Month: December 2022

Takeaways from Paris and LA

Takeaways from Paris and LA

[ad_1] Shared electric scooters came onto the scene five years ago with a promising vision of getting people out of cars and onto greener modes of transportation. Yet despite billions in VC money and plenty of hype, the future that micromobility companies promised still hasn’t quite arrived. In cities like Paris, most people aren’t replacing car trips with shared e-scooter jaunts in a meaningful way; the cost of riding scooters makes them an expensive option for last-mile transit connections and equitable access; and the public disclosures of Bird and Helbiz have shown us that achieving profitability is incredibly difficult. Plus, cities that allowed shared e-scooter companies in their midsts are increasingly making it difficult for scooter companies to operate sustainably. For the sake of traffic flow and carbon emissions, there need to be alternatives to cars. Are shared e-scooters the answer to that, or are they just another shitty option? What have we gained by introducing shared micromobility to cities? We decided to take a look at two cities that were at the forefront of …

How we covered the creator economy in 2022

How we covered the creator economy in 2022

[ad_1] This summer, I went straight from VidCon — the largest creator conference — to a labor journalism seminar with the Sidney Hillman Foundation. One day, I was chatting with famous TikTokers about their financial anxieties (what if they accidentally get banned from TikTok tomorrow?), and the next, I was learning about the history of American labor organizing. These topics are not at all unrelated: at its core, writing about creator economy is labor journalism. The creator beat is a labor beat. Creators are rebelling against the traditional route to making a living in artistic industries, taking control over their income to make money for themselves, rather than big media conglomerates. Consider creators like Brian David Gilbert, who built a devoted fanbase as a chaotically hilarious video producer for Polygon, the video game publication at Vox Media. Gilbert quit to work on other creative projects full time, likely because he realized that with his audience, he could make way more money independently than his media salary paid him. Then there’s YouTube channels like Defunctland and …

The year customer experience died

The year customer experience died

[ad_1] This was a rough year for customer experience. We’ve been hearing for years how important customer experience is to business, and a whole business technology category has been built around it, with companies like Salesforce and Adobe at the forefront. But due to the economy or lack of employees (perhaps both?), 2022 was a year of poor customer service, which in turn has created poor experiences; there’s no separating the two. No matter how great your product or service, you will ultimately be judged by how well you do when things go wrong, and your customer service team is your direct link to buyers. If you fail them in a time of need, you can lose them for good and quickly develop a bad reputation. News can spread rapidly through social media channels. That’s not the kind of talk you want about your brand. We’re constantly being asked for feedback about how the business did, yet this thirst for information doesn’t seem to ever connect back to improving the experience. And make no mistake: …

How China is building a parallel generative AI universe

How China is building a parallel generative AI universe

[ad_1] The gigantic technological leap that machine learning models have shown in the last few months is getting everyone excited about the future of AI — but also nervous about its uncomfortable consequences. After text-to-image tools from Stability AI and OpenAI became the talk of the town, ChatGPT’s ability to hold intelligent conversations is the new obsession in sectors across the board. In China, where the tech community has always watched progress in the West closely, entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors are looking for ways to make their dent in the generative AI space. Tech firms are devising tools built on open source models to attract consumer and enterprise customers. Individuals are cashing in on AI-generated content. Regulators have responded quickly to define how text, image, and video synthesis should be used. Meanwhile, U.S. tech sanctions are raising concerns about China’s ability to keep up with AI advancement. As generative AI takes the world by storm towards the end of 2022, let’s take a look at how this explosive technology is shaking out in China. Chinese …

Fidelity slashes the value of its Twitter stake by over half

Fidelity slashes the value of its Twitter stake by over half

[ad_1] Fidelity, which was among the group of outside investors that helped Elon Musk finance his $44 billion takeover of Twitter, has slashed the value of its stake in Twitter by 56%. The recalculation comes as Twitter navigates a number of challenges, most the result of chaotic management decisions — including an exodus of advertisers from the network. Fidelity’s Blue Chip Growth Fund stake in Twitter was valued at around $8.63 million as of November, according to a monthly disclosure and Fidelity Contrafund notice first reported today by Axios. That’s down from $19.66 million as of the end of October. Macroeconomic trends are likely to blame in part. Stripe took a 28% internal valuation cut in July, while Instacart this week reportedly suffered a 75% cut to its valuation. But Twitter’s wishy-washy policies post-Musk clearly haven’t helped matters. The network’s become less stable at a technical level as of late, on Wednesday suffering outages after Musk made “significant” backend server architecture changes. Twitter recently laid off employees in its public policy and engineering department, dissolving …

To take the friction out of consumer messaging, more companies are entering the Matrix

To take the friction out of consumer messaging, more companies are entering the Matrix

