Week in Review - Virgin Orbit runs low on cash, ByteDance pushes a TikTok replacement, and Canoo settles with the SEC

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By Kyle Wiggers

Saturday, April 01, 2023

It’s the weekend, party people, and you know what that means: It’s Week in Review (WiR) time. For the uninitiated, WiR is where TechCrunch recaps all the tech news that took place for the week. It’s like the morning paper, but in digital form, and without all the extraneous stuff unrelated to tech. So…not much like the paper, really, but very much worth a read (in this reporter’s humble opinion).

And for this edition’s roundup, scroll down. But before you do that, don’t forget to check out TechCrunch’s upcoming events lineup, including the startup-focused Early Stage in Boston on April 20 and our mega-conference, Disrupt, in San Francisco on September 19–21.


Image Credits: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson

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Crash and burn: Virgin Orbit is laying off around 85% of its workforce in order to further reduce expenses after the troubled space company said it was unable to secure additional funding to keep it afloat. The news, which Virgin Orbit filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, comes just two weeks after the company furloughed all employees and entered an “operational pause” in order to find more cash.

Date while filing taxes: There’s a new anime dating sim that does your taxes — and it actually works. Amanda played Tax Heaven 3000, a game produced by MSCHF, the venture-funded creative studio behind projects like Push Party and the Lil Nas X blood shoes. What’s the verdict? If you don’t mind risking sharing your personal information with an anime girl obsessing over the tax process, it’s not the least pleasant way to file your return.

The replacement TikTok: As U.S. lawmakers move forward with their plans for a TikTok ban or forced sale, the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, is driving another of its social platforms into the top charts of the U.S. App Store. ByteDance-owned app Lemon8, an Instagram rival that describes itself as a “lifestyle community,” jumped into one of the U.S. App Store’s top-downloaded slots on Monday, becoming the number 10 overall app across both apps and games.

Groupon has a new CEO: Groupon, which shot to fame popularizing the online group buying format, has appointed Dusan Senkypl as interim CEO. As Ingrid writes, Groupon has 14 million active users, but almost consistently for the last decade, the company’s financial position has been in a slow decline — with stagnation in its core business model, little success in efforts to diversify, declining revenues and ongoing losses.

Get your own Lyft: Lyft might once again drop its shared rides offering, just one of several changes the company’s newly appointed CEO, David Risher, could make in a bid to focus on Lyft’s core ride-hailing business and become profitable. Risher told Rebecca in a wide-ranging interview that other features may also be axed, like the Wait & Save option that allows riders in certain regions to pay a lower fare if they wait for the best-located driver.

Twitter’s APIs go paid: After weeks of stalling, Twitter finally announced its new API pricing structures on Wednesday. The three tiers include a bare-bones free level mostly meant for content-posting bots, a $100 per month basic level and a costly enterprise level. Subscribing at any level affords access to Twitter’s ads API at no additional cost.

Hard times, slashed valuations: Manish reports some of the biggest Indian startups are taking a haircut in their valuations — at least in the eyes of their investors, as some backers adjust their estimates amid the weakening global economy. BlackRock has cut the valuation of Byju’s, which is India’s most valuable startup at $22 billion, by nearly half to $11.5 billion, while Swiggy, India’s most valuable food delivery startup at $10.7 billion, has been marked down to a valuation of about $8 billion by Invesco.

Ledger wins big: French startup Ledger has added more money — about €100 million ($108 million) — to its Series C funding round, Romain writes. The company’s main products are hardware crypto wallets that offer a high level of security, shaped like USB keys and featuring a tiny screen to confirm transactions on the device.

Supply chain attack: Multiple security firms have sounded the alarm about an active supply chain attack that’s using a Trojanized version of 3CX’s widely used voice and video-calling client to target downstream customers, Carly writes. The malware is a particularly dangerous sort, capable of harvesting system information and stealing data and stored credentials from Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Brave and Firefox user profiles.

Canoo settles with the SEC: Electric vehicle startup Canoo has agreed to a $1.5 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a regulatory filing. The SEC began investigating Canoo in May 2021, focusing on the startup’s operations, business model, revenues, revenue strategy, customer agreements, earnings and the departures of certain company officers, including co-founder and CEO Ulrich Kranz.

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TechCrunch’s podcasting output was as robust as ever this week, in case you had doubts. The Equity crew talked about AI, crypto, equity crowdfunding and — in a story out of complete left field — former startup founders trying to bribe China. Meanwhile, Found interviewed Angela Hoover, CEO and co-founder of Andi, an ambitious generative AI search chatbox company. And on TechCrunch Live, AtoB co-founder Harshita Arora and Contrary Capital founder and partner Eric Tarczynski discussed red flags investors keep an eye out for, how the VC and startup world reacts to the “girl genius” versus “boy genius,” and the pain points of the trucking industry.


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:

Crypto on the upswing: “Crypto-focused venture capital investors are trucking along in their work,” Jacquelyn writes. Many remain confident in their investing strategies despite an enervated first-quarter market for crypto startup fundraising, while others are noticing a sharper decline in investing pace.

AI is the new oil: Being an AI company has become the soup du jour of startup land. Companies are scrambling to either incorporate AI into their existing business model or change up their marketing so whatever they were already quietly using AI to do is front and center. And Y Combinator’s latest class is no different, Rebecca reports.

Substack turns to its writers: Alex writes about Substack’s effort to crowdfund a venture-sized extension round. The platform, popular with writers and known for its email service, has collected more than $5 million in pledges for an extension to its Series B from its community and the internet at large.

A look at Sweden’s startup scene: In the wake of Techstars’ decision to discontinue its Swedish accelerator program, Alex and Anna decided to dig into the country’s startup scene to understand how one smaller venture market is adapting to a changed investing climate.

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