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Planted gets $72M to put whole cuts of vegan chicken on Europe’s menu – TechCrunch



Planted, a Swiss startup that’s cooking up alternative proteins using biostructuring and fermentation to serve “clean” cuts of vegan meat — such as the plant-based chicken breast plated up above — has raised again, nabbing CHF 70 million (~$72M) in Series B funding after a $21M pre-B round a year ago.

The Series B was led by consumer-focused private equity firm, L Catterton, the private equity arm of LVMH — the Paris, France based multinational corp and conglomerate with a focus on luxury consumer goods. So it’s presumably bought into a vision of the well-heeled being persuaded to abandon bloody filets mignons to bite down on guilt-free vegan cutlets.

The 2019-founded Zurich-based foodtech startup says the new funding will be used to launch its new whole-cut line of products, such as the above chicken breast (or ‘chicken’t’ as one colleague wittily dubbed it) — expanding out from its current range of smaller faux chicken pieces, mock pulled pork and kebab meat, and breaded schnitzel, which can so far be found in some 4,200 retailers and 3,000+ restaurants across three regional markets.

Further international expansion (within Europe) is on the cards now. Planted tells TechCrunch it has the Benelux markets (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) in its sights, using the Series B funds to build on its early focus on German-speaking markets (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

Funding will also go on boosting its production capacity as it works to optimize its processes to shrink the price gap between actual animal flesh and its pea-protein-based vegan chicken alternative. (It also uses oat and sunflower protein in other mock meats in its range.)

For its vegan chicken, its website lists just four ingredients: Pea protein, pea fiber, canola oil and water (it also adds vitamin B12) — hence the “clean” claim, with its marketing further emphasizing: “We do not use any flavouring or preservatives, chemical additives, soy, gluten, lactose or GMO ingredients.” (Some may quibble over the healthiness of canola oil, which has faced some popular controversy in recent years — although it’s less clear whether the concern is merited.)

Alternative proteins face several barriers to mass adoption — a major one being price, as they do not enjoy the same kind of subsidies typically ploughed into traditional food production, meaning it’s not a level playing field when it comes to competing with meat. Often buying actual meat is cheaper than a plant-based alternative, despite the vastly higher environmental costs attached to traditional meat production (not to mention the animal welfare harms). So the economics are a challenge.

Planted says its current product price vs actual chicken varies depending on the market — sitting between the price of free range and organic chicken as it stands. Though, as it scales production, it envisages being able to shrink this gap, pointing to a doubling of production volume it achieved in May which enabled it to reduce prices. (A set of three of its current faux meat products, each weighing 400g, can cost around €25 for the bundle.)

“One of the main challenges to be solved is the cutting of unsustainable subsidies to the animal industry that currently are the main reason for the low prices of animal protein (also depending on the market) that we have on the market today,” Planted argues. “Price matters when it comes to food — as with everything else. Subsidies into various sectors along the animal protein value chain are maintaining this unequal equilibrium — at our own cost. We must change that to get closer to the true cost of our protein consumption.”

There can also be concern among consumers about how much processing (and potentially preservatives) go into making mock meat. Hence Planted’s focus on minimizing the ingredients used to produce its products — and on transparency around its production methods. No ‘secret blend of herbs & spices’ here.

“What we do is structuring of plant-based protein but then we have a fermentation process run over it so essentially we’re combining the two approaches… What this allows us is to have a very clean formulation,” says co-founder, Christoph Jenny, in a phone call with TechCrunch. “So we don’t have any additives whatsoever — and that seems to be the key message that resonates with consumers. We only have proteins, fibers, water and vegetable oil.”

If you’re wondering what biostructuring is, Planted’s website details the “wet extrusion” production process it uses to convert extracted plant proteins, which are spherical in shape, into “the fibrous, elongated shape of animal muscle fibre proteins” — to mimic meat.

“The ingredients in the extruder are heated and put under pressure by means of two rotating screws, while simultaneously under high shear similar to a pasta maker. This creates a dough that is pressed through a nozzle and cooled,” it explains. “In this way, we can convert plant material to the fibrous structure of meat by applying nothing more than heat, pressure and shear. The best raw materials and the right parameters are chosen for our unique setup in this innovative process without requiring chemical additives.”

“Currently pretty much everything you see in the market has additives in one way or the other. And we feel that is one of the key things — besides the price equation — that holds consumers back. And I do understand it,” Jenny adds. “That’s why we founded the company as we wanted to be able to eat something clean, that’s good for you health. That becomes more and more important — and that’s the angle or the differentiation we focus on.”

Planted also produces all its products under a glass-house production facility in Kemptthal, Switzerland — which it bills as “the first transparent meat production open to the public”. (And you certainly won’t find open-door slaughter houses — but, hey, maybe that should be a policy mandate as a ‘hard truths’ tool to educate consumers on what actual meat is made of to help speed up the transition to less harmful protein production methods…)

A Planted production facility (Image credits: Planted)

It’s also worth noting that (actual) meat can be adulterated with plenty of substances the average person may not want near their food, from the antibiotics fed to animals to increase yields, to the (‘antimicrobial’) chlorine routinely used to wash chicken carcasses in US meat production facilities (although that particular process is banned in the EU) — so there can be a double (i.e. higher) standard applied to meat alternatives, even as long accepted (i.e. tolerated) factory farming methods leave plenty to be desired.