[ad_1] To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here. Welcome back to your daily digest of TechCrunch goodness. It is my last day with you (you’re welcome!), so Christine will be back in the Daily Crunch seat on Tuesday. Haje will not be back just yet because he is heading to Vegas as part of the team covering CES. Speaking of CES, Brian raised the curtain on what we can expect from its first full-fledged production since before COVID. Bye for now, folks. Safe and Happy New Year to you all. — Henry At the top Into the Matrix: No, not that Matrix. We’re talking about the open standards-based comms protocol called Matrix that Paul went deep on. Its network doubled thanks in part to increased use by enterprises and government. Reddit is also having a go, experimenting with it for its chat feature. For the fusion: Tim took a look at five startups primed to benefit from the recent …

QuickVid uses AI to generate short-form videos, complete with voiceovers

QuickVid uses AI to generate short-form videos, complete with voiceovers

[ad_1] Generative AI is coming for videos. A new website, QuickVid, combines several generative AI systems into a single tool for automatically creating short-form YouTube, Instagram TikTok and Snapchat videos. Given as little as a single word, QuickVid chooses a background video from a library, writes a script and keywords, overlays images generated by DALL-E 2, and adds a synthetic voiceover and background music from YouTube’s royalty-free music library. QuickVid’s creator, Daniel Habib, says that he’s building the service to help creators meet the “ever-growing” demand from their fans. “By providing creators with tools to quickly and easily produce quality content, QuickVid helps creators increase their content output, reducing the risk of burnout,” Habib told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Our goal is to empower your favorite creator to keep up with the demands of their audience by leveraging advancements in AI.” But depending on how they’re used, tools like QuickVid threaten to flood already-crowded channels with spammy and duplicative content. They also face potential backlash from creators who opt not to use the tools, whether …

There’s now an open source alternative to ChatGPT, but good luck running it

There’s now an open source alternative to ChatGPT, but good luck running it

[ad_1] The first open-source equivalent of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has arrived, but good luck running it on your laptop — or at all. This week, Philip Wang, the developer responsible for reverse-engineering closed-sourced AI systems including Meta’s Make-A-Video, released PaLM + RLHF, a text-generating model that behaves similarly to ChatGPT. The system combines PaLM, a large language model from Google, and a technique called Reinforcement Learning with Human Feedback — RLHF, for short — to create a system that can accomplish pretty much any task that ChatGPT can, including drafting emails and suggesting computer code. But PaLM + RLHF isn’t pretrained. That is to say, the system hasn’t been trained on the example data from the web necessary for it to actually work. Downloading PaLM + RLHF won’t magically install a ChatGPT-like experience — that would require compiling gigabytes of text from which the model can learn and finding hardware beefy enough to handle the training workload. Like ChatGPT, PaLM + RLHF is essentially a statistical tool to predict words. When fed an enormous number of …

What to look for in a term sheet as a first-time founder

What to look for in a term sheet as a first-time founder

[ad_1] Securing funding is a stressful endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. We recently sat down with three VCs to figure out the best way to go about spinning up an investing network from scratch and negotiating the first term sheet. Earlier this week, we featured the first part of that conversation with James Norman of Black Operator Ventures, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon of AllRaise, and Kevin Liu of both Techstars and Uncharted Ventures. In part two, the investors cover more specifics about what to ask for in a term sheet and red flags you should look out for. (Editor’s note: This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.) Why should you know what’s going to be in a term sheet before you see it? Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon: Do not wait until you get a term sheet to start going back and forth. The term sheet should be a reflection of what was already verbally agreed upon, including the valuation. Don’t wait until you get that legal agreement in your inbox to begin …

Meta acquires Luxexcel, a smart eyewear company

Meta acquires Luxexcel, a smart eyewear company

[ad_1] As Meta faces antitrust scrutiny over its acquisition of VR fitness developers Within, the tech giant is making another acquisition. Meta confirmed to TechCrunch that it is purchasing Luxexcel, a smart eyewear company headquartered in the Netherlands. The terms of the deal, which was first reported in the Belgian paper De Tijd, have not been disclosed. Founded in 2009, Luxexcel uses 3D printing to make prescription lenses for glasses. More recently, the company has focused its efforts on smart lenses, which can be printed with integrated technology like LCD displays and holographic film. “We’re excited that the Luxexcel team has joined Meta, deepening the existing partnership between the two companies,” a Meta spokesperson told TechCrunch. It’s rumored that Meta and Luxexcel had already worked together on Project Aria, the company’s augmented reality (AR) research initiative. In September 2021, Meta unveiled the Ray-Ban Stories, a pair of smart glasses that can take photos and videos, or make handsfree, voice-controlled calls using Meta platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook. By absorbing Luxexcel, Meta will likely leverage the …