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Last night was a full moon, somehow it’s already halfway through August, and did you know there’s a Beach Plum LaCroix flavor? The world’s gone topsy-turvy, but at least it’s time for the weekend.
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Pardon me: A presidential pardon is restoring Samsung’s vice chairman Jay Lee’s ability to take the company’s helm. Lee had been convicted on bribery charges in 2017, and the pardon will erase it, Kate writes.
- 5G begets 4G: Yeah, you read that right. Amazon launched AWS Private 5G so companies can build their own 4G networks…for now, Paul writes. This is something that has been in the works since late 2021, and the company said eventually there will be capabilities for 5G networks.
- Location obliteration: Natasha L explains how Google was fined $40 million by Australia’s government, which found the tech giant had misled consumers about its Android location tracking settings.
Startups and VC
And for your daily dose of levity, don’t miss Amanda’s excellent piece of satire: FWD: fwd: From the CEO: BeCareful while you BeReal!
A few more highlights:
- I’d subscribe to that salad: Positive Food raised $7 million in funding as it goes after the $34 billion fresh prepared foods market, reports Christine.
- Tumbling into a whirlwind: Manish reports that an individual suspected of being a developer of the U.S.-sanctioned crypto anonymizing service Tornado Cash has been arrested. Privacy advocates ain’t happy.
- Time for some zen news: It’s a modest Series C, but the Toronto-based maker of the Muse meditation headband raised $9.5 million and is launching new subscription services, Brian reports.
- Like Slack but top secret: Big among European government clients in particular, the secure messaging app Wire grabs a €24 million Series C round, reports Natasha L.
- Tune in on August 17: We’re hanging out with Ethena’s CEO Roxanne Petraeus and Homebrew’s Hunter Walk on TechCrunch Live, talking about identifying underserved market segments next week. Set yourself a little reminder — this one’s gonna be good.
What does the future look like for e-commerce aggregators?
In the video game Katamari Damacy, players control an avatar who rolls a sticky ball that captures anything it touches. The goal: create a sphere large enough to become a star or moon.
E-commerce aggregators work in much the same way by purchasing smaller brands, then optimizing their manufacturing and sales channels to boost market share.
This model was effective in a prevaccine era when consumers stopped visiting stores, but is the brand-rollup model still viable today?
“Decreased consumer confidence, inflated brand value and a freeze in investment capital are creating a perfect storm,” says David Wright, co-founder and CEO of e-commerce accelerator Pattern. “Unless aggregators change how they operate, their future is bleak at best and nonexistent at worst.”
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
Have you seen these ransomware group members? The U.S. government is offering $10 million in exchange for information leading to the identification and location of members of the Russia-based Conti ransomware operative, Carly writes.
Speaking of alleged fraudulent behavior, Manish writes about India’s anti-money-laundering agency freezing $46.4 million in assets belonging to Singapore-based crypto exchange Vauld while it looks into the company’s business practices.
Meanwhile, Brian looks into what’s happening over at Boston Dynamics after being acquired by Hyundai in 2020, which includes a new artificial intelligence and robotics institute buoyed by $400 million.
- Pew study reveals what we’ve known for a while: That teens are not using Facebook anymore. The study found that Facebook lost like half of its users aged 13–17 since 2015, Amanda reports.
- You have to spend money to make money: That’s what Rivian’s leadership is saying anyway. The electric vehicle maker is sticking to its plans to deliver 25,000 vehicles by the end of the year, but it is going to have to burn through $700 million to do so, Harri reports.
- Your neighbor just got interesting or creepy, not sure which yet: If you’ve ever wanted to see what happens on other people’s Ring doorbells, MGM, which is owned by Amazon, is prepared to make you happy, Amanda writes.
- Friday features: Let’s take a stroll through some new app features, shall we? Aisha reports on Instacart’s new feature for really hungry but also indecisive customers, and she explores LinkedIn's new creator tools designed to better share visual content. Meanwhile, Google is updating the search quality of its “featured snippets,” Taylor writes.