But the vested interests in sustaining traditional animal husbandry and the jobs it creates are undeniable.

The upshot is that alternative protein makers have to work doubly hard to get their products to market and into people’s stomachs. So the growth challenge is real — even as the potential for scaling looks massive as policymakers everywhere look for ways to shrink carbon emissions. (A 2021 study reported by the Guardian found that meat production accounted for nearly 60% of the greenhouse gases associated with global food production — which itself is responsible for a third of all planet-heating gases generated by human activity — which means that greening how we eat generally, and meat specifically, is essential if we’re to avoid climate catastrophe; no ifs, no buts.)

Investors backing alternative proteins are calculating that humanity will, over the long haul, make the switch to alternative protein sources, whether gradually then suddenly or slowly and steadily — as food production systems and policy incentives are reconfigured and reformed.

“It is an honor to partner with Planted in its mission to revolutionise the way meat and protein-rich foods are consumed globally,” said Liz Gordon of L Catterton in a statement supporting Planted’s Series B. “Not only are their products inspired by nature but they are also free of unnatural ingredients, scalable, and able to be easily incorporated into consumers’ daily lives as well as traditional meat supply chains. With food as a strong lever to promote human health and environmental stability, Planted directly contributes to creating a healthier and more sustainable food system. We have strong conviction in the company’s continued growth, as more people across the globe continue to adopt alternative proteins into their lives.”

The European Commission has a flagship ‘green deal’ policy with the goal of shrinking the bloc’s carbon emissions to net neutral by 2050 — which includes attention to agricultural reform, under a so-called “farm to fork strategy” (to transition to “a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system”, as the EU’s PR puts it). Although oxymoronical talk of “sustainable livestock” at the EU level suggests the thinking may not be nearly bold nor ambitious enough to deliver the slated eco transformation.

In the meanwhile, the reality is current EU agricultural subsidies are among those skewing the global food production playing field by propping up an environmentally unsound status quo. (A reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, adopted at the end of last year for the 2023-2027 period, was billed by lawmakers as combininghigher environmental, climate and animal welfare ambitions with a fairer distribution of payments, especially to small and medium-sized family farms as well as young farmers” — with no high level message about the need for farmers to transition beyond animal protein production as yet, as commissioners shy away from a message that many traditional farmers may find hard to swallow.)

A Commission proposal for a “legislative framework for sustainable food systems” (aka, FSFS) — slated to be a flagship component of the F2F strategy — is due to be adopted by the EU’s executive body by the end of 2023 so, it remains to be seen what else is coming down the pipe, in terms of harder food system reforms, but the pace of the EU’s creeping policy change is already lagging the protein disruptors.

“There are subsidies and also the way the regulations work — which work against us,” agrees Jenny, when asked about the policy picture. “We welcome that alternative proteins are mentioned as part of the green deal — but ‘sustainable livestock’ is also a cornerstone so… ”

Despite a patchy policy picture on home turf, he still sounds confident that traditional meat’s baked in competitive advantage is shrinking — and will shrink further in the coming years — as alt protein players scale up production, optimize their processes and tap into better economies of scale. And, also, as harsher economic conditions bite.

“As we scale up — and [remember] animal farming has been around for centuries and has been totally optimized — so as we’re scaling I think we’re also A) finding better technology, more efficient technology to produce but B) also have large scale obviously — so we can optimize costs quite a bit,” he predicts.

He also points to “adverse inflation” working against animal protein production as it gets more expensive to produce meat — given animals must be fed protein to produce the meat humans eat and that’s a far less efficient means of producing edible protein for humans than getting it direct from plants. “Overall we see meat prices rising as they’re way more prone to inflation given their lower conversion ratio of protein than alternative proteins — and I think that is one of the key measures [we’re] improving.”

“Last but not least, one of the tricky [issues] to overcome is that animal meat is typically used by retailers as a way to get customers in the door so typically they put lower margins on animal meat vs alternative proteins which typically are used as higher margin products by retailers,” he adds — hence that’s why Planted does direct distribution, b2c, to customers (and presumably also explains its early focus on building relationships with restaurants so they’re supporting the product in how they’re putting it on their menus).

Planted Exec Board - f.r.t.l - Pascal Bieri Judith Wemmer Christoph Jenny Lukas Böni

Planted executive board, from right to left: Pascal Bieri, Judith Wemmer, Christoph Jenny and Lukas Böni (Image credits: Planted)

“Working on these three things we see the gap shrink quite quick over the next couple of years,” he continues, emphasizing that the team is certainly not hanging around waiting for policymakers to roll out a red carpet for green foodtech but is strategizing hard to make growth happen despite all the ingrained challenges. “What we focus on is what we can impact day by day. We really focus on optimizing our production processes, and simplifying things and making sure that we don’t rely on any policymakers to make the changes — but rather we put ourselves in a position to get to prosperity.”

