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 (ie burned) than before. A big thank you to Henry who has been forced to step in for the last two weeks because I hadn’t realized Korean Air not Offer WiFi on board. Talk about a good sport.
If you’re wondering about Greg’s status, don’t worry — he’ll be returning from his well-deserved maternity leave in a month and making a change. In the meantime, I’m here to nag you about TechCrunch’s upcoming headlining events.
The TechCrunch Early Stage is fast approaching – taking place this year in Boston on April 20th, it will host experts from the venture and tech landscape who will talk about solutions to get a startup off the ground. (Also in Boston: City Spotlight, which begins Feb. 27.) On the distant horizon, there’s TechCrunch Disrupt (September 19-21), which promises to be an absolute smash this year. After taking a look at the preliminary guest list, I just want to say one thing: you won’t be disappointed.
With those administrative things out of the way, let’s move on to Week in Review. (If you want it in your inbox every Saturday, sign up here). Here are the top stories of the last few days!
Shattered Ambitions: days exclusive reports that Dash CEO Prince Boakye Boampong has reportedly been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into the company’s financial impropriety. Boampong, one of Africa’s best-known serial entrepreneurs, has reportedly been accused of complicity in financial misreporting; Sources tell TechCrunch that executives have repeatedly withheld financial information within the company and fired employees at will. Prior to Boampong’s alleged suspension, Dash had raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital valued at over $200 million.
New iOS, new emoji: Apple released the iOS 16.4 developer beta, which brought with it the next set of emoji for iPhones. Originally introduced during the draft phase last year, the emojis will include categories such as food and drink, activities, objects, animals and symbols. Sarah writes that highlights include variations on the heart emoji, pushing hand gestures, and a “shaky face” emoji. Curious users can check out the new additions by enrolling in the Apple Developer Program.
Pony up for Paramount: Prior to the launch of “Paramount+ with Showtime”, a new TV streaming service package that will integrate Showtime with Paramount+, Paramount announced that it will reduce the price of its Paramount+ premium tier from $9.99 per month to $11.99 per month increase per month. It’s not an unexpected move — Paramount CEO Bob Bakish cabled the plans in early December — but it could still put Paramount+ at a disadvantage over Showtime as it competes with Warner Bros. Discovery’s upcoming HBO Max/Discovery+ service.
Feishu is the new Slack: Feishu, ByteDance’s Slack-like workplace collaboration app, has generated over $100 million in annual recurring revenue for the past year. Rita writes. ByteDance’s heavy investment in Feishu says a lot about the state of enterprise software in China. At a time when Silicon Valley investors are heralding product-driven growth, software in China still relies largely on sales, marketing and services to recruit users.
Channel Instagram: Instagram introduced a new broadcast chat feature called “Channels” this week. aisha reports that it allows creators to share one-to-many public messages to directly engage with their followers. Channels support text, images, polls, reactions, and more. Instagram is beginning to test channels with select YouTubers in the US and plans to expand the feature in the coming months.
Salesforce under pressure: Salesforce looks for new ways to cut costs as activist investors pressure the company. This week, Salesforce introduced stricter tech performance measurements, with some sales reps pressured to abandon or conform to their own strict performance guidelines. As Ron writes, this is likely related to the fact that activist investors were circling the company, no doubt urging management to increase productivity and cut spending.
Safety Concerns Dog Tesla: Tesla this week issued a recall of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software, an advanced driver assistance system that federal authorities say could allow vehicles to behave unsafely at intersections. The recall, which affected more than 362,000 vehicles, was motivated in part by concerns that FSD-powered vehicles, among other things, could respond inadequately to changes in advertised speed limits, according to Telsa. FSD beta software — from its name and Musk’s promises of its capabilities, to its launch and security concerns — has been controversial and scrutinized by regulators.
Record users: Snapchat now has over 750 million monthly active users (MAUs). The company announced the milestone during its Investor Day on Thursday. Sarah reports. Snapchat said it sees a way to reach over 1 billion people in the next two to three years, but whether it actually gets there remains to be seen. In any case, with 750 MAUs, Snapchat is ahead of Pinterest (450 million) but behind Facebook (2.96 billion).
A Tetris Movie: Apple TV+ this week released the first trailer for its movie Tetris, based on the origin story of the popular puzzle video game. Starring Taron Egerton as American video game salesman Henk Rogers, “Tetris” tells the story of Rogers and his quest to secure distribution rights for the game. The film will premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, after which Apple will release it worldwide on Apple TV+ (March 31).
TechCrunch has a wonderful selection of audio programs, in case you didn’t know. In other words, we’ve had podcasts for days. This week on Equity, Maria Ann And becca took the mic to discuss Descope’s $53 million seed round, Phenomenal Ventures’ new fund and a Mexican neobank’s recent capital raise. on found, darrell And becca spoke to Alex Rappaport, the CEO and co-founder of ZwitterCo, which is making it practical for industry to recycle water and improve product recovery with new filtration technology. And over at TechCrunch Live, the crew went live (not to repeat it) with Christina Ross-turned-CFO and her Mayfield Fund partner Rajeev Batra to talk about the story behind Ross’ company Cube and how it’s affecting his customers where they are.
Is the tech job market as bad as it seems?: Ron examines the state of the tech job market and finds that while some numbers are down, it’s not a one-size-fits-all affair. His observation at the highest level? Tech workers, particularly those with specialty skills such as engineering, data science, AI and cybersecurity, remain in demand as supply lags behind job vacancies.