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Hello, friends! I’m back from being OOTO for the past week. My inbox is a hot mess, but the beach was very relaxing, and I’m still thinking of those watermelon margaritas. As you can see, my partner in crime, Haje, is still enjoying his adventures, but we have a full day of news to dive into, so shall we get started? — Christine
P.S. Want to bring a friend for free to TechCrunch Disrupt? You’re in luck because we have our July 4th two-for-one flash sale.
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Truth Social SPAC hits a snag: A New York–based federal grand jury sent subpoenas to members of Digital World’s board, Ivan reported. That’s the special purpose acquisition company getting ready to acquire Donald Trump’s media group responsible for Truth Social. According to an SEC filing, the subpoenas are an effort to gather more information about “Digital World’s S-1 filings, communications with or about multiple individuals, and information regarding Rocket One Capital.” We’re sure there is more to the story, so stay tuned.
- Today’s car infatuation is brought to you by the letters ID.AERO: Volkswagen has us drooling over its new concept car that, Jaclyn writes, will be the basis for the car maker’s first electric vehicle. If you can’t get enough of cars, we suggest subscribing to Kirsten’s The Station newsletter.
- Plastic packaging be gone: Over in the UK, Magical Mushroom Company is conjuring up a replacement for plastic packages using mycelium, also known as the root structure of a mushroom, mixed with agricultural waste, Mike reports. The company raised £3 million to build a production facility that will churn out packaging that will biodegrade in 45 days. For those of you not keen on mycelium being used to make healthier meat products, you might like this use a bit better.
Startups and VC
Let's begin with Stardust. By now you've heard the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. While some states had trigger laws that went into effect already, we are still trying to figure out what all of this means. That includes what to do with data from period-tracking apps, should that become an avenue for future prosecution in states that outlawed abortion. Sarah and Zack looked at one such period-tracking app, Stardust, which saw its app rise to the top of the U.S. Apple App Store following the SCOTUS decision, after the company “promised it will encrypt its users’ private data to keep it out of the hands of the government.” The story takes a look at how they plan to keep that promise.
Now let's head over to some venture capital firm news: Eloho Omame was named partner at TLcom Capital. The move follows the first close of the firm’s TIDE Africa Fund II, which is going after $150 million in capital commitments. Tage writes that this is a strategic move on TLcom’s part to focus on pre-seed startups. This is a stage Omame knows well as co-founder and general partner of FirstCheck Africa, an early-stage firm that invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups with at least one female founder or co-founder.
Speaking of investments in early-stage companies led by female founders, True Wealth Ventures, led by Sara Brand and Kerry Rupp, closed on $35 million in new capital for their firm’s second fund. Something cool to ponder: All of True Wealth’s investments under its first fund are still operational, which is “no small feat for a group of early-stage startups that have had to weather a global pandemic,” Anita wrote.
- Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A: Israel-based Incredibuild is getting its game on with $35 million in new Series B funding, Ingrid writes.
- Someone threw water on the hot fintech sector: What’s a fintech worth these days? Glad you asked. Alex has that answer for you over in TechCrunch+ land, and some of it isn’t good. In fact, Mary Ann wrote about another fintech unicorn, Amount, which said today it had to lay off about 18% of its workforce.
- Solving a last-mile problem: AI Squared raised $6 million to help companies adopt artificial intelligence in a low-code way, Dominic-Madori reports.
Right-size your tech stack to withstand the downturn
Reducing headcount is often the first place founders look for savings, but it couldn't hurt to take a closer look at your tech stack.
Early-stage startups don't have a formal purchasing process, which means companies growing at scale are left paying for unused software licenses or automatically renewing contracts locked in at high rates.
“The question is not whether there is waste or inefficiency, but rather how much,” says David Campbell, CEO and co-founder of Tropic. Campbell shares three ways to assess startup software spending.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
You’ll want to pin this one. A California judge ruled that a lawsuit against Pinterest could move ahead. As Ivan reports, a marketer claiming to be friends with one of the company’s co-founders said she was asked to “salvage a failed shopping app” that eventually became Pinterest. She didn’t have a formal agreement with the social media company but was expecting compensation for the rescue effort and for creating some of its features. Sorry, that’s a #pinterestfail.
Hunks of metal are being launched to the moon by Rocket Lab, but don’t worry, it is all in the name of establishing a lunar space station, Aria writes. Tune in for the launch on June 28, when the CAPSTONE will start its 6-month journey to the moon.
Over at TechCrunch+, Ron goes a bit deeper into Zendesk’s decision to sell to a group of private equity firms from last week. Tl;dr: One of Zendesk’s investors was not thrilled that the company turned down a previous buyout offer. Now Ron writes that some industry analysts are not surprised by this new move, with most suggesting “it could bring some relief to the beleaguered company.”
Google Hangout users, it’s time to move it, move it on over to Chat. If you used Hangouts today from your mobile device, you may have seen a notification that you need to start using Chat in Gmail or the Chat app. Aisha writes that Chat was provided better functionality, making it easier for consumers to use. You may remember Chat was more of a business feature before. Better get started transferring your data before Hangouts hangs up on you.