More problematic than policymakers being slow in serving up their fulsome support, Jenny suggests, is the role of meat industry lobbyists working actively against reform of the food system by trying to undermine adoption of alternative proteins. “The bigger issue is that lobbyists, very strong nationalist lobbyists — on the animal farming side — try to counteract us on a day to day basis, doing that on the European level or in local government,” he tells us. “A good example is the amendment 171 they wanted to pass to forbid plant-based milk.

“France for example is super aggressive that you cannot relate to any animal what we’re doing. So I think that’s the fundamental issue. Then the subsidies that come out of these policy struggles. So I think we find ourselves, on a day-to-day basis on the legislation side, rather in a back-and-forth — rather than moving forward and fixing the broken food system together. And we’re losing time day by day to really reduce our food’s carbon footprint on that side.

“That’s the daily struggle and the reality. So while the green new deal sounds promising the daily struggle with lobbyists and the economical power of the animal farming system is the reality.”

As well as competing with unreasonably cheap animal-derived meat — and fending off vicious attacks from the meat lobby — Planted is also of course competing with a growing number of alternative protein startups.

Plant-based rivals include the likes of Beyond Meat (mock chicken, burgers etc), Heura (mock chicken), Future Farm (fake mince, sausages, burgers), Impossible Burger (faux bloody burgers), and Juicy Marbles (vegan steaks), to name just a few meat-challenger startups in an increasingly-packed-like-sardines but branded-like-fancy-chocolate playing field (yes, plant-based fish is also a thing).

As if that wasn’t enough, there are also lab-grown meat plays trying to disrupt traditional animal farming by growing meat from cells to sell cruelty-free meat. (Aka, lab-grown meat or cultured meat). As well as liquid meal replacement purveyors, like Soylent, pushing the notion that there’s no need to even chew dinner… So the competition for disrupting traditional protein sources is colorful, plentiful and growing.

That makes differentiation between disruptors another potential challenge. How to make your fake chicken or faux pork stand out from other vegan alternatives?

Albeit, the size of the global meat market is more than massive enough to accommodate many different brands and approaches, given every human has to eat (and people’s food tastes will differ). So this should be a case of a rising appetite for alt proteins growing the size of the pie rather than a winner takes all scenario. Just so long as consumers can be convinced, en masse, to chow down on proteins that haven’t demanded animals are reared for slaughter as the price of eating dinner.

“We focus on the message,” says Jenny, when asked how Planted is approaching differentiation amid the growing gaggle of alternative producers. “We just founded the company in 2019 and the reception we get per market is very positive — because I think people do start to twist the pack around and look on the ingredients. So I think one of the most important communicators for us is the back of the pack and making sure that it’s clean.

“The second thing that comes out — if you do it clean and you do it proper — is that the taste profile is very, very good. So I think our repurchase rates are much higher than the industry standard. And that is very important when you get to sell the product because otherwise you’re just spending marketing money and you don’t get repeat purchases. So that’s a metric we focus on very strongly. And where I think we’re second to none.”





Twitter expands access to its experimental Status feature…but not to its paid subscribers • TechCrunch



Twitter’s throwback feature, Twitter Status, is today expanding its list of potential status updates to choose from, in a continuation of tests that began this July. The feature, which is something of a cross between MySpace moods and a Facebook status, allows users to tag posts with an additional expression beyond the tweet itself — like “shower thoughts,” “spoiler alert” or “picture of the day.” Now, the company is adding common Twitter slang to its list, allowing users to tag their tweets with things like “Don’t @ me,” “Tweeting it into existence,” or “That’s it, that’s the Tweet,” and more.

The expansion was first spotted by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, and Twitter confirmed the addition began rolling out to Twitter Status testers on Monday.

Other new status options now available include “Breaking news,” “Gaming,” “Pet of the day,” “So wholesome,” “Then and now,” “To whom it may concern,” “Touching grass,” “Twitter do your thing,” “Watching cricket,” “Watching football,” “Watching rugby,” and “Winning.”

The experiment, however, is not one of the “early access” features provided to Twitter’s paying customers as part of their Twitter Blue subscription.

Until today, the option to add a status to a tweet has been available to a select group of users in the U.S. With the update, Twitter says it’s now bringing on users in Australia, as well.

“As part of this expansion, those with access to the status feature will see a new set of potential statuses to choose from. Additionally, more people in Australia will also receive access to the experiment today,” a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch. They added that, with today’s update, the “majority of people in Australia” will now be able to use the feature.

One group that doesn’t necessarily have the ability to use the Twitter Status feature is the group of power users who pay for a Twitter Blue subscription. Though Twitter marketed Blue to those who wanted an expanded range of features — like a better news reading experience, personalization options, and early access to experiments — it hasn’t made all its new product tests available to its paid subscribers.

