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Microsoft brings Python to Excel, Cruise reduces fleet following crash, and MrBeast creates controversy



Hello, folks, and welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter that covers the biggest happenings in tech over the past few days. Haven’t been able to follow the news closely? Don’t sweat it. WiR will get you up to speed.

In this edition of WiR, we cover Microsoft bringing Python to Excel, Cruise being forced to reduce its robotaxi fleet following a crash, and Amazon launching its new Fire TV Channels app. We also recap Twitter competitor Bluesky buckling under load, influencer MrBeast’s poorly timed Olympics video, IBM building a code translator for COBOL, and Snapchat expanding further into generative AI.

If you haven’t already, sign up here to get WiR in your inbox every Saturday. Now, without further ado, here’s the week’s news!

Most read

Microsoft brings Python to Excel: Microsoft this week announced the public preview of Python in Excel, which will allow advanced spreadsheet users to combine scripts in the popular Python language and their usual Excel formulas in the same workbook. The feature will first roll out to Microsoft 365 Insiders as part of the Excel for Windows beta channel, Frederic reports.

Cruise told to reduce fleet following crash: Cruise, the self-driving car subsidiary of GM, has been asked by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to reduce its robotaxi fleet by 50% in San Francisco following a crash Thursday night with a fire truck.

MrBeast’s geopolitical nightmare: Billionaire creator MrBeast inadvertently stoked generations of geopolitical tension in his latest YouTube video, in which participants from “every country on Earth” competed in “Squid Game”-like elimination challenges for a chance to win $250,000. It was the countries that weren’t included in the competition, as well as the map featured in the video, that made the stunt ripe for discourse.

IBM taps AI to translate COBOL code: IBM this week unveiled Code Assistant for IBM Z, which uses a code-generating AI model to translate COBOL (one of the older programming languages in use) into Java syntax. It’s potentially quite handy, considering there’s over 800 billion lines of COBOL in use on production systems and a strong desire among many of the companies using it to migrate to more modern languages.

Amazon launches Fire TV Channels app: Amazon announced Monday the launch of its new Fire TV Channels app, giving Fire TV customers access to over 400 free ad-supported TV channels, including ABC News, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, MLB, Martha Stewart and more.

Bluesky struggles with growing popularity: X (formerly Twitter) competitor Bluesky buckled following Elon Musk’s announcement that X will no longer support blocking users in favor of mutes only. The company has often had to deal with an influx of users when Twitter announces particularly unwelcome changes, Sarah writes.

Snapchat adds new generative AI features: Snapchat is preparing to further expand into generative AI features, after earlier launching its AI-powered chatbot My AI, which can now respond with a Snap back, not just text. With the company’s forthcoming generative AI feature called “Dreams,” Snap will again experiment with AI images — but soon, those images may contain you and your friends in imaginative backgrounds.

Phone hacking company tries to keep tech secret: For years, cops and other government authorities all over the world have been using phone hacking technology provided by Cellebrite to unlock phones and obtain the data within. And the company has been keen on keeping the use of its technology “hush hush,” Lorenzo reports.


Have a hankering for new podcast content? You’re in luck. TechCrunch has plenty on deck for your listening enjoyment.

On Equity, the crew discussed Nvidia’s earnings report, raises from Ramp and AI-powered writing platform Lex, Northvolt’s move to North America, the story behind’s IPO and startups that are literally full of crap (it’ll make sense once you listen — trust me).

Meanwhile, Found focused on Feyi Ayodele, the co-founder and CEO of CancerIQ, a precision health company designed for physicians to help their patients with monitoring cancer risk and prevention. Ayodele recounted how she came up with the startup idea while hiking Mount Kilimanjaro with her mother.

And on Chain Reaction, Erik Svenson talked about Blockstream, a bitcoin and blockchain-focused infrastructure firm that he helped co-found in 2014. Blockstream has its own sidechain technology, Liquid Network, as well as bitcoin mining operations and hardware wallets for Bitcoin and other assets.


TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:

OnlyFans proves the creator economy boom was real: Venture capital investment into the creator economy category slowed down significantly starting in the second half of 2022. But Ron and Anna write about how OnlyFans’ profitability suggests that there’s juice in the sector yet.

Nvidia rides the AI wave — but for how long?: When Nvidia announced eye-popping earnings on Wednesday with three-digit year-over-year growth, it was easy to get caught up in the excitement. But the lingering question is, can it keep it up?

The late-stage venture market is crumbling: New data from CB Insights details that there have been sharp valuation declines across nearly every startup stage around the world. But is that a reason for panic? Alex and Anna don’t think so — at least not now.

Grab your pass to TC Disrupt 2023

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Disclaimer – This is just shared content from above mentioned source for knowledge sharing.


Why we’re seeing so many seed-stage deals in fintech



Welcome back to The Interchange, where we take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. If you want to receive The Interchange directly in your inbox every Sunday, head here to sign up! It was a relatively quiet week in fintech startup land, so we took the time to scrutinize where we’re seeing the most funding deals.

Seed deals everywhere

Across the board in all industries, except perhaps AI, we’ve seen a big drop in later-stage funding deals and no shortage of seed-stage rounds.

When it comes to fintech, I can tell you at least anecdotally that the vast majority of pitches that hit my inbox are for seed rounds. It is very rare these days to get pitched for Series B or later, or even for Series A rounds.

Venture banker Samir Kaji, co-founder and CEO of Allocate, points out that the private markets often take their cues from the public markets and as such, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing far fewer later-stage deals and a plethora of seed rounds. The Fintech Index — which tracks the performance of emerging, publicly traded financial technology companies — was down a staggering 72% in 2022, according to F-Prime Capital’s State of Fintech 2022 report.

“Seed is typically the least affected because those companies are just too early to really feel like you have to worry about where the public markets are,” he told me in a phone interview last week. “We’re so far divorced from the time period where these companies are going to be large enough where the public market sentiment is going to really matter.”

Allocate, which recently just closed on $10 million in capital, is currently an investor in about 60 funds. But Kaji is seeing the tide beginning to turn.

“The investment pace in 2022 was just so slow, and the beginning of 2023 was incredibly slow as well, but we’re starting to see things pick up as people are now starting to see that the bid ask on deals at the Series A and later are starting to narrow,” Kaji added. “And I think entrepreneurs have started to capitulate to this new environment. This always is the case — it’s like an 18- to 24-month lag in the public markets. So I would expect much more later-stage activity again in the next 18 to 24 months.”

I asked our friends at PitchBook what they’re seeing, and unsurprisingly, in the second quarter, there were more seed deals forged in the retail fintech space (135) compared to any other stage. When it came to the enterprise fintech space, early-stage deals accounted for most of the deal activity (239) with seed-stage coming in a close second (221), according to PitchBook.

Will we start seeing more later-stage deals in 2024? I sure hope so. Will we see any fintechs actually go public? That’s probably less likely. But you can be sure we’ll be on the lookout.

Slope continues its climb

It’s always great to see startups rise through the ranks, especially at a time when fintech hasn’t been doing so well. One of the companies I have had the pleasure of following is Slope. The company, founded by Lawrence Murata and Alice Deng, developed a business-to-business payments platform for enterprise companies.

When covering the company’s initial $8 million seed round in 2021, I learned that Slope’s origins came from Murata watching his wholesaler family struggle with an easier way to manage payments. He and Deng built the company so that moving to a digital order-to-cash workflow was seamless.

