Startup Weekly: Clash of the AI ​​giants, and Europe firing on all cylinders


Welcome to Startups Weekly – Haje’s weekly roundup of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up Here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

Hold on to your Apple Watch, folks! At WWDC 2024, Apple finally decided to give Siri a brain transplant with something called “Apple Intelligence” (AI—get it?). Apparently, it’s so smart that it might know more about your life than you do. Tim Cook has promised that it will be all about privacy and personal context—so intimate that even your diary might feel neglected. And guess what? Siri’s makeover means we’ll get Genmoji (yes, it’s real), because I know you were craving an AI to craft your emojis. Also on the menu: typing queries into Siri like it’s 2010 again and a “private cloud compute,” which in tech parlance sounds like “we’re still spying on you but in a good way.” Get ready for this new wave of iMagic launching soon! Here’s everything announced at WWDC!

However, not everyone is excited about the announcements: In the latest episode of “Tech Titans Throw Tantrums” this week, Elon Musk threatens to ban iPhones from Tesla, SpaceX and xAI because of Apple’s new ChatGPT integration. I guess in Elon’s world, “cutting edge innovation” means banning the world’s most popular smartphone because of an AI assistant feature that asks permission before doing anything. Is Tim Cook trembling in his boots or just rolling his eyes? Please reply on a postcard.

Trend of the week: Circling around the drain

In today’s episode of “The Mighty: How They Have Fallen,” we bring you the sad story of Byju’s, once a $22 billion edtech company but now worth zero in the eyes of BlackRock. After missing financial targets, dealing with early resignations over “governance issues,” and being publicly criticized by investors, Byju’s has become a cautionary tale for startups everywhere.

Now hold on to your cap tables, folks! Once a Silicon Valley darling and dream of becoming the biggest boss in stock trading, Carta’s valuation has dropped from $8.5 billion to a mere $2 billion — if they’re lucky. After being caught red-handed misusing customer data and retreating from their secondary trading venture before you can say “PR disaster,” it’s clear that not all that glitters is gold in the startup world. With lawsuits, claims of toxic culture, and customers fleeing to the big banks, it looks like Carta’s glory days are over forever. Investors like Andreessen Horowitz will be thrilled…

Even more bad news:

  • Dripping snowflake: Get ready, folks! Snowflake’s latest PR nightmare is here. Despite their claims of being invincible, they’ve been hit by a flurry of data breaches involving big names like Ticketmaster and LendingTree. The culprit? A former employee’s demo account with ridiculous security. Mandiant has revealed that hackers stole a lot of data from Snowflake customers.
  • Tough times for Apple third-party developers: Apple’s WWDC 2024 — where innovation meets imitation! Third-party app developers, get ready, because Apple has once again “Sherlocked” your favorite tool. Apple is basically saying to these developers: “Thanks for the idea; we’ll build on it from here.”
  • hr-rrrrgh: HR startup Rippling apparently has a “no soup for you” policy when it comes to former employees working for competitors like Deals and Workday. Despite investor demand exceeding $2 billion (cue money bags), Rippling is playing gatekeeper with its massive tender offer, allowing only non-competing former employees to cash out their stock.
Image Credit: Joan Cross/NurPhoto/Getty Images

This week’s most interesting fundraising campaigns

Welcome to the startup funding circus of 2024, where Y Combinator companies are embarking on a new adventure — raising tiny seed rounds at sky-high valuations and with no lead investor. Angels are swooping in like hungry pigeons, leaving institutional investors scratching their heads and clutching their wallets. Will this high-wire act be fruitful or will it leave startups hanging without any safety net? Grab your popcorn; this version of the show is just getting started!

Hey, Paris-based AI startup Mistral AI has raised a whopping $640 million in its Series B funding. Led by General Catalyst, this hot new competitor in the AI ​​space is now valued at $6 billion. Co-founded by former Meta and DeepMind minders, Mistral aims to take on big shots like OpenAI with its own shiny models and open source goodies. But don’t get too comfortable; their top-tier models are tighter than the Banque de France unless you have an API pass.

  • Well, I sleep like a soldierItaly’s startup scene is getting a caffeine boost, as the new Italian Founders Fund (IFF) invests 50 million euros. Aiming to reduce Italy’s startup funding gap, the IFF plans to put its money into 25 companies, leaving early-stage founders without Google Maps raining tourists in Rome.
  • Negative thinkers, keep your mouth shutUrvashi Barua was told she had a better chance of finding Bigfoot than getting into venture capital. After being rejected from every MBA program and ridiculed for her ambitions, she decided the haters were just free motivational speakers: She’s now a partner at Redpoint Ventures, handling her $650 million ninth fund.
  • Cash-Ching: Meet Fizz, the debit card that’s here to save Gen Z from their credit-averse ways. Turns out, traditional banks just aren’t working for the TikTok generation. Two Harvard and Cornell dropouts decided building a financial empire was more lucrative than finishing college. Who needs a diploma when you have $14.4 million in seed funding led by Kleiner Perkins?
venture capital, vc, startups, redpoint
Urvashi Barua is Redpoint’s newest partner and will focus on the early stage.
Image Credit: Red dot

Other unforgettable TechCrunch stories…

Welcome to a world where cats finally get the VIP treatment they deserve — despite being snubbed by dog-obsessed VCs, Meowtel has found its way to profitability. Founder Sonya Petkavich, inspired by her own cat guilt, launched a top-notch cat-care service with $100,000 and a dream. With 2,200 sitters and over 95,000 successful sits (or should we say collars?), Meowtel is proving that cats aren’t just second-rate pets.

More? More!

  • Rivian charts a path to a less depressing futureRivian’s roller-coaster ride across the EV landscape just got a lot less boring. After electric pickups, SUVs, delivery vans for Amazon, and even an ambitious IPO, Rivian has finally streamlined its chaotic existence. But grab the popcorn; the EV saga isn’t over yet.
  • Raspberry Pi will go to LSE: Who could have imagined that the humble Raspberry Pi, loved by hobbyists and tinkerers looking to build cheap, tiny computers, would grow up to ring the bell at the London Stock Exchange? Now valued at a modest £542 million (or $690 million if you like your numbers in dollars), their shares promptly jumped 32%, because apparently everyone loves a good underdog story.
  • BeDollars: BeReal, the app that convinced 40 million people to share their everyday lives without a filter, has received a €500 million lifeline from Vudu. Apparently, keeping it real wasn’t paying the bills.
  • The union of smartphones and dumbphonesAre you annoyed with your iPhone’s ever-increasing IQ and makes you feel like the village idiot? Enter the Light Phone III, a phone that strips your digital life down to its minimalist core. With a shiny new OLED screen and absolutely no social media apps, it’s perfect for those who like to stay away from technology.
  • To infinity… and back!: Hold on to your space helmets: SpaceX successfully flew the rocket equivalent of a triple Axel with its latest Starship launch. Not only did they send this massive device skyward, but they also managed to bring both the booster and upper stage back. Musk’s team also threw in some heat-shield shenanigans for good measure, proving once again that rocket science isn’t rocket science…


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