For instance, when Twitter began rolling out the addition of podcasts to its revamped “Audio” tab, Twitter Blue users weren’t the first group to gain access to the feature. Instead, Twitter made podcasts visible to a random group within its English-speaking mobile audience in August before later rolling out podcasts to paid subscribers the following month.

Similarly, Twitter Status isn’t listed among the experiments offered to Twitter Blue subscribers at this time.

Asked why Twitter isn’t prioritizing its paid subscriber base when it comes to trialing its new products first, as promised, a spokesperson clarified that it will only offer some of its experiments to subscribers while others will be tested with the broader public.

This seems to be a poor strategic decision on Twitter’s part, as those who are actually paying for Twitter have to stand by and watch other users get to play around with new features first — a perk they were promised. Though it’s understandable that some features may need to be tested among a larger group, at the very least, paid customers should be within that group.

The spokesperson clarified that Twitter Blue subscribers will have access to what the company considers “higher-impact” features first — like NFT profile pictures and, notably, the new Edit Tweet option.

The latter also today rolled out to Blue subscribers in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand after Twitter teased the editing feature last week. But the launch does not yet include Twitter Blue’s largest market, the U.S., which Twitter said would be “coming soon.”

Again, this strategy seems to be off the mark. While it’s one thing to test a small experiment within select geographies, it’s disheartening to see Twitter prioritize select markets and non-subscribers over its paying customers when it comes to some of its most fun and in-demand features.


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Geely’s Europe expansion continues, Argo robotaxis on the Lyft app and Tesla AI Day takeaways • TechCrunch



The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive the full edition of the newsletter every weekend in your inbox. This is a shorter version of The Station newsletter that is emailed to subscribers. Want all the deals, news roundups and commentary? Subscribe for free

Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B. 

The week capped off with Tesla AI Day, a recruitment slash roadshow that ended up lasting three hours. Yeah.

What did we learn and see? Tesla has made progress on its Tesla bot, also called Optimus. It is no longer a human dressed in a robot suit, but an actual robot. Will it make Boston Dynamics or Serve Robotics shake in their boots? Probably not. But it was a robot that moved, albeit briefly.

A few takeaways:
1. The event was somehow simultaneously very dense and lacking basic details that would help establish baselines and progress.
2. Tesla made a point to put employees from the AI and hardware teams on stage (this is unusual for the typical Elon-centric reveals and events)
3. There was an incredible emphasis on how the bot was equipped with components and tech used in Tesla vehicles, notably Autopilot. There is an efficiency that comes from shared parts and technology, but it also can come at great risk. Especially when said tech — ahem Autopilot — is controversial and coming under increased scrutiny by regulators.
4. Musk was asked if Tesla was still a sustainable energy company and he responded “I think the mission effectively does somewhat broaden with the advent of Optimists to you know, I don’t know, making the future awesome.” He also said that he believed that Tesla could provide a meaningful contribution to artificial general intelligence.
5. Tesla employees provided other updates, including its auto-labeling technology and the Dojo supercomputer. While Tesla employees explained these, Musk was off-stage tweeting” “Naturally, there will be a catgirl version of our Optimus.”

You can always email me at [email protected] to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions, or tips. You also can send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec


There wasn’t too much micromobility news this week, so we’ll keep this brief. Here’s what you need to know in the world of tiny electric vehicles.

Climate change is killing bees, and that’s a big problem, because bees kind of help regulate the effects of climate change. What’s this got to do with micromobility? Well, Cake launched a limited edition Kalk model bike called Flower Power that’s available in seven different color options. The company said that 5% of profits from the bikes will be donated to the World Bee Project, which is dedicated to saving the planet’s bee population.

Delfast unveiled a smaller electric moped that it’s calling the Delfast California, which has a 750W motor and reach a max speed of 28 mph, making it slightly less intense than Delfast’s more badass bike the Top 3.0.

Pure Electric is teasing a folding scooter that is expected to launch in early October. Is that a fat tire we detect, or just a play of the light?

You’re reading an abbreviated version of micromobbin’. Subscribe for free to the newsletter and you’ll get a lot more.

Deal of the week

money the station

When news broke that Chinese carmaker Geely Holding Group acquired a 7.6% share of British luxury automaker Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings, one of my co-workers (and an international reporter who covers China) exclaimed: Geely owns everyone!

It sure seems like it.

Geely was aiming to own all of Aston Martin. Instead, it settled for a small stake. Geely didn’t even get a board seat out of the deal. But no matter, Geely has squeezed a lot out of seemingly empty juice vesicles before.

Geely, which owns Lotus and is the largest shareholder of Polestar and Volvo Cars, took a 10% stake valued at $9 billion in Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler in 2018. Geely didn’t have a board seat either, but managed to exert its influence over the company, including a joint venture with the German automaker that gave it partial control of the Smart car brand.

