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Sam Altman backs teens’ startup, Google unveils the Pixel 8 and TikTok tests an ad-free tier

Don't sweat the valuation headlines, ByteDance is doing great


Hiya, folks, and welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s digest of the past week in tech news. It’s TC’s column that highlights the major stories over the past few days, and — we humbly submit — it’s a darn useful resource for folks on the go.

This week, we cover Sam Altman backing a teen’s AI startup, Google’s hardware event (and first impressions of the Pixel 8 Pro), Flexport drama, and the ongoing FTX fallout. Also on the agenda: Gmail’s harsher rules to prevent spam, TikTok testing an ad-free subscription plan, and LinkedIn going big on AI tools. And that’s not all.

If you haven’t, sign up here to get WiR in your inbox every Saturday. And if you have, our thanks. Now, let’s get on with the news.

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Altman backs teen entrepreneurs: Sam Altman is among the backers of an AI startup, founded by two teenagers, that’s aiming to assist businesses in automating workflows in “previously unexplored” ways. Manish writes that Induced AI, founded this year, lets businesses input their back-office tasks in plain English and converts the instructions to pseudo-code in real time.

Google unveils new hardware: This week was Google’s annual hardware event, where the search and consumer tech giant showed off what it’s been working on. Christine wrote up a thorough roundup of the news, which included updates on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel Fold, Android 14, Pixel Buds, Google Assistant, Bard, Pixel Watch 2 and other goodies.

Hands on with the Pixel 8 Pro: Darrell took the newly unveiled Pixel 8 Pro for a whirl, and he liked what he saw. While very similar to last year’s model (the Pixel 7 Pro), Darrell felt that the improved cameras, brighter screen and enhanced AI-powered features made it enough of an upgrade to (potentially) warrant a purchase — minus the underutilized temperature sensor. Stay tuned for his full review.

Turmoil at Flexport: Dave Clark, the former Amazon executive who was ousted as CEO of Flexport just a year into the job, fired back at its founder and board, calling recent reporting on the logistics company “deeply concerning.” Clark made the comments Monday in a lengthy post on social media site X following a report from CNBC that provided new information about his last days at Flexport, a freight forwarding and customs brokerage startup valued at $8 billion.

SBF allegedly tried to buy off Trump: The TC team’s been trained on the Manhattan Federal Court for the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced entrepreneur accused of orchestrating the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. But fascinating details about SBF’s political dealings are emerging from a book by Michael Lewis, “Going Infinite,” that debuted on the first day of the trial, like SBF’s attempt to buy off Trump to get him to not run again for president.

Gmail fights back against spammers: Google this week announced a series of significant changes to how it handles email from bulk senders in an effort to cut down on spam and other unwanted emails. The company says that, starting next year, bulk senders will need to authenticate their emails, offer an easy way to unsubscribe and stay under a reported spam threshold.

TikTok tests an ad-free tier: TikTok is testing an ad-free subscription tier for some users. For $4.99, subscribers get an ad-free experience on TikTok — no other strings attached. But don’t look for the option to arrive anytime soon. TikTok says that it’s piloting the plan in a single, English-speaking market outside the U.S. for now.

LinkedIn leans into AI tools: LinkedIn this week unveiled a string of new AI features spanning its job hunting, marketing and sales products, Ingrid writes. They include a big update to its Recruiter talent sourcing platform, with AI assistance built into it throughout; an AI-powered LinkedIn Learning coach; and a new AI-powered tool for marketing campaigns.

Musk comes clean about X’s metrics — maybe: In September, Elon Musk said that X users were generating a lot of content — creating 100 million to 200 million posts every day, excluding retweets. But speaking at an event this week, X CEO Linda Yaccarino offered a contradictory figure. She claimed X was seeing 500 million posts per day on the platform. So who’s right? Beats us.

Former NSA director’s startup shutters: IronNet, a once-promising cybersecurity startup founded by a former NSA director, has shuttered and laid off its remaining staff following its collapse. The Virginia-based IronNet was founded in 2014 by retired four-star general Keith Alexander and had raised more than $400 million in funding. But IronNet failed to gain traction after going public in August 2021, and its stock price continued to steeply decline in the wake of an initial spike.

Audio

On the hunt for a new podcast to listen to while you work out, do the dishes or rake the leaves (now that fall’s arrived)? Look no further than TechCrunch’s roster, which covers the world of startups, the blockchain and more.

On Equity this week, the crew talked about the SBF trial; deals from VR firms Rainforest, At One Ventures, Section 32 and Greylock, where venture funding has declined; and how Fearless Fund, a firm founded to invest in women of color, is being barred from awarding grants to Black women founders.

Meanwhile, Found featured Esther Rodriguez-Villegas from Acurable, a medical device company that makes patient-friendly wearable devices to diagnose and manage respiratory conditions at home. As a career-long academic, Rodriguez-Villegas talks about how she never intended to be a founder until she learned about how the currently available medical devices make it extremely difficult to detect and treat diseases like sleep apnea and epilepsy.

And over on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn did a crossover episode with Alex about the SBF trial. Jacquelyn has been on the ground at the Southern District of New York courthouse, listening in to the trial in the same room as Bankman-Fried, so there was lots to talk about.

TechCrunch+

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:

Inside the SBF trial: Rebecca and Jacquelyn report on the second day of the SBF and FTX trial. The prosecution painted Bankman-Fried as someone who knowingly committed fraud to achieve great wealth, power and influence, while the defense countered that the FTX founder acted in good faith, never meant to commit fraud or steal and basically got in over his head.

Battery-boosting software tech: Tim covers Breathe Battery Technologies, a startup that’s developed a bit of software that can be slipped into just about any lithium-ion battery in use today — endowing it with either faster charging speeds or greater longevity.

What lies beyond ChatGPT: Anna surveyed 10 investors about the future of AI and what they believe might be the next big thing. Among other topics, they touched on where startups still stand a chance, where oligopoly dynamics and first-mover advantages are shaping up and the value of proprietary data.



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