Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Friday, February 11, 2022! Today we’re talking big rockets, self-driving cars, tech stocks getting rekt, and more. It’s a fun, and good mix of news. Enjoy! – Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Rocketship, or big vapor phallus? At an event about SpaceX’s huge Starship launch system, more questions were left open than closed off, it appears. TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington has a good write-up of the latest, but at this point it seems the market was expecting a bit more than a dramatic backdrop and a new video discussing potentials.
- Affirm’s rout Not Great for BNPL startups: Regular Daily Crunch readers have seen more funding rounds and product news items from buy now, pay later startups than they want to recall. The business of shoving cash into BNPL upstarts has been a global venture capital parlor game in recent quarters. So our eyebrows shot higher when Affirm, a publicly listed BNPL leader from the U.S., saw a huge portion of its value get deleted after its forward guidance failed to excite investors. What does that mean for related startups? Nothing good.
- How Texas became a bitcoin mining hub: Tracking the U.S. power grid as I do – I am, of course, very fun at dinner parties – the fact that bitcoin mining has been growing in Texas, a state that has its own power grid, has been in the back of my mind for a bit. Thankfully, 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 coming to San Francisco: We talk below about China and self-driving cars more generally, but, first, a new item. AutoX, a Chinese company working on AVs, is bringing its tech to San Francisco. SF is not just a market where lots of tech folks live, making it a near-home place to test. It’s also a compact, complex city, making it a trial-by-fire of sorts for self-driving tech.
- Redroute raises $6.5M for voice-driven customer support: I won’t lie, when I call a company and get an automated service I want to throw my phone in the ocean. But maybe I am simply out of date. Redroute is building what it calls an “Alexa-like experience” for answering customer calls. Given that Alexa is not even that good at setting a timer, I am not sure how much I love this vision, but investors seem to dig it.
- More capital for mental health tech: Flush with a $16.7 million Series B, Korean startup Atommerce’s work to connect individuals to “mental health professionals via mobile app MiNDCAFE” is on a tear. The market for such companies has been pretty active lately, making the Atommerce round the opposite of a surprise.
And the first live Equity taping of the year was this week, which was good fun. You can catch the episode here!
What’s driving China’s autonomous vehicle frenzy?
All new technology needs evangelists to drive adoption and raise money: A straight line connects Steve Jobs’ Apple launch announcements with Thomas Edison’s public demonstrations of incandescent light and alternating current.
In China, the central government is the biggest booster of the autonomous vehicle industry, which “saw a period of unprecedented acceleration in 2021, with over $8.5 billion invested,” reports Rita Liao.
According to Hongquan Jiang, chairman and managing partner at Boyuan Capital, “Chinese regulators prioritize safety. They’d gladly put up a few more sensors to provide more redundancy so businesses can test more advanced solutions like cars without safety drivers.”
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Big Tech Inc.
- Naturally, Netflix is making a crypto movie: Remember that $3.6 billion hack that got solved earlier this week to the delight of the internet? Yep, Netflix has ordered a movie about the matter. How high are our hopes about its future quality? About as high as the security that allowed for the epic hack in the first place.
- And to close out our news week, yet another antitrust matter for Google in Europe. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many different legal issues U.S. platform companies are having on the continent, but it feels like a lot? At what point do they start to matter?