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Is there anything AI can’t do? | TechCrunch

Is there anything AI can’t do? | TechCrunch

Is there anything AI can’t do? | TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly — your weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

I don’t code much anymore, but I’ve been hacking away with a small murder of Arduinos (clearly, like for crows, the plural for an Arduino is a “murder”). My C skills are hella rusty, and ChatGPT has been a surprisingly helpful tool for coding and debugging. Being able to throw a bunch of code, along with the error message the compiler throws, only for the robots to tell me that (1) I really shouldn’t be coding and (2) how to fix my n00b mistakes has been pretty refreshing.

Of course, none of this will come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but the vast number of next-generation startups that are coming our way would indicate that the AI tentacles are going far and wide.

The truly mind-boggling thing is how early we are in our journey with AI. The current-generation technology is the tech equivalent of a toddler, and all the mediocre reviews various generative AI software is getting is tantamount to judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree.

“I’m surprised no one has done a parody of actually reviewing a three-month-old baby, and saying all it does is poop in its pants, and it can’t even finish complete sentences,” Steve Blank said in an interview with TechCrunch last year. “Copilot has changed the life of every programmer, period. It has probably increased productivity by 50%, and that is if you are using it poorly.”

I’m eager to see where it’s all going.

On that note . . .

It’s all AI, all the time

ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing Chat and AI chat applications are seen on a mobile device

Image Credits: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto / Getty Images

FlowGPT emerges as the digital embodiment of the Wild West, a place where the law is more of a suggestion and safety measures are those annoying things you click past to get to the good stuff. Founded by a duo who seemingly decided that what the world really needed was a marketplace for AI apps that range from the mildly useful to the potentially nefarious, FlowGPT is the playground for anyone who thought, “Yes, I do need an app that narrates horror stories as if I’m a scared girl from a movie, but also, can it teach me how to code malware?” Investors, in a move that screams “What could possibly go wrong?” have thrown $10 million at the venture, proving once again that in the tech world, ethics can be as flexible as your funding is solid.

Inkitt looked at the dwindling reading habits of the world and said, “Challenge accepted.” With a bold plan to become the Disney of the 21st century, they’re throwing $37 million at the problem, because why not? The company’s strategy? Use AI to sift through self-published stories on their app, pick the ones that scream potential, and then tweak them into bestsellers.

AI will build your website: While Wix and Squarespace reign supreme with their user-friendly drag-and-drop interfaces, 10Web, from Armenia, emerges aiming to tame the beast that is WordPress.

AI will read your news for you: Particle.news, the brainchild of ex-Twitter engineers, is stepping into the ring with a fresh take on digesting the news. Armed with $4.4 million in seed funding, they have a vision to offer a “multi-perspective” news reading experience.

AI will code for you: StarCoder 2 is a family of models, boasting up to 15 billion parameters and trained on a whopping 67.5 terabytes of data. StarCoder 2 is trained on approximately 619 programming languages.

Most interesting fundraises this week

hand holding a money bag

Image Credits: Liia Galimzianova (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Fervo Energy is making sure the geothermal sector is heating up, raising $221 million as it pioneers deep into Earth’s crust to harness its heat. This Houston-based enterprise is leveraging directional drilling techniques, a legacy from the oil and gas industry, to significantly extend the reach of its wells. By outfitting these wells with fiber-optic cables and an array of sensors, Fervo is mapping subsurface heat patterns and monitoring well performance with unprecedented precision.

Initia is stepping onto the blockchain scene with a bold mission to tackle the notorious complexity and fragmentation plaguing the development of blockchain applications. The company aims to bridge the gap between the multichain universe and app-specific blockchains, offering a streamlined approach to interoperability and simplification. The company’s approach seeks to remove the technical barriers for app developers, aspiring to become the App Store of the crypto world, where accessing and building applications is as straightforward as possible. With a recent $7.5 million seed financing, the company is going heavy on the accelerator.

Money for photos: Photoroom, a Paris-based AI photo-editing app, has successfully closed its latest funding round, securing $43 million at a $500 million valuation.

Money for money: Embat has successfully secured a $16 million Series A funding. The company aims to revolutionize the way finance teams operate by digitizing and automating processes such as accounting, bank reconciliation, and corporate treasury management.

Money for AI: Mistral AI announced a significant development in its journey with the unveiling of a new large language model named Mistral Large, aimed at competing with giants like OpenAI’s GPT-4. This announcement was coupled with news of a strategic partnership and investment from Microsoft.

This week’s big trend: What goes up must come down

Cartoon rocket taking off and crashing.

Image Credits: Bohdan Skrypnyk / Getty Images

In the VC ecosystem, a new trend is emerging where investors are keenly backing startups designed to assist other startups in their shutdown processes. This trend is gaining momentum against the backdrop of a high startup failure rate and a significant slowdown in venture capital funding post-2021’s boom. Startups like Sunset and SimpleClosure are stepping in to offer streamlined, less painful ways for companies to wind down, handling everything from legal and financial logistics to asset disposal and capital return. These services are becoming increasingly vital as the number of startups facing closure rises, with over 3,200 venture-backed U.S. companies shutting down last year alone.

Google done goofed: Google recently found itself in a rather awkward situation, as Gemini depicted the Founding Fathers of the United States (known to be white slave owners) as a multicultural group, including people of color. This incident has sparked widespread ridicule and criticism, highlighting the challenges of balancing diversity and historical accuracy in AI-generated content.

Apple killed the self-driving car: Apple is scuttling its secretive, long-running effort to build an autonomous electric car, executives announced in a short meeting with the team Tuesday morning. The company is likely cutting hundreds of employees from the team and all work on the project has stopped.

I’m the captain now: Byju Raveendran, the founder of eponymous edtech group Byju’s, told employees on Saturday that he continues to remain the chief executive of the startup and that rumors of his firing have been “greatly exaggerated,” a day after a shareholder group voted to remove him at an emergency general meeting.

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories . . .

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

Please someone buy our cars: Toyota’s recent offer on the 2023 Mirai Limited, a fuel-cell vehicle, epitomizes the fuel struggle the automotive industry is finding itself in. The deal effectively reduces the vehicle’s price from $66,000 to $11,000, factoring in discounts and free hydrogen fuel incentives.

Just bumblin’ along: Bumble, once a dominant player in the online dating scene, is currently bumbling through turbulent waters, including major losses and a 350-person layoff.

No, Gmail isn’t going away: An old TechCrunch story got a ton of additional traffic when an online hoax claimed that Google was sunsetting Gmail. That is, of course, not the case.

Apple pours more resources into AI: Apple CEO Tim Cook is promising that Apple will “break new ground” on GenAI this year. He made the pronouncement during the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

The tiger grows 65 billion stripes: Payments infrastructure giant Stripe said today it has inked deals with investors to provide liquidity to current and former employees through a tender offer at a $65 billion valuation.

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