Aston Martin also announced that it raised $732 million from investors that included Mercedes-Benz and Saudi’s Public Investment Fund participating. Yew Tree Consortium holds 19% of Aston Martin following the raise. The Public Investment Fund has become a new anchor shareholder with a 18.7% stake in the company.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Faraday Future, the struggling EV SPAC, secured up to $100 million in funding through $40 million in convertible notes and warrant exercise payments and up to $60 million in convertible notes from Hong Kong holding company Senyun International.

Gogoro signed a $345 million five-year credit facility agreement in order to increase liquidity amid uncertain economic conditions. The loan comes from a group of 10 syndicated banks led by Mega International Commercial Bank Co., according to a regulatory filing.

Harley Davidson’s electric motorcycle division spinoff, LiveWire, raised less than planned and was valued below expectations when it went public this week through a SPAC combination. Shocking! LiveWire brought in $295 million in net proceeds, which is short of the $545 million anticipated when the deal was announced in December.

Want more deals? A whole list of them, including info on Aptiv, TerraWatt and TruckSmarter were in the subscription version this week. Subscribe for free here. 

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Argo AI’s robotaxis are now operating on the Lyft network in Austin, Texas. This is a public service and the second city in which Lyft and Argo are operating a commercial robotaxi operation after Miami, which launched in December.

Aurora announced its 4th generation Driver, which can now detect and maneuver around a variety of objects and debris on the road and detect repainted lines in complex construction zones.

In a series of simulated tests, Waymo’s driver avoided crashes better than a virtual representation of a hyper-attentive driver.

Electric vehicles, batteries & charging

Arrival produced its first battery-electric van at the company’s Microfactory in Bicester, U.K., which uses autonomous mobile robots instead of a traditional assembly line. The remaining vans built this year will be earmarked for testing, validation and quality control, rather than customer delivery.

ChargerHelp has partnered with Tesla improve reliability and consumer confidence in charging access.

New York follows California and mandates that all new passenger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in New York state must be zero emissions by 2035.


Airbnb co-founder and billionaire Joe Gebbia has joined Tesla’s board as an independent director.

Charly Mwangi, the former executive vice president of manufacturing at Rivian, who previously worked at Tesla, is now a partner at Eclipse Ventures.

Lyft has canceled job interviews and issued a hiring freeze in the U.S., according to anonymous professional network Blind.

Treepz CEO Onyeka Akumah talks to TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan about how to succeed in transportation in the latest edition of our founder’s Q&A series.

Want to read more of the notable reads plus other bits of news from the week? The Station’s weekly emailed newsletter has a lot more on EVs and AVs, future of flight, insider info and more. Click here and then check “The Station” to receive the full edition of the newsletter every weekend in your inbox.


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24 hours left to apply to volunteer at TechCrunch Disrupt and attend for free • TechCrunch



It takes a veritable army to make TechCrunch Disrupt — which takes place October 18–20 in San Francisco — the well-oiled experience that savvy startuppers have come to know and love. And we couldn’t do it nearly as well without our incredible volunteers.

If you’re looking for a no-budget way to experience Disrupt up close and personal, sign up to volunteer for work exchange. Not only will you get a behind-the-scenes look at how to produce events, but you’ll also earn a free pass ($1,995 value) to experience the event. The deadline to apply is tomorrow, October 3 at 11:59 p.m. PDT.

You’ll work hard, play hard and get free access to all three days of Disrupt. Whether you dream of becoming a startup founder, marketer or event coordinator, this is a great way to see what it takes to produce a world-renowned tech startup conference.

Plus, your free pass gives you access to the full Disrupt experience — the main stage, the TechCrunch+ stage, the expo floor — where you’ll find the Startup Battlefield 200 — and the Startup Battlefield competition.

Volunteers handle a variety of tasks to help make this startup conference an epic experience for everyone. At any given time, you might help with registration, wrangle speakers, direct attendees, stuff goodie bags, place signage, scan tickets or help with pre-marketing activities.

We need volunteers on October 17–20. If you can meet the following criteria, we want to hear from you:

  • Attend a mandatory orientation on Monday, October 17 at Moscone Center.
  • Work a minimum of 10 hours during the entire conference, starting from October 17 (the day before the conference starts) to October 20. You’ll find volunteer shift availability in the application. We might select you for some pre-event opportunities, which would count toward your hours.
  • You may be scheduled for an 8- to 9-hour shift or you may be scheduled with two separate shifts of 4 to 5 hours each. Shifts can start as early as 6:30 a.m. PDT or end as late as 8:30 p.m. PDT.
  • You must provide your own housing and transportation.
  • Due to the high volume of applications, we will notify only the selected applicants.

Read the volunteer FAQ for more information.

Lend us a helping hand, and we’ll hand you a free pass. Save money, gain valuable experience and still have plenty of time to take in all the startup goodness that TechCrunch Disrupt has to offer. Apply to volunteer by October 3 to get your free pass, and we’ll see you in October!


