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State-sponsored bad actors have long been able to make “deepfake” videos that are good enough to trick unsophisticated viewers — and probably some more clued-in folks, too. That sort of work takes significant processing power and technical know-how to pull off. Now AI is stepping in, handing over an unlabeled glass bottle, muttering, “Hold my beer,” and cracking its proverbial knuckles. Things that we could barely dream of at the beginning of 2023 are beginning to be possible when it comes to generated video AI.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, but tell that to the memelords doin’ it for the lolz. Personally (and, perhaps, perversely), I think it’s a great thing that these technologies are making their way into everyone’s hands. Special effects have been a strange, mythical “other” that Hollywood does. Generated AI selfies were a rage for a hot minute (is anyone still using Lensa?) and did wonders in educating people on what is possible. It’s not that I’m excited about this tech being universally available, but (contrary to what these curmudgeonly pieces would indicate), I’m an optimist at heart. Perhaps exposing people to what’s possible will help give even non-tech-savvy folks a fighting chance at spotting fake videos.
I suppose it is only optimism if it’s from the optimisme region of France. Maybe what I’m experiencing is lightly sparking hope.
Raisin’ money, raisin’ hell
Over the past few weeks, I’ve done a lot of writing about fundraising for startup founders. In a conversation with a VC this week, I told them that I had a flags-based checklist for evaluating pitch decks (e.g., “red flag” means that you haven’t a whelk’s chance in a supernova to raise funding. I haven’t figured out if there should be a mauve flag, nor what it would mean). It inspired me to share where founders go wrong when fundraising (TC+). Yes, it means I’m showing the world everything I care about in a pitch deck, but, I mean, 100+ articles about pitching and fundraising later, I think that cat was well and truly out of the bag anyway.
You know what early-stage founders really hate? Putting together their traction slide. What do you put when you’re straddling that pre-product/pre-revenue line? I had a bit of an epiphany when I was working with one of my pitch clients: Your traction slide, abstractly, is how much risk you have designed out of the business. Tell that story, and you end up with a reasonable traction narrative, even if it isn’t directly tied to revenue.
Apropos fundraising, there’s been a fair bit of activity on that front:
It’s a nice Jobs if you can get it: Apple founder Steve Jobs met his demise from cancer. Now his son, Reed Jobs, takes the wraps off a $200 million venture fund that will back new cancer treatments.
iForgot: Backed by a16z, Rewind launches an iPhone app to help you remember everything.
Dude, where’s my cell tower?: eSIMs are great and all, but you know what’s really cool? Being able to pop a local SIM card into your phone and be chillin’ like a villain, local style. Airalo just raised $60 million to make that a tiny bit easier, even with eSIMs.
The long arm of the law
This week, the federal government isn’t just laying down the law about certain ex-commanders-in-chief. I spent an hour reading the most recent indictment — it’s surprisingly readable, and fascinating AF. The NYT has a great annotated edition. Also, if that’s a thing you’re interested in, I definitely recommend the Prosecuting Donald Trump podcast. Two extremely experienced lawyers talk about the cavalcade of cluster-copulation that’s happening in the legal system. Rather compelling.
Closer to home, in startup land, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been accused of being toothless, but it truly has had enough of one company’s BS, fining a robocaller a record $300 million after blocking billions of their scam calls.
Insert inappropriate “how long can you go?” joke here: It turns out that Tesla has allegedly been a little floppy with the truth about the range estimates for its cars for a hot minute. Suing Tesla is practically a national sport at this time, and, indeed, the first Tesla “range inflation” lawsuit has been filed.
Let’s get to the meat of things: YouTube star MrBeast has a charming, likable, aw-shucks persona, but it turns out he does have finite patience, suing the ghost kitchen behind the MrBeast Burger. Amanda’s report doesn’t include whether you should like and subscribe to the court case.
A HIPPO-sized HIPAA breach: Close to 2.5% of the U.S. population had their health data accessed by MOVEit hackers, a government contractor says.
The viral goes viral
The social media world continues to be a Muppet wrapped in googly-eye duct tape, or some similarly confusing simile. People truly hate the Twitter-to-X rebrand. How much? Well, Amanda’s guide for how to make the blue bird come back as your app icon on iOS is right up there with our most-read stories. On top of that, App Store users are decimating Twitter’s review rating with one-star reviews after the rebrand. That’s . . . a lot of steps to not have to stare at an X. Pretty wild: Apple doesn’t usually allow one-letter app names, but it made an exception for Tw . . . I mean . . . X. I avoided throwing myself into the chaos mid-pandemic by deleting the Twitter app off my phone altogether, which is faster and better for your mental health, but I’ll leave you to make the best choices for you.
Mammoth > Bird: Famous for its nature programming, U.K. broadcaster BBC is taking a stroll through the digital ecosystem, and it seems it has had enough of Musk’s shenanigans. Natasha L reports that BBC is testing being on Mastodon, saying that the fediverse is a better fit for public purposes than Twitter or Instagram’s Threads.
Robot says you’re looking fiiiiine, 0x58 / 0x59: AI really gets its grubby little mitts everywhere, and it seems that Tinder is joining the fray as it tests an AI photo selection feature to help users build profiles. But, as a non-AI, lemme just say: You look great, fam. I’d swipe on you. Raaawr.
Uncrop! Enhance: It was a CSI meme, but we are one step closer to being able to “uncrop” images, revealing what’s beyond the edges. Not for real, but based on Photoshop’s new generative AI feature taking its best guess. And you know what? It’s really, really, really good. No wonder every other TikTok video I get served these days seems to feature uncrop shenanigans.
Top reads on TechCrunch this week
Are you still reading? Your tenacity and persistence are heartwarming. Now, make yourself a cup of tea and pat yourself on the back — you’ve truly mastered the art of the “no, this is work, honestly!” type of procrastination. I see you. I’m proud of you. You’re doing great.
Here’s what everyone else has been ogling this past week:
Hacking your way to horsepower: You know what the problem is with selling people $10,000 software upgrades to their cars? At some point, someone is going to change the $GOFAST =0 flag to $GOFAST =1 and get free heated rear seats. Personally, I think it’s truly ridiculous to turn off the ability to heat rear seats if you’ve gone through all the trouble of, I dunno, adding the hardware to heat the rear seats, but that’s why I’m a lowly TechCrunch hack and not the CEO of a car company, a tunnel company, a space company, and whatever X is.
Rolling electric: Fun fact: “volvo” means “to roll.” Presumably they mean the wheels and not some sort of sordid MDMA binge, but in any case, the all-electric Volvo EX30 is a huge deal.
Conducting, in your office: What if room-temperature superconductors were real? Tim wondered, and got (1) a really interesting article and (2) a buttload of traffic for his efforts. Well done, Tim. Keep it up, I love reading your stuff.
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