Last year, Slope raised another $24 million in Series A funding, and this week banked $30 million in a venture round led by Union Square Ventures, which co-led the Series A. It also included participation from OpenAI’s Sam Altman and a list of other heavy VC hitters. Read more. — Christine

co-founders Lawrence Lin Murata and Alice Deng, B2B payments

Slope co-founders Lawrence Lin Murata and Alice Deng. Image Credits: Slope

Weekly News

TechCrunch Opinion: Fintech actually has a value system: Here’s how we can reclaim it

Introducing the a16z Global Payments Hub

Other items we are reading:

Apple is ordered to face Apple Pay antitrust lawsuit

Greenlight celebrates launch of web-based financial literacy library

Funding and M&A

As seen on TechCrunch

Pan-African contrarian investor P1 Ventures reaches $25M first close for its second fund

QED and Partech back South African payment orchestration platform Revio in $5.2M seed

Crediverso takes on legal after $3.5M capital infusion

Series, which aims to replace ERP systems, lands $25M

Seen elsewhere

Luge Capital: $71M first close of second fund completed

Colektia completes purchase of non-performing loans for $72M

Mexico’s albo receives $40m in Series C funds, striving for neobank profitability

Grow Credit Inc., a top 30 fintech app, secures $10m funding with USAA as lead investor in Series A round

StretchDollar raises $1.6M in pre-seed funding

WealthTech Vega exits stealth with over $8M funding

Farther closes Series B funding round to gain $131M valuation — This new round comes a little over a year after the wealth tech firm raised a Series A on a $50 million valuation. Check out TechCrunch’s earlier coverage of Farther.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Disclaimer – This is just shared content from above mentioned source for knowledge sharing.

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How to raise a Series A in today’s market



If you’re an early-stage founder, the crazy days of 2021 are a distant memory. Money is tight, and the process of getting more is as unsettled as ever.

The past few tumultuous years have tossed out the milestones that defined previous Series A benchmarks. But that doesn’t mean the game is lost. At this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, three investors shared their perspectives on what’s changed, what’s working today, and what advice they’re giving founders who are looking to raise a Series A.

“As companies mature to seed and Series A, a year and a half ago, if you were at a million or even approaching a million in revenue, a Series A would come together in a snap. That has changed really quickly,” Maren Bannon, co-founder and managing partner at January Ventures, told the audience. “Now it’s probably more like 2 [million] to 3 million in revenue where those rounds come together in a snap.”

For founders, the moving goalposts can be incredibly frustrating — especially since the reasons for it are beyond their control. After a remarkable 13-year bull run, uncertainty crept into the market last year, dampening investor appetite for risk. Rising interest rates compounded the problem.

As a result, Series A investors have pulled back dramatically. “What we’ve noticed in the statistics is that the Series A deployment is down 60% over the last year and a half. The amount deployed per Series A is down 25% from $10 million to $7.5 million. And the number of deals getting done is much fewer,” said James Currier, general partner at NFX.

“The bulk of seed stage companies were [successfully] raising off of story, not traction,” Loren Straub, general partner at Bowery Capital, said of market conditions two years ago. “I think there’s been a real shift in focus towards traction, momentum, legitimate product-market fit.”

“A lot of the Series A investors are understandably looking for a higher bar,” she added.

A market crowded with venture capitalists hasn’t helped, either, Currier said. Back in the ’90s, there were about 150 general partners in the U.S., he said. Today, there are more than 31,000 listed on Signal, a network of investors his firm runs.

Disclaimer – This is just shared content from above mentioned source for knowledge sharing.

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SBF’s trial starts soon, but how did he — and FTX — get here?



The highly anticipated criminal trial for Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, begins Tuesday to determine whether he’s guilty of seven counts of fraud and conspiracy.

The 31-year-old co-founded FTX in 2019; within a few years the once third-largest crypto exchange’s valuation hit $32 billion at its peak. It’s now trying to claw back any funds to distribute to creditors.

But how did the once third-largest crypto exchange get here?

Before FTX, Bankman-Fried co-founded crypto-trading firm Alameda Research in 2017. He co-founded FTX in 2019 as a complement to Alameda, to help bring in revenue and liquidity for the trading arm.

Within two years, over 80 investors provided about $2 billion in capital to FTX, helping Bankman-Fried propel his vision into a reality. In January 2022, the company raised $400 million in a Series C round, boosting its valuation to $32 billion. That was its last round of public funding.

