Hello, the best of TechCrunch! After a week in Korea and the Philippines, it’s great to be back in the States, and a little more tanned (aka lit) than before. Big thanks to Henry, who had to step in for the past two weeks thanks to my failure to realize that Korean Air no offers in-flight Wi-Fi. Talk about a good sport.
If you’re wondering about Greg’s status, don’t worry, he’ll be back in a month from well-deserved parental leave and changed. In the meantime, I’m here to tease you about TechCrunch’s upcoming major events.
TechCrunch’s early stage is fast approaching. it’s on April 20th this year in Boston, and it will host experts from the venture and tech landscape who will talk about solutions for starting a startup. (Also in Boston: City Spotlight, which kicks off February 27.) On the far horizon is TechCrunch Disrupt (September 19-21), which promises to be an absolute blast this year. Regarding the preliminary guest list, let me just say. It will not disappoint.
With those administrative bits out of the way, let’s get on with the week’s review. (If you want it in your inbox every Saturday, sign up here.) Here are the top stories from the past few days.
Broken ambitions. Page: is exclusively reporting that Dash CEO Prince Boakye Boampong has allegedly been suspended under investigation into the company’s financial impropriety. Boampong, one of Africa’s most famous serial entrepreneurs, is reportedly accused of engaging in financial misreporting; Sources tell TechCrunch that executives have repeatedly withheld financial data within the firm while firing employees at will. Before Boampong’s alleged suspension, Dash had raised tens of millions in venture capital at a valuation of more than $200 million.
New iOS, new emoji. Apple released the iOS 16.4 developer beta, which brought with it the next set of emojis coming to iPhones. Originally revealed in draft form last year, emoji include categories such as food and drink, activities, objects, animals and symbols. Sarah: writes that highlights include variations of the heart emoji, hand gestures, and the “shaking face” emoji. Curious users can check out the new additions by signing up for Apple’s developer program.
Pony up for Paramount. Ahead of the launch of Paramount+ with Showtime, a new bundled TV streaming service in which Showtime will be integrated with Paramount+, Paramount announced it will increase the price of its Paramount+ Premium tier from $9.99 per month to $11.99 per month. It is not an unexpected step. Paramount CEO Bob Bakish telegraphed the plans in early December, but it could still put Paramount+ at a disadvantage with Showtime as it competes with Warner Bros. With Discovery’s upcoming HBO Max/Discovery+ service.
Fashion 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 big investment in Feishu speaks to the state of enterprise software in China. While Silicon Valley investors are heralding product growth, software in China still relies heavily on sales, marketing and services to recruit users.
Channeling Instagram. Instagram this week launched a new broadcast chat feature called Channels. Aisha reports that it allows creators to share public, multi-messages to communicate directly with their followers. Channels support text, images, polls, feedback, and more. Instagram is starting to test channels with select creators in the US and plans to expand the feature in the coming months.
Salespeople under pressure. Salesforce is looking for new ways to cut costs as activist investors pressure the company. This week, Salesforce implemented stricter performance metrics for engineering, with some vendors under pressure to stop or comply with stricter performance policies. how Ron: writes that this is likely due to activist investors flocking to the company, no doubt pushing management to increase productivity and cut costs.
Safety concerns of the dog Tesla. Tesla this week recalled beta software for its Full Self-Driving (FSD), an advanced driver-assistance system that federal regulators say could allow vehicles to operate unsafely at intersections. Affecting more than 362,000 vehicles, the recall was prompted in part by Telsa’s disclosure that FSD-enabled vehicles may under-react to changes in posted speed limits, among other concerns. From its name and Musk’s promises about its capabilities to its implementation and security issues, the FSD beta software has been controversial, attracting regulatory scrutiny.
User engagement. Snapchat now has over 750 million monthly active users (MAU). The company announced the milestone during its investor day on Thursday. Sarah: reports. Snapchat has said it sees a path to reach more than 1 billion people in the next two to three years, but whether it will actually achieve that remains to be seen. Either way, at 750 MAUs, Snapchat is ahead of Pinterest (450 million) but behind Facebook (2.96 billion).
Tetris movie. Apple TV+ this week released the first trailer for its Tetris movie, based on the origin story of the popular puzzle video game. Starring Taron Egerton as American video game salesman Hank Rogers, Tetris follows Rogers and his mission to secure the game’s distribution rights. The film will premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, after which Apple will release it worldwide on Apple TV+ (March 31).
TechCrunch has a great lineup of audio programming in case you weren’t aware. In other words, we have podcasts for days. This week in equity, Mary Ann and: Beca spoke on the mic about Descope’s $53 million first round, Phenomenal Ventures’ new fund, and a recent raise by a Mexican neobank. found Darrell and: Beca spoke with Alex Rapaport, CEO and co-founder of ZwitterCo, about making water recycling and product recovery practical for industries with new filtration technology. And at TechCrunch Live, the crew went live (not to be repetitive) with CFO Christina Ross and her Mayfield Fund partner Rajeev Batra to talk about the story of Ross’ company, Cube, and how it fits to his company. customers where they are.
Is the tech job market as bad as it seems? Ron: investigates the state of the tech job market, finding that while some numbers are down, it’s not a clear cut question. His high-level observation. Tech workers, especially those with specialized skills such as engineering, data science, AI and cybersecurity, continue to be in demand as supply lags behind job openings.