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Meta plans hiring freeze, NASA shoots an asteroid, and Elon’s texts about Twitter are made public • TechCrunch



Hi all! Welcome back to Week in Review, the newsletter where we quickly sum up some of the most read TechCrunch stories from the past seven days. The goal? Even when you’re swamped, a quick skim of WiR on Saturday morning should give you a pretty good understanding of what happened in tech this week.

Want it in your inbox? Get it here.

most read

  • Elon’s texts: As part of the ongoing Musk vs. Twitter trial, a big ol’ trove of Twitter-related texts between Elon and various key figures/executives/celebrities has been made public. Amanda and Taylor look at some of the most interesting bits, with appearances from people like Gayle King, Joe Rogan, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey (or, as he seems to be named in Elon’s contacts, “jack jack”.)
  • Instagram bans PornHub’s account: “After a weeks-long suspension,” writes Amanda, “Pornhub’s account has been permanently removed from Instagram.” Why? PH says they don’t know, as they insist everything they put on Instagram was totally “PG” while calling for “full transparency and clear explanations.”
  • Interpol issues a red notice for Terra’s founder: “Interpol has issued a red notice for Do Kwon,” write Manish and Kate, “requesting law enforcement agencies worldwide to search for and arrest the Terraform Labs founder whose blockchain startup collapsed earlier this year.”
  • Google Maps’ new features: A bunch of new stuff is coming to Google Maps, and Aisha has the roundup. There’s a new view style meant to help you “immerse” yourself in a city before you visit, a “Neighborhood vibe” feature that aims to capture an area’s highlights, and augmented reality features that use the view from your camera to show exactly where ATMs and coffee shops are.
  • Meta’s hiring freeze: The era of explosive hiring at Meta/Facebook is over, it seems. The company will freeze hiring and “restructure some groups” internally, Zuckerberg reportedly announced during an internal all-hands this week.
  • Hacker hits Fast Company, sends awful push notifications: If you got a particularly vulgar push notification from Fast Company by way of Apple News this week, it’s because a hacker managed to breach the outlet’s content management system. The hacker also apparently published a (now pulled) post on Fast Company outlining how they got in.
  • NASA hits an asteroid: If we needed to hit an asteroid from millions of miles away — to, say, change its course and steer it away from Earth — could we do it? NASA proved they could do just that this week, smashing a purpose-built spacecraft into an asteroid at 14,700 mph. The asteroid in question was never believed to be a threat to Earth, but these are the kinds of things you want tested before they’re necessary.
  • Microsoft confirms Exchange vulnerabilities: “Microsoft has confirmed two unpatched Exchange Server zero-day vulnerabilities are being exploited by cybercriminals in real-world attacks,” writes Carly. Even worse? There’s no patch yet, though MSFT says one has been put on an “accelerated timeline” and offers temporary mitigation measures in the meantime.

audio roundup

Didn’t have time to tune in to all of TechCrunch’s podcasts this week? Here’s what you might’ve missed:

  • Evernote and mmhmm co-founder Phil Libin joined us on Found to share what he’s learned about remote work and why he’ll “never go to work in the metaverse.”
  • The Chain Reaction crew went deep on why crypto exchange FTX bid billions on a bankrupt company’s assets.
  • Amanda joined Darrell on the TechCrunch Podcast to explore whether Tumblr was reversing its controversial porn ban (spoiler: no), and Devin hopped on to talk all about NASA’s wild anti-asteroid test mission.


What hides behind the TechCrunch+ paywall? Lots of really great stuff! It’s where we get to step away from the unrelenting news cycle and go a bit deeper on the stuff you tell us you like most. The most-read TC+ stuff this week?

  • Is Silicon Valley really losing its crown?: A provocative question, one asked all the more after COVID flipped the switch on widespread remote work pretty much overnight. Alex dives into the investor data to see where the money is going, and whether or not that’s changed.
  • Investors hit the brakes on productivity software: It’s an Alex Wilhelm double feature this week! After a few quarters of consistent investment growth, it seems investor interest in productivity tools might be waning. Why? Alex looks at why/how investment in the vertical has shifted.


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Telegram cuts subscription cost by more than half in India • TechCrunch



Telegram has cut the monthly subscription fee for its premium tier by more than half in India, just months after introducing the offering as it attempts to aggressively cash in on a large user base in one of its biggest markets.

In a message to users in India on Saturday, Telegram said it was making the subscription available in the country at a discount. The monthly subscription now costs customers 179 Indian rupees ($2.2), down from 469 Indian rupees ($5.74) earlier. The app’s monthly subscription, called Telegram Premium, costs between $4.99 to $6 in every other market.

Users who have not received the message are also seeing the new price in the settings section of the app, they said and TechCrunch independently verified.

India is one of the largest markets for Telegram. The instant messaging app has amassed over 120 million monthly active users in the country, according to analytics firm (An industry executive shared the figures with TechCrunch.) That figure makes the app the second most popular in its category in the country, only second to WhatsApp, which has courted over half a billion users in the South Asian market.

