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Saturday, November 18, 2023

OpenAI fires CEO Sam Altman, Airbnb acquires GamePlanner.AI, and Epic battles Google over antitrust

Howdy, of us, and welcome to Week in Assessment (WiR), TechCrunch’s e-newsletter that recaps the foremost tech business happenings over the previous week (or so). Microsoft’s Ignite convention, the place the tech large pitched its imaginative and prescient of a “copilot”-powered future, flooded the channels midweek. However there was loads of be aware in addition to.

On this version of WiR, we check out OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s surprising firing, Humane’s unusual — and maybe overambitious — Ai Pin, the shutdown of the favored video chat service Omegle, Airbnb buying the key agency of a Siri co-founder, and Amazon launching a reduced well being plan. We additionally cowl the watermelon emoji getting used as a logo of political unity on social media, electrical air taxi testing in New York Metropolis, the continuing Epic-Google antitrust case and driverless automotive firm Cruise’s worsening woes.

It’s lots to get to — so let’s hop to it. However first, a reminder to enroll right here to obtain WiR in your inbox each Saturday if you happen to haven’t already achieved so.

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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman fired: In a stunning flip of occasions, Sam Altman has been fired from OpenAI, the AI startup behind ChatGPTDALL-E 3GPT-4 and different extremely succesful generative AI techniques. In a publish on OpenAI’s official weblog, the corporate wrote that Altman’s departure adopted a “deliberative evaluate course of by the board” that concluded that Altman “wasn’t persistently candid in his communications” with different board members, “hindering its capability to train its duties.” OpenAI CTO Mira Murati will take over as interim CEO.

The Ai Pin in particular person: Brian checked out the Ai Pin, a curious new product from Apple-veteran-backed, well-funded startup Humane. He writes that the matchbook-sized gadget, which encompasses a laser system for projecting UI components onto surfaces and a mic and speaker array for responding to voice instructions, feels “very early days” — and that the worth ($699) and obligatory subscription ($24 per thirty days) doesn’t assist. Nonetheless, it’s clear that a whole lot of care went into the product, he provides.

Bose’s QuietComfort Extremely earn their identify: In different {hardware} information, Brian test-drove Bose’s new QuietComfort Extremely headphones, which begin at $429. In his estimation, Bose has created a number of the most comfy and best-sounding headphones available on the market — coupled with best-in-class noise cancelation. That’s excessive reward for Bluetooth headphones.

Omegle shuts down: Omegle, the favored on-line chat service that allow individuals join and speak with strangers (and that was all the fashion on this author’s highschool days), has shut down after greater than 14 years. Founder and CEO Leif Ok-Brooks cited rising misuse of the platform, together with individuals committing “unspeakably heinous crimes.” However a subsequent Wired report suggests Omegle was compelled to close down by a lawsuit from a sexual abuse survivor.

Airbnb buys Siri co-founder’s agency: This week Airbnb acquired a secretive AI startup, GamePlanner.AI for round $200 million, CNBC says. GamePlanner was co-founded by Adam Cheyer, who famously helped co-launch the startup Siri, which Apple acquired and whose expertise grew to become the premise for Apple’s AI-powered Siri assistant. In saying the acquisition, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky hinted that the 12-person startup combines experience in AI and design towards crafting AI-driven experiences — form of like an AI-focused consultancy.

Amazon launches new well being plan: Amazon introduced this week a One Medical membership profit for Prime members, giving them entry to healthcare providers for $9 per thirty days or $99 yearly. (Recall that Amazon snatched up One Medical, a main care tech supplier, in February for round $3.9 billion.) Initially $199 a yr, members are saving $100 on One Medical’s 24/7 digital care providers with the brand new plan, Lauren writes, in addition to benefiting from in-person visits at areas throughout the U.S.

The watermelon emoji, a logo of protest: Morgan writes about how the watermelon emoji has a sophisticated historical past in Palestinian protests on-line. The watermelon motif as a political assertion grew to become commonplace after the Second Intifada within the early 2000s, however watermelon imagery is particularly prevalent this yr as Israeli officers implement bans on the Palestinian flag — and amid worldwide requires a ceasefire in wake of Israel’s response to the Hamas assault.

Air taxis hover above NYC: Joby Aviation and Volocopter gave the general public a vivid glimpse of what the way forward for aviation may seem like this previous weekend, with each firms performing temporary demonstration flights of their electrical plane in New York Metropolis. The demonstration flights have been performed throughout a press convention final Sunday, throughout which New York Metropolis mayor Eric Adams introduced that the town would electrify two of the three heliports situated in Manhattan.

Epic and Google duke it out: Although Match settled its antitrust case with Google over Play Retailer charges for north of $300 million, Fortnite maker Epic Video games proceeded to take its case to trial this week, Sarah experiences. The sport maker argues that Google’s commissions on in-app purchases are anticompetitive and that Google has exerted its energy within the market to unfairly compete by negotiating particular offers with builders and producers operating their very own app shops.

Cruise takes a detour: Cruise, the GM self-driving automotive subsidiary, this week began shedding contingent staff after pausing all of its driverless operations. This comes after it misplaced key business permits that allowed it to function a robotaxi service in San Francisco and halted manufacturing on its purpose-built Origin autonomous automotive. Cruise additionally suspended its worker inventory program as GM takes a extra lively function in shaping the protection tradition on the firm, inserting one among its execs to move up Cruise’s authorized and coverage, communications and finance groups.

Uber combats unfair deactivations: Uber has launched a characteristic geared towards addressing the problem of unfair deactivations that ride-hail and supply drivers typically face. Beginning Monday throughout the U.S., the corporate has been rolling out a expertise that identifies riders or Uber Eats clients who persistently give unhealthy rankings or suggestions with the intent of getting a refund.


Want a podcast to move the hours, maybe throughout Thanksgiving prep? (This author shall be baking — presumably an ube babka, impressed by his loving Filipino associate.) Properly, you’re in luck. TechCrunch’s bought you lined — there’s a lot so as to add to the playlist from TC’s library.

This week on Fairness, the crew talked concerning the Google search-related antitrust case that’s at the moment ongoing and what it might imply for startups.

Discovered featured two conversations all about sustainability in vogue from TechCrunch Disrupt 2023. Within the first, three company — Jim Ajioka from Colorifix, Beth Esponnette from unspun and Julie Willoughby from Circ — spoke with Harri about latest tendencies. Within the second, Morgan interviewed Jemima Bunbury from Mix, a curated vogue app that’s altering the way in which individuals store on-line.

And over on Chain Response, Stani Kulechov, the founding father of Avara, spoke concerning the Aave protocol, Avara’s platform-focused stablecoin GHO and its social community protocol Lens. 


TC+ subscribers get entry to in-depth commentary, evaluation and surveys — which you understand if you happen to’re already a subscriber. If you happen to’re not, contemplate signing up. Listed below are a couple of highlights from this week:

Compliance, a moneymaker: German software program firm EQS Group is being taken non-public by Thoma Bravo for about €400 million ($435.1 million) in a deal that represents a large 53% premium over its pre-announcement worth. Alex explores what it might imply for fairly quite a lot of startups working within the regulatory tech market.

What it means to be human in a world of AI: Haje displays on the that means of artwork — and why we’re upset that robots are making it now — in gentle of pushback towards generative AI, significantly art-generating AI like OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 and Midjourney.

The time to triage is over: Whereas the fundraising market nonetheless seems bleak for startups, persevering with to triage isn’t sustainable for his or her traders, Rebecca experiences. VCs are spending all of their consideration and capital on serving to their present portfolio firms journey out the more durable fundraising market — however funds aren’t set as much as help this technique.

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