Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Friday February 11, 2022! Today we’re talking about big rockets, self-driving cars, tech stocks that are stretching and more. It’s a fun and good mix of news. Enjoying! † Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Rocket ship, or great vapor phallus† At an event about SpaceX’s massive Starship launch system, more questions were left open than closed, it seems. TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington does a good job of covering the latest news, but right now it seems the market was expecting something more than a dramatic backdrop and a new video discussing the possibilities.
- Affirm’s Defeat Not Great for BNPL Startups: Regular Daily Crunch readers have seen more funding rounds and product news items from buy now, pay later for startups than they want to remember. Sliding cash into BNPL’s startups has been a global venture capital parlor game for the past few quarters. So our eyebrows were raised when Affirm, a US-listed BNPL leader, saw much of its value stripped after its forward guidance failed to enthuse investors. What does that mean for related startups? Nothing good.
- How Texas Became a Bitcoin Mining Hub: Following the U.S. grid the way I do — I’m really fun at dinner parties, of course — the fact that bitcoin mining has grown in Texas, a state with its own electrical grid, was in the back of my mind for a bit. Fortunately, Leigh Cuen explored the why behind the trend. And no, it’s not just a result of China kicking miners out of its own borders.
- Chinese AVs are coming to San Francisco: We talk about China below and self-driving cars in general, but first a new item. AutoX, a Chinese company that works on AVs, is bringing its technology to San Francisco. SF isn’t just a tech-hungry market, making it an almost home-based place to test. It’s also a compact, complex city, making it a kind of experiment in self-driving technology.
- Redroute raises $6.5 million for voice-activated customer support: I won’t lie, if I call a company and get an automated service, I want to throw my phone in the ocean. But maybe I’m just out of time. Redroute is building what it calls an “Alexa-like experience” for answering customer phone calls. Since Alexa isn’t even that good at setting a timer, I’m not sure how much I like this view, but investors seem to like it.
- More capital for mental health technology: Flush with a $16.7 million Series B, Korean startup Atommerce’s work to connect individuals with “mental health professionals through the MiNDCAFE mobile app” is on a tear. The market for such companies has been quite active lately, making the Atommerce round the opposite of a surprise.
And the first live Equity recording of the year was this week, which was a lot of fun. You can watch the episode here!
What’s Driving China’s Autonomous Vehicle Madness?
All new technology needs evangelists to drive adoption and raise money: A straight line connects Steve Jobs’s Apple launch announcements to Thomas Edison’s public demonstrations of light bulbs and AC power.
In China, the central government is the biggest driver of the autonomous car industry, which had “a period of unprecedented acceleration in 2021, with more than $8.5 billion invested,” reports Rita Liao.
Hongquan Jiang, chairman and managing partner at Boyuan Capital, said Chinese regulators are prioritizing safety. They would like to put in a few more sensors to provide more redundancy so that companies can test more advanced solutions, such as cars without safety drivers.”
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Big Tech Inc.
- Netflix of course makes a crypto film: Remember that $3.6 billion hack that was solved earlier this week to the delight of the internet? Yep, Netflix has ordered a movie on the matter. How high are our expectations about its future quality? About as high as the security that made the epic hack possible in the first place.
- And to wrap up our news week, yet another antitrust issue for Google in Europe. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many different legal issues American platform companies have on the continent, but it feels like a lot? At what point do they start to matter?