Telegram, which claims to have amassed over 700 million monthly active users globally, introduced the optional subscription offering in June this year in a move it hopes will improve its finances and continuing to support a free tier. Premium customers gain access to a wide-range of additional features such as the ability to follow up to 1,000 channels, send larger files (4GB) and faster download speeds.

The Dubai-headquartered firm joins a list of global tech firms that offer their services for lower cost in India. Apple’s music app charges $1.2 for the individual monthly plan in the country, whereas Netflix’s offerings starts at as low as $1.83 in the country.


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Welcome to spooky season in startups • TechCrunch



Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

A multibillion dollar acquisition, IPO projections and some good ol’ VC and billionaire drama?

It would be unfair to say that this week in tech and startups felt like 2021’s boom cycle; especially when you look at layoffs coming from Truepill, its fourth this year, and Meta announcing that it will freeze hiring. At the same time, it does feel like there’s a new feeling in the air. Heck, NFT marketplaces are still raising money. 

The market is not dull, but it’s not loud; and the mood among my sources is certainly closer to spooky than it is to savage. Besides the fact that, yes, I did grow up writing poetry about fall foliage before deciding that I wanted to be a journalist, I’m saying all this to validate the nuance of this moment.

The ideas that I’m looking toward throughout the end of the year are as follows:

  • What happened to the black swan memos? In the early innings of the economic downturn, investors turned to portfolio companies to warn of an increasingly volatile environment. That conversation hasn’t disappeared, but it has certainly gotten quieter, with many investors now telling me that there’s a super surge of financing on the way. So, what’s the new guidance that is being sent to portfolio companies?
  • What’s the human side of the layoff story? My colleagues Mary Ann and Christine gave us all an important lesson this week, which is that stories about workforce reductions should not revolve around the employer. The duo wrote about the human cost of’s layoff spree — full story here — and I’m not-so-subtly going to steal this idea. I want to talk to people impacted by tech’s 2022 layoff wave and hear what next steps look like. I hear it’s a lot more complicated than “you should’ve known your company was overhyped to begin with.”
  • Finally, what are startups preparing to actually do differently? I’m guilty of this, but we often speak about startups and tech with generalizations, slightly hedged by explaining that it’s useful for directional purposes. I want to know what startups learned this year and are tactically doing differently. Spending with more discipline or focusing on the product doesn’t count; give me specifics, and better yet, tell me what you are disagreeing with your investors on.

Do let me know what yours are by tweeting at me or responding to this post. If you missed last week’s newsletter, read it here: “Tiger Global, fickle checks and the difficulty of acceleration.” We also recorded a companion podcast, here: “Building startups in public has an end date.”

In today’s newsletter, we’ll talk about the beauty of pivots, a creative way to prove that your startup hires entrepreneurial people and the latest from 500 global.

If you like this newsletter, do me a quick favor? Forward it to a friend, share it on Twitter and tag me so I can thank you for reading myself!

A reminder that pivots work

TC’s Rebecca Szkutak wrote about how a pivot helped HopSkipDrive win a difficult pitch to parents: Trust your kids with our ride-sharing services.

Here’s why it’s important: As we discussed in our latest Equity podcast, sometimes we’re all just a Hop, Skip and a Drive away from success. The “Uber for X” model has been MIA for a few years now, so the story behind HopSkipDrive and its trusty partner stands out to me. Who said schools weren’t experimental!

Image Credits: Ivan Bajic (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

A different version of CVC, I guess

News broke this week that Cloudflare gathered $1.25 billion in financing for startups that use its own platform. Well, kind of.

Here’s why it’s important: The security, performance and reliability company didn’t raise a corporate venture fund, typical of other companies looking to breed entrepreneur attention. Instead, Cloudflare just got dozens of venture firms to offer to invest up to $1.25 billion to companies in their existing funds. It’s a little softer than a traditional investment vehicle, given that we don’t know how formal those offers of support are, and the fact that Cloudflare is not providing any funding or making any funding decisions.

To me, the commitment just tells us that Cloudflare wants to show startups that it doesn’t just make sense to use their software, it makes cents.

Image Credits: Getty Images

The follow-up

I’m experimenting with a new section in Startups Weekly, where each week we follow up with an old story or trend to see what’s changed since our first look. This week, we’re following up on our conversation about accelerator and demo days with a look at how 500 Global, formerly 500 Startups, thinks about it.

Here’s what’s new: It’s been a little over a year since accelerator 500 Startups rebranded to 500 Global in an attempt to reposition itself as a venture firm. In my latest for TechCrunch+, I spoke to Clayton Bryan, partner and head of 500 Global’s accelerator program, about how they keep up with competition. Excerpt down below!

The investor highlighted the effectiveness of rolling admissions, which its two main accelerator competitors, Y Combinator and Techstars, don’t do. Three years ago, 500 Global said it would decide on investments all year instead of just twice yearly. Demo days will still happen biannually, but startups can choose which demo day they want to be a part of.

