Startups Weekly: Drama at Techstars. Drama in AI. Drama everywhere.

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Well folks, it looks like it Techstars drama he just got a new plot. CEO Maëlle Gavet is leaving, leaving co-founder David Cohen to come back and save the day — or at least try. Gavet’s three-and-a-half-year tenure was a roller coaster of controversies, from the exodus of employees to shutting down acceleration programs faster than you can say «pivot». No matter what an $80 million deal with JPMorgan turned into a Titanic-level disaster and lost $7 million in 2023, she insists she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. As for Cohen? He is excited about his return to the position of CEO.

The most interesting startup stories of the week

Linktree just hit 50 million users, proving that everyone and their grandma now has a link in their bio. From a modest 2.7 million in 2019 to this astronomical number, they are actually the popular kid at school that everyone wants to sit with. Linktree is introducing social commerce features so creators can set up storefronts on their sites and earn commissions from big brands like Adidas and Sephora. With more than $300 million in monthly sales already flowing through those connections, it’s clear they’re not messing around.

  • Humanely looking for a home: Humane, the brainchild of former Apple executives and creator of the $700 Ai Pin that no one asked for, is now reportedly looking for a buyer. obviously, it hopes to fetch between $750 million and $1 billionjust in case someone wants to add a wearable gadget that’s basically a smartphone with tethering issues to their product portfolio.
  • Sonos hugs your head: Sonos has finally answered your prayers and released its “most requested product ever”. No, it’s not the speaker who pays your taxes – it is Ace headphones. For a cool $449, you’ll soon be able to flaunt these over-the-ear beauties.
  • Coming soon to a roundabout near you: The UK has officially flown the checkered flag for «driverless cars» — that’s what they call self-driving over there. How unusual! Through the Automated Vehicles Act, you may find yourself sharing the road with robotic cars by 2026.
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Beats by Sonos, in the form of Sonos Ace headphones.
Image credits: Sonos

Trend of the week: AI drama

OpenAI’s latest chatbot, Sky, seems to have done the best impression on Scarlett Johansson and caught as hell! The AI ​​voice flirted too much with ScarJo’s iconic voice. OpenAI swears it wasn’t trying to recreate her sultry tones from «Her,» but the internet couldn’t help but notice the uncanny resemblance. CEO Sam Altman even tweeted «her» because, well, why wouldn’t you, really? Now that Johansson has gotten a lawyer faster than you can say «deepfake,» OpenAI has ripped Sky’s voice out of its product, while legal machinations rumble around looking for a solution to this mess.

Meanwhile, OpenAI doesn’t seem to be hurting as much. ChatGPT’s mobile app just hit the revenue jackpot with the launch of GPT-4o. Despite promising free access on the web, OpenAI has decided to encourage mobile users to pay a monthly subscription of $19.99 if they want to get in on the action. Plot: People shell out more than their Netflix subscriptions for it. In the first week alone, the net income increased by 22%, collecting up to $900,000 per day and a staggering $4.2 million in total from May 13-17.

  • Don’t ScarJo, me, bro: Hollywood’s elite can now hide their digital doubles in CAA’s high-tech «theCAAvault» is like Fort Knox for AI clones.
  • The whitest cobasiciada in town: Despite years of complaints from women and people of color that they’ve been sidelined in the AI ​​field, Meta has apparently decided that diversity is overrated. So he composed a a team of business brothers to guide your AI strategy. Cool, cool, cool.
  • Go, Jack: The latest Expedia news reads like a script from a soap opera: CTO Rathi Murthy and SVP Sreenivas Rachamadugu were unceremoniously kicked to the curb for violating some mysterious company policy. The travel booking giant is keeping quiet about the juicy details, citing confidentiality. Murthy was just touting new AI features days before her sudden departure — talk about bad timing!
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General view of the atmosphere at the launch of the new Citi and Expedia travel credit cards on September 17, 2014 in New York
Expedia noticed the sudden change as some senior staff were sent packing.
Image credits: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Citi

This week’s most interesting fundraisers

Good afternoon! In the latest episode of «How much money can we throw at AI», the French startup H just attracted a whopping $220 million in seed funding. Yes, you read that right — initial financing. With a founding team that boasts more ex-Google DeepMind employees than a Silicon Valley reunion, H aims to revolutionize productivity with its «frontier operating models.» Translation: They build robots to do our jobs better than us. Remind me why I’m sitting here typing this newsletter with my real literal fingers? What is this, the 1920s?

  • The hardware is less heavy: Forget what you know about hardware engineering because Rollup is here. The startup was lurking in the shadows for three years, quietly raising $5.6 million from big names like Andreessen Horowitz and Thiel Capital.
  • Many layers: QuickBooks may be the father of accounting software, but there seems to be a new kid on the block: Layer. Just received a $2.3 million raise, this startup is promising make accounting less painful for small and medium businesses with its so fancy built-in features.
  • We don’t need congested roads: Forget robot taxis stuck in city traffic — it’s the latest craze self-driving vehicles that laugh in the face of autokarta. Overland AI and Potential are leading this revolution in off-road autonomy, with support from VC and the Department of Defense Uncle Sam.
The ATV is driven independently in an off-road environment
Image credits: Terrestrial artificial intelligence

Other must-see stories from TechCrunch…

Welcome to the job market of 2023, where instead of flipping burgers, you could program a robot to do it for you. Brian compiled the list 81 robotics companies that are hiring faster than you can say «artificial intelligence». From humanoids that could steal your job (or make your coffee) to drones that make sure your Amazon packages arrive before you even click «order,» there’s never been a more exciting — or terrifying — time to dive into robotics. So go ahead, sign up now and secure your place in the brave new world of mechanical overlords 🤖.

  • Mo money, mo passengers?: Buckle up, Minnesota! Uber and Lyft drivers are getting a raise thanks to a new government deal, but don’t get too comfortable in that back seat. Starting in 2025, drivers will earn more money — prices that have caused Uber to grumble about higher costs.
  • Soz, kid, no bank for you: Teen fintech startup Copper Banking is having a rough week. Its banking and debit products were brought about by Synapse’s epic implosion. Middleware vendor crashed and burned into Chapter 11 and then face-lifted straight into Chapter 7 liquidation.
  • Won’t you be my friend?: Bumble, the dating app that now feels friend-zoned due to a broader decline in its core market, has decided to go straight to Geneva — community building platform. Apparently realizing that «Netflix and chill» doesn’t always translate to lifelong partnerships, Bumble intends to expand its focus from one-on-one hookups to group hugs and friendship bracelets.
  • VinFast horror: In a tragic twist that sounds like it was ripped from the script of an automotive horror movie, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the April accident where the VinFast VF 8 SUV decided to play «hug the oak» in California — resulting in the death of a family of four in flames.
  • Don’t worry, we already have all your information: Welcome to the digital age, where even your hotel check-in could star in a spy drama! At least three Wyndham hotels in the US were caught in the act with pcTattletalea consumer spy app that secretly captured screenshots of guest details and customer data.
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