Hey, TechCrunch besties. After a week in Korea and the Philippines, it’s great to be back in the States — and slightly more tan (i.e., burnt) than before. Massive thanks to Henry, who was forced to step in over the past two weeks thanks to my failing to realize that Korean Air does not offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Talk about a good sport.
If you’re wondering about Greg’s status, not to worry — he’s due to return from a well-deserved parental leave in a month and change. In the meantime, I’m here to nag you about TechCrunch’s upcoming headliner events.
TechCrunch Early Stage is fast approaching — it’s on April 20 in Boston this year, and it’ll host experts across the venture and tech landscape who’ll speak to solutions in getting a startup off the ground. (Also in Boston: City Spotlight, which kicks off February 27.) On the far horizon, there’s TechCrunch Disrupt (September 19–21), which promises to be an absolute blowout this year. Having taken a peek at the preliminary guest list, let me just say this: It won’t disappoint.
Dashed ambitions: Tage exclusively reports that allegedly Dash CEO Prince Boakye Boampong was temporarily suspended pending an investigation into financial impropriety at the company. Boampong, one of Africa’s best-known serial entrepreneurs, is reportedly accused of engaging in financial misreporting; sources tell TechCrunch that executives repeatedly concealed financials within the firm while laying off employees at will. Prior to Boampong’s alleged suspension, Dash had raised tens of millions in venture capital at an over-$200 million valuation.
New iOS, new emoji: Apple released the iOS 16.4 developer beta, which brought with it the next set of emoji coming to iPhones. Originally unveiled during the draft phase last year, the emoji span categories like food and drink, activity, objects, animals and symbols. Sarah writes that among the highlights are variations on the heart emoji, pushing hand gestures and a “shaking face” emoji. Curious users can check out the new additions by enrolling in Apple’s Developer Program.
Pony up for Paramount: Ahead of the launch of “Paramount+ with Showtime,” a new TV streaming service bundle that’ll see Showtime integrated with Paramount+, Paramount announced that it would be increasing the price of its Paramount+ Premium tier from $9.99 per month to $11.99 per month. It’s not an unexpected move — Paramount CEO Bob Bakish telegraphed the plans in early December — but it could nonetheless put Paramount+ with Showtime at a disadvantage as it competes with Warner Bros. Discovery’s upcoming HBO Max/Discovery+ service.
Feishu is the new Slack: Feishu, ByteDance’s Slack-like workplace collaboration app, surpassed $100 million in annual recurring revenue last year, Rita writes. ByteDance’s heavy investment in Feishu is telling of the state of enterprise software in China. At a time when Silicon Valley investors are heralding product-led growth, software in China is still largely counting on sales, marketing and services to recruit users.
Channeling Instagram: Instagram launched a new broadcast chat feature this week called “Channels.” Aisha reports that it lets creators share public, one-to-many messages to directly engage with their followers. Channels support text, images, polls, reactions and more. Instagram is starting to test channels with select creators in the U.S. and plans to expand the feature in coming months.
Salesforce under pressure: Salesforce is looking for new ways to cut costs as activist investors put pressure on the company. This week, Salesforce implemented stricter performance measurements for engineering, with some salespeople being put under pressure to quit or succumb to harsh performance policies of their own. As Ron writes, it’s probably related to the fact that activist investors have been circling the company, undoubtedly pushing management to increase productivity and reduce expenditures.
Safety concerns dog Tesla: Tesla this week issued a recall of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software, an advanced driver-assistance system that federal regulators say could allow vehicles to act unsafe around intersections. Affecting over 362,000 vehicles, the recall was motivated in part, Telsa disclosed, by concerns that FSD-driven vehicles might respond insufficiently to changes in posted speed limits, among other concerns. FSD beta software — from its name and Musk’s promises around its capabilities to its rollout and safety concerns — has been controversial, attracting scrutiny from regulatory agencies.
Snapping up users: Snapchat now has over 750 million monthly active users (MAUs). The company announced the milestone during its Investor Day on Thursday, Sarah reports. Snapchat said it sees a path to reaching over 1 billion people in the next two to three years, but whether it’ll actually achieve that remains to be seen. In any case, 750 MAUs puts Snapchat ahead of Pinterest (450 million) but behind Facebook (2.96 billion).
A Tetris movie: Apple TV+ this week released the first trailer for its movie “Tetris,” based on the origin story of the popular puzzle video game. Starring Taron Egerton, who plays American video game salesman Henk Rogers, “Tetris” tells the story of Rogers and his mission to secure the distribution rights of the game. The movie will premiere at South by Southwest film festival in March, after which Apple will release it worldwide on Apple TV+ (on March 31).
TechCrunch has a wonderful lineup of audio programming, in case you weren’t aware. In other words, we’ve got podcasts for days. This week on Equity, Mary Ann and Becca got on the mic to talk about Descope’s $53 million seed round, Phenomenal Ventures’ new fund and a Mexican neobank’s latest raise. On Found, Darrell and Becca talked with Alex Rappaport, the CEO and co-founder of ZwitterCo, which makes it practical for industries to recycle water and enhance product recovery with new filtration technology. And over at TechCrunch Live, the crew went live (not to be repetitive) with CFO-turned-CEO Christina Ross and her Mayfield Fund partner, Rajeev Batra, to talk about the story behind Ross’ company, Cube, and how it meets its customers where they’re at.
Is the tech jobs market as bad as it seems?: Ron investigates the state of the tech jobs market, finding that — while some numbers are down — it’s not a clear-cut matter. His top-level observation? Tech workers, especially those with specialized skills like engineering, data science, AI and cybersecurity, continue to be in demand as supply lags behind the number of open jobs.