The company gained somewhat mainstream recognition with branding deals and partnerships. For example, in 2021 it bought the naming rights for the Miami Heat’s home arena. FTX also got its name branded on Major League Baseball umpires’ polos, and it partnered with celebrities like Tom Brady and his ex-wife, Gisele Bündchen, as well as Steph Curry, Shaquille O’Neal and Naomi Osaka, among others. He also had close ties to U.S. regulators and government officials, many of whom he donated to.

Bankman-Fried was even compared to Warren Buffet and many called him the white horse of crypto (TechCrunch never did, for what it’s worth).

But in early November 2022, that all changed.

FTX’s collapse

Concerns surrounding FTX’s liquidity grew after CoinDesk published a copy of Alameda’s balance sheet, showing the firm held $14.6 billion in assets and $8 billion in liabilities as of June 30, 2022.

But there was a problem: The report showed Alameda’s largest asset was $3.66 billion of “unlocked FTT” and $2.16 billion of “FTT collateral.” FTT was the token behind FTX.

The balance sheet showed that the $5.82 billion in FTT tokens that Alameda owned was 193% higher than the total FTT market cap, which was about $3 billion at the time. That means it purported to have more FTT tokens on its balance sheet than what existed in the world.

Around the same time it was exposed, the world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance, started pulling out its remaining $2.1 billion equivalent of cash in BUSD and FTT. (It had an equity position in FTX from 2019 to 2021.) This essentially triggered a bank run on FTX.

FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. mid-November 2022. Bankman-Fried resigned, and John J. Ray III, the Enron turnaround veteran, was appointed its new CEO.

Bankman-Fried, however, maintained his innocence. At The New York Times’ DealBook Summit, he appeared virtually from the Bahamas, saying “I didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone; I was shocked by what happened this month.” In a published DM exchange with a Vox reporter, he said he regretted filing for bankruptcy and thought that “regulators make everything worse.”

SBF arrested

Bankman-Fried was arrested in December 2022 in the Bahamas, where FTX was based. He was then extradited to the U.S. to face a number of criminal charges. He was released on a $250 million bail bond, and he remained under house arrest at his parents’ home in Palo Alto. This was revoked in August after he was accused of intimidating Alameda’s former CEO, Caroline Ellison, by leaking her private diary.

Ray represented the company during a House Financial Services Committee hearing regarding FTX. When asked whether the firm had significant risk management systems, Ray said at the time that “there were virtually no internal controls and no separateness whatsoever” and added that he did not “trust a single piece of paper” in the exchange’s organization. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams called Bankman-Fried’s alleged crimes “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history,” in a press conference.

The aftermath

FTX co-founder and former CTO Gary Wang, and Alameda Research’s former CEO, Caroline Ellison, both pled guilty in December 2022 to federal criminal charges in relation to the FTX collapse. They’re also facing civil penalties from the SEC and CFTC alongside the criminal charges. Wang and Ellison plan to cooperate with prosecutors and will be major witnesses in the trial, given their close ties to Bankman-Fried, FTX and Alameda.

In January, Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty to all counts, which include wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to misuse customer funds. He could face up to 115 years in jail if convicted on all charges.

The crypto industry as a whole suffered from FTX’s collapse, which was the first of many. BlockFi filed for Chapter 11 in November 2022, as did Genesis Global Trading in January.

Where we are today

Bankman-Fried will be represented by Cohen & Gresser, and Mark Cohen, a high-profile defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, will be the lead attorney. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because he also represented Ghislain Maxwell in her sex trafficking trial related to Jeffrey Epstein. He requested an early release for Bankman-Fried but was denied.

On Tuesday, we’ll start to see how FTX’s story ends. But what’s on our mind is what happens to the investors and creditors affected by the collapse? And what happens to the billions in crypto assets tied up in legal proceedings?

Disclaimer – This is just shared content from above mentioned source for knowledge sharing.

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