“That change has really resonated with founders,” Bryan said. He compared the previous version of 500 Global to a school with an annual schedule: There are times when you’re doing homework, times when you sit back and recruit, and summer vacation. Now, it’s year-round, and he admits it’s more challenging to manage, “but at the same time, much more appreciated by the founders.”

“I do think it makes us more competitive,” he said. “We can more frequently talk to founders and they can start our program at different points in time. They don’t have to wait for that application to open or that deadline. Whereas [with] some other programs, they might say, ‘Hey, wait for a couple more months so we’re accepting applications again.’ I think that openness and flexibility gives us a bit of an advantage.”

Startups employees should keep an eye on tax rules

Image Credits: bestdesigns / Getty Images

A few notes

We’re less than one month away from TechCrunch Disrupt, and I’m already emotional. It’s going to be a blast, a pep talk, a realization and a week not to miss. Here’s the full agenda, and here’s where you can get your tickets.

  • First up, use code “STARTUPS” for a special reader discount for Disrupt tickets. We’re less than one month away!
  • We also have a special for those impacted by layoffs. If you were laid off, go here to get a free ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt’s Expo.

While I have you, let’s talk some more. As you know, I co-host Equity, which goes out thrice a week and is TC’s longest-running podcast. We have some besties to listen to, too, including our crypto-focused show that goes by Chain Reaction and founder-focused show that goes by Found. The TechCrunch Podcast is also a can’t miss, so pay attention to all the good shows that they’re putting out. 

Seen on TechCrunch

Here are some of the cringiest revelations in the Elon Musk text dump

Why build a fintech any more when you can just raise €20M and white-label it to banks?

Instagram permanently disabled Pornhub’s account

EV charging deals keep coming, Ford squeezed by shortages and Kitty Hawk shuts down

Crypto platform Nexo sued by New York, California and six other US regulators 

Seen on TechCrunch+

Treepz founder Onyeka Akumah on how to succeed in transportation tech

What can the 2000 dot-com crash teach us about the 2022 tech downturn? 

Europe’s inaugural Women in VC Summit is the first step in a long climb toward equity

Venture investors hit the brakes on productivity software

Same time, same web page, next week?


Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch


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Tesla’s robot strategy is inextricably tied to its Autopilot strategy, for better or for worse • TechCrunch



Tesla unveiled its first prototype of its Optimus humanoid robot on Friday — an actual robot this time, by the strictest definition, instead of a flesh and blood human clad in a weird suit. The robot performed some basic functions, including walking a little bit and then raising its hands — all for the first time without supports or a crane, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The company may be taking its first early steps into humanoid robotics, but it has a lot riding on the business. Musk has said that the Optimus bot will eventually be more valuable “than the car business, worth more than FSD (Tesla’s add-on ‘Full Self-Driving” feature, which is not self driving.)

What was apparent at the event Friday night is that Tesla is making the economically wise, but strategically questionable decision to yoke together the destinies of both Optimus and its Autopilot (and by extension, FSD) ambitions.

Tesla suggested that the reason it’s been able to move so quickly in the robotics world is that it has already laid a lot of the groundwork in its work attempting to develop automated driving for vehicles.

“Think about it. We’re just moving from wheels to our legs,” explained one of the company’s engineers. “So some of the components are pretty similar […] It’s exactly the same occupancy network. Now we’ll talk a little bit more details later with Autopilot team […] The only thing that changed really is the training data.”

It was a recurring theme throughout the presentation, with various presenters from Tesla (the company trotted out many, as is maybe to be expected for an event billed primarily as a recruiting exercise) bringing up how closely tied the two realms of research and development actually are.

In truth, what Tesla showed with its robot on stage at the event was a very brief demo that barely matched and definitely didn’t exceed a large number of humanoid robot demonstrations from other companies over the years, including most famously Boston Dynamics. And the linkage between FSD and Optimus is a tenuous one, at best.

The domain expertise, while reduced to a simple translation by Tesla’s presentation, is actually quite a complex one. Bipedal robots navigating pedestrian routes is a very different beast from autonomous vehicle routes, and oversimplifying the connection does a disservice to the immense existing body of research and development work on the subject.

Tesla’s presenters consistently transitioned relatively seamlessly between Optimus and its vehicles’ autonomous navigation capabilities. One of the key presenters for Optimus was Milan Kovac, the company’s director of Autopilot Software Engineering, who handed off to fellow Autopilot director Ashok Elluswamy to dive further into Tesla vehicular Autopilot concerns.

It’s very clear that Tesla believes this is a linked challenge that will result in efficiencies the market will appreciate as it pursues both problems. The reality is that there remains a lot of convincing to do to actually articulate that the linkages are more than surface-deep.

Not to mention, Autopilot (and more specifically, FSD) faces its own challenges in terms of public and regulatory skepticism and scrutiny. A robot you live with daily in close proximity doesn’t need that kind of potential risk.

Tesla may have turned its man-in-a-suite into a real robot with actual actuators and processors, but it still has a ways to go to make good on the promise that it’s a viable product with a sub-$20,000 price tag any of us will ever be able to purchase.


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