Image credits: Dani Padgett Watson / Strictly VC
Hello friends, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular roundup of the past few days in technology. The headlines have been dominated (or rather, overwhelmed) by the drama unfolding at artificial intelligence startup OpenAI, but a lot more happened in the half-week leading up to Thanksgiving. So much for a pre-vacation dream!
In this edition of WiR, in addition to the OpenAI saga, we cover Apple finally bringing RCS to iPhones, a former Silicon Valley VC darling who was convicted of investor fraud, the resignation of Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt, and Amazon sell cars online. Also on the agenda is Elon Musk’s lawsuit over accusations of hateful ads on Twitter, Google’s secret deal with Spotify, Binance’s CEO pleading guilty to federal charges and Signal detailing the cost of keeping its private messaging service online.
There is much to do, so we will not delay. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already.
Sam Altman returns to OpenAI: After a rollercoaster weekend and changes, Sam Altman, who was CEO of OpenAI as of Friday morning, is back as CEO. The board that fired him eventually realized that firing him may not have been the best course of action, after immense pressure from OpenAI’s rank and file, venture capitalists, its close partner Microsoft, and one of theirs. For a step-by-step look at how it all happened, check out our timeline of events.
Apple (finally) adopts RCS: Apple plans to add support for the RCS standard in iOS next year, the iPhone maker said last Thursday in a rollback that would solve the widespread issue of text messaging compatibility between iPhones and Android smartphones. But, as Manish reports, the company stopped short of eliminating what is colloquially known as the fear of the “green bubble”; Android phone messages will continue to appear as green bubbles on iOS.
Fraud conviction: Mike Rothenberg, a former VC known for throwing lavish parties, was convicted last Friday on 21 counts of defrauding investors. The verdict, returned by a jury in Northern California, closes a 10-year journey for Rothenberg, who burst onto the Bay Area scene in 2013 at age 27 with a $5 million bankroll and enough charm to persuade TechCrunch that his one-man firm was special enough to merit coverage.
Vogt leaves Cruise: Kyle Vogt, the serial entrepreneur who co-founded and led Cruise from a garage startup to its acquisition and ownership by General Motors, resigned last week, as did Cruise executive and co-founder Dan Kan. a month after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s permits to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads following an accident in which a pedestrian was struck and dragged 20 feet by the AV.
Demand for X ads: Media Matters published an article last Thursday with screenshots showing ads from IBM, Apple, Oracle and others appearing alongside hate content on Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter. Musk has filed a lawsuit alleging defamation by the news organization. But the lawsuit appears to confirm that what he claims is defamatory, Devin reports.
Google’s secret deal with Spotify: A Google executive said during testimony in the Epic versus Google trial that a deal with Spotify allows the audio company to sidestep Play Store fees, as first reported by The Verge. Don Harrison, Google’s head of partnerships, said Spotify pays no fees when it processes its own payments and pays a paltry 4% fee when Google processes them, and that both companies have committed to putting $50 million each into a “success fund.”
Binance CEO faces federal charges: Changpeng Zhao, also known as “CZ”, the founder and CEO of Binance, will resign and plead guilty to a series of charges brought through the Department of Justice and other US agencies. Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, agreed to pay about $4.3 billion to resolve the Justice Department’s investigations, the agency said in a press release late Tuesday.
The price of privacy: End-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal has published an interesting overview of the costs required to develop and maintain its pro-privacy systems that protect user data from tracking by default. The blog post, written by Signal president Meredith Whittaker and developer Joