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Hello, and welcome to the very last Startups Weekly ever.
Don’t worry! We’re not going far — the newsletter continues, but next week we’re getting a shiny new name and a brand-new lick of paint.
As Brian, Mary Ann and Zack wrote earlier this week, we lost a lot of startups in 2023, but honestly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Startups aren’t meant to last forever — they either evolve into a fully fledged corporation with a growth trajectory, or they cease existing altogether. There’s no in-between, and while job losses and people’s livelihoods being threatened is a tragedy, that’s precisely why startup workers tend to be paid pretty well: The risk is rolled into the stock options–shaped reward.
A tale of two pedals
Tim Stevens did a deep dive, comparing the various driver assist systems currently on the market. In this tech showdown, Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” and Mercedes’ Drive Pilot struggle to justify their hype and price tags, lagging behind their more grounded rivals from BMW, Ford, and Chevrolet. It turns out that expensive doesn’t always mean better in the race for driver assist supremacy, with hands-off features and automatic lane changes being the new benchmarks for road royalty.
More from transportation land:
Round and round we go: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop dream hits the buffers as Hyperloop One shuts down, leaving high-speed rail to steal the spotlight.
What’s next? A Nokia Taxi?: Xiaomi’s leap into the EV market with its SU7, dubbed a “smartphone on wheels,” combines ambitious tech with automotive prowess. We looked at Xiaomi’s attempt to merge phone-like software into cars, with a side note on the challenges of making a car that’s both tech-forward and worthy of the open road.
The EV free-for-all (except not free): EV fast-charging networks are bracing for a turbulent 2024 as they grapple with Tesla’s expanding Supercharger dominance. Major players like Ford, GM, and Volkswagen are semi-reluctantly joining Tesla’s charging protocol, leaving once-promising networks like Electrify America in purgatory.
The glassholes are back
It’s wild that it’s been a decade since Google Glass was all the rage, but here we go again . . . We are back to wearing all sorts of computing devices on our faces. Amazon’s latest Echo Frames, despite their improved sound, can’t quite keep up with the Ray-Ban Meta, which manages to blend tech and style more effectively. The Echo Frames are a somewhat underwhelming contender in the smart glasses arena, especially when compared to the more polished Ray-Ban Meta, Brian concludes.
More from the world of hardware startups:
Coming soon to a face near you: Apple’s Vision Pro is rumored for a late January or early February release. It marks one of Tim Cook’s boldest moves yet. Priced at $3,499, it is an ambitious venture into spatial computing, despite VR’s historical underperformance and Apple’s modest shipment expectations.
More treatments than you can shake a pill at: MIT scientists are shaking things up in the fight against obesity with a vibrating pill, literally. This pill, once ingested, vibrates to trick the body into feeling full, potentially replacing costly drugs and surgeries. Now, if it could also notify us of new Netflix episodes, it really can do it all.
It’s the most wonderfuuuul time of the yeaaaaaar: That’s right, I’m joining team TechCrunch at CES in Vegas next week. Here’s what we are expecting this year.
So what does 2024 hold?
Over 40 investors share their 2024 predictions, with diverse opinions on IPOs and AI’s future. While some expect a comeback in exits, others foresee a dry spell until 2025. The consensus is unclear, but all eyes are on AI investments and startup survival amid tightening valuations and selective funding.
More AI news from Team TechCrunch:
2024 in AI: Devin digs into the top eight predictions for the world of AI for the next year. There’s some borderline obvious ones in there, and some thought-provoking ideas as well. Check it out!
Cough up, robots!: The New York Times is suing OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging they trained AI models on Times’ content without permission. The suit seeks damages and destruction of models containing Times’ material, arguing this practice harms its journalism and brand.
Taking LLMs offline: Giga ML aims to revolutionize how companies use large language models (LLMs) by enabling offline deployment. Their platform focuses on privacy and customization, addressing common enterprise concerns about data sharing and lack of flexibility with existing LLMs.
Top reads on TechCrunch this week
Still want more? Well, damn, you’re starting off the year a bit greedy, but I see you. Here’s the five top stories since the last Startups Weekly:
Well, it’s your own damn fault we got hacked: “Rather than acknowledge its role in this data security disaster, 23andMe has apparently decided to leave its customers out to dry while downplaying the seriousness of these events,” Hassan Zavareei, one of the lawyers representing the victims who received the letter from 23andMe, told TechCrunch.
It’s like the lottery, but YouTubier: MrBeast’s stunts have evolved into a new kind of American Dream, where enduring bizarre and challenging situations on YouTube could pay off your debts. Contestants, driven by desperation to clear student loans or medical bills, participate in extreme challenges like living in a grocery store or cohabitating in a sparse room for months.
Highs and lows in real estate: Frontdesk, a short-term rental provider, is on the brink of collapse after laying off its entire 200-person workforce. The company’s struggles, exacerbated by failed fundraising efforts and challenges with its business model, led to the drastic step just months after acquiring a smaller rival.
The best gifts to avoid: Sure, Christmas has come and gone, but I still loved reading Zack’s anti-gift guide. It warns against tech presents with security and privacy pitfalls. Highlighting items like genetic testing kits, video doorbells, VPNs, kid-tracking apps, cheap Android tablets, and internet-connected sex toys, the article advises against gifting these due to potential data breaches, surveillance risks, and general privacy concerns.
X continues its plummet: Fidelity drastically reduced its valuation of X holdings, the parent company of X (formerly Twitter) owned by Elon Musk, by 71.5%. This follows a tumultuous year for the company, including a CEO change, challenges in attracting advertisers, and controversial decisions like reinstating banned accounts. The valuation cut reflects ongoing difficulties and a significant decrease from Fidelity’s initial investment.