
With those administrative bits taken care of, let’s get on with the Week in Review. (If you want it in your inbox every Saturday, sign up here). Here are the main news of the last few days!
Ambitions thwarted: Brand exclusively reports that Dash’s alleged CEO, Prince Boakye Boampong, has been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into financial impropriety at the company. Boampong, one of Africa’s best-known serial entrepreneurs, is allegedly accused of engaging in incorrect financial reporting; sources tell TechCrunch that executives have repeatedly hidden finances within the company while firing employees at will. Prior to Boampong’s alleged suspension, Dash raised tens of millions in venture capital at a valuation of over $200 million.
New iOS, new emoji: Apple released the developer beta of iOS 16.4, which brought with it the next set of emojis coming to iPhones. Originally revealed during the draft phase last year, the emojis span categories like food and drink, activity, objects, animals, and symbols. Sara writes that among the highlights are variations of the heart emoji, hand gestures, and a “shaking face” emoji. Curious users can check out the new additions by enrolling in Apple’s Developer Program.
Bet on Paramount: Ahead of the launch of “Paramount+ with Showtime,” a new streaming TV service bundle that will see Showtime integrated into Paramount+, Paramount announced that it would increase the price of its Paramount+ Premium tier from $9.99 per month to $11.99 per month. It’s not an unexpected move – Paramount CEO Bob Bakish cabled the plans back in early December – but it could put Paramount+ with Showtime at a disadvantage nonetheless as it competes with Warner’s upcoming HBO Max/Discovery+ service. Bros.
Feishu is the new Slack: Feishu, ByteDance’s Slack-like workplace collaboration app, surpassed $100 million in annual recurring revenue last year, Rita he writes. ByteDance’s heavy investment in Feishu is indicative of the state of enterprise software in China. At a time when Silicon Valley investors are touting product-led growth, software in China still largely relies on sales, marketing and services to recruit users.
Instagram Channeling: Instagram launched a new broadcast chat feature this week called “Channels”. Aisha reports that it allows creators to share one-to-many public messages to interact directly with their followers. Channels support text, images, polls, reactions, and more. Instagram is starting to test placements with select creators in the US and plans to expand the feature in the coming months.
Sales force under pressure: Salesforce is looking for new ways to cut costs as activist investors put pressure on the company. This week, Salesforce rolled out more rigorous performance metrics for engineering, with some salespeople being pressured to quit or succumb to their own stringent performance policies. As Ron writes, it is likely related to the fact that activist investors have been circling the company, no doubt pressuring management to increase productivity and reduce spending.
Safety Concerns, Tesla Dog: Tesla this week issued a recall of its beta Full Self-Driving (FSD) software, an advanced driver assistance system that federal regulators say could allow vehicles to perform unsafely at intersections. Affecting more than 362,000 vehicles, the recall was prompted in part, Telsa revealed, by concerns that FSD-powered vehicles may be insufficiently responsive to changes in speed limits, among other concerns. The FSD’s beta software — from its name and Musk’s promises about its capabilities to its deployment and security concerns — has been controversial, drawing scrutiny from regulatory agencies.
Capturing Users: Snapchat now has over 750 million monthly active users (MAUs). The company announced the milestone during Investor Day on Thursday, Sara reports. Snapchat has said it sees a path to reach more than 1 billion people in the next two to three years, but whether it will actually achieve that remains to be seen. Either way, 750 MAUs put Snapchat ahead of Pinterest (450 million) but behind Facebook (2.96 billion).
A Tetris movie: Apple TV+ this week released the first trailer for its “Tetris” movie, based on the origin story of the popular puzzle video game. Starring Taron Egerton, who plays American video game salesman Henk Rogers, “Tetris” tells the story of Rogers and his mission to secure the game’s distribution rights. The film will premiere at the South by Southwest film festival in March, after which Apple will release it worldwide on Apple TV+ (on March 31).
TechCrunch has a wonderful lineup of audio programming, in case you didn’t know. In other words, we have podcasts for days. This week on Equity, mary ann It is becca took the mic to talk about Descope’s $53 million initial round, Phenomenal Ventures’ new fund and the latest raise by a Mexican neobank. In Found, Darrel It is becca spoke with Alex Rappaport, CEO and co-founder of ZwitterCo, which makes it practical for industries to recycle water and improve product recovery with new filtration technology. And on TechCrunch Live, the team went live (not to be repetitive) with CFO turned CEO Christina Ross and her Mayfield Fund partner Rajeev Batra to talk about the story behind Ross’ company, Cube, and how she serves her customers where they are.
Is the tech job market as bad as it sounds?: Ron investigates the state of the tech job market, finding that – while some numbers are down – it’s not a clear question. Your high-level observation? Tech workers, especially those with specialized skills like engineering, data science, AI and cybersecurity, continue to be in demand as supply lags behind the number of open jobs.