Stripe eyes an exit, Dell bets on the cloud, and Shutterstock embraces generative AI
Hey, party people, it’s Kyle, continuing to step in for Greg to write Week in Review as he spends time with his newborn. Dunno about y’all, but it’s been a week. I’m dead tired and thankful it’s over. But because the news never sleeps, I’m rallying with the help of a fourth cup of coffee. Wish me luck.
I’ve talked your ears off about it at this point, but I’m under contractual obligation (not really, but still) to mention TechCrunch’s upcoming Early Stage 2023 event in Boston on April 20. The one-day summit on startups will include advice and takeaways from top experts, plus opportunities to meet fellow founders and share your own entrepreneurial experiences. Don’t miss it.
On the subject of travel, it’s not too early to start thinking about this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which will take place in late September in San Francisco. Tickets aren’t available just yet, but they will be in the near-ish future. Sign up here for updates.
With the call to actions out of the way (phew), here’s this week in tech news!
Stripe eyes an exit: Mary Ann and Natasha write that fintech startup Stripe has set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing or by pursuing a transaction on the private market. The payments giant was founded in 2010, so the fact that it’s exploring avenues for exit isn’t entirely surprising. But Stripe hasn’t been immune to the global downturn, recently laying off 14% of its staff (around 1,120 people) and slashing its internal valuation multiple times. In a twist, Stripe reportedly tried to raise at least $2 billion in capital recently, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Dell bets on the cloud: Ingrid reports that Dell is making an acquisition to beef up its cloud services business — specifically its offering in DevOps. The company is buying Cloudify, an Israeli startup that has built a platform for cloud orchestration and infrastructure automation, sources say for as much as $100 million. The purchase comes as DevOps startups continue to attract attention from investors, with venture funding in the sector reaching $4 billion in Q2 2021, according to PitchBook.
Shutterstock embraces generative AI: As part of a partnership with OpenAI, the AI startup that recently attracted a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft, Shutterstock this week rolled out a tool that lets customers create images based on text prompts. Powered by OpenAI’s tech, specifically DALL-E 2, the tool creates images that are “ready for licensing” after they’re made. That’s significant given that one of Shutterstock’s biggest competitors, Getty Images, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Stability AI — maker of another generative AI service called Stable Diffusion — over using its images to train its AI without permission from Getty or rights holders.
Bidet brand buys shower startup: Harri has the scoop on Brondell’s purchase of Nebia, the techy showerhead startup backed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and a host of other big names, including Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. Nebia stood out when it launched with pricey nozzles that blasted users with a fine mist while conserving up to 70% of the water a typical showerhead sprays out. Co-founder Philip Winter told TechCrunch this week that Nebia’s products, including those it made with Moen, have reached more than 100,000 homes.
An AI maestro, unreleased: An impressive new AI system from Google can generate music in any genre given a text description. But the company, fearing the risks, has no immediate plans to release it. Called MusicLM, the system was trained on a dataset of 280,000 hours of music to learn to generate coherent songs for descriptions like “enchanting jazz song with a memorable saxophone solo and a solo singer” or “Berlin ’90s techno with a low bass and strong kick.” Its songs, remarkably, sound something like a human artist might compose, albeit not necessarily as inventive or musically cohesive.
No rest for Musk’s Twitter: Twitter owner and self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist” Elon Musk is facing a legal challenge in Germany over how the platform is allegedly failing to enforce its own rules against antisemitic content, including Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany — which has strict laws prohibiting antisemitic hate speech — making the Berlin court a compelling arena to hear such a challenge. For his part, Musk has repeatedly claimed Twitter will respect all laws in the countries where it operates, including European speech laws, although he has yet to make any public comment on this specific lawsuit.
Text till you drop: Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop via chatbot. Sarah gave it a go and found that the experience leaves a lot to be desired. She writes: “It felt like the process of ordering a few basic things has become an ordeal and has taken a lot longer than the traditional method of searching in Walmart’s app and adding things to the cart. If conversational commerce like this is the future, I’d say this is very much still a work in progress.”
Flutter toward the future: Flutter, Google’s open source framework for building multiplatform apps for mobile, web and desktop, is coming along nicely. Frederic writes that at a recent conference, the tech giant highlighted the latest version of Flutter, which brings massively improved graphics performance, the ability to more easily embed Flutter code into existing web and mobile apps and support for new architectures like WebAssembly and RISC-V.
For your listening pleasure, TechCrunch has a crop of compelling new podcast episodes in the queue (as is the case weekly, might I add). Over at Equity, the crew took the mic to talk through deals of the week, All Raise’s CEO departure, what Google’s antitrust lawsuit means for startups, how the downturn impacted the way companies are hiring and why femtech stood out in 2022. On Found, Darrell and Becca were joined by Klarna’s co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski to talk about how the company is expanding beyond the buy now, pay later space to become a neobank. And TC’s crypto-focused Chain Reaction spotlighted Mo Shaikh, co-founder and CEO of the layer-1 blockchain Aptos, which is building infrastructure for web3 apps and products.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already one. If you’re not, consider signing up. I doubt you’ll regret it. Just check out the highlights from this week:
Salesforce under siege: Salesforce finds itself under threat from activist investor Elliott Management, which announced it was taking a multibillion-dollar position in the CRM leader. Ron examines what could be next for Salesforce as the company looks to cut costs and potentially sell unprofitable pieces of the organization.
Energy transition is a winner with investors: Tim looks at investments in the energy transition, which took off last year. Businesses, financial institutions, governments and end users around the world sunk $1.11 trillion into low-carbon technologies, which was just over 30% more than 2021 and the second year in a row in which the growth rate exceeded that figure.
Increased scrutiny: Rebecca writes that startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans. Startups went on a hiring spree in 2021 as VC cash flowed and the job market was hot. But many overindulged in the talent pool and then had to make large cuts and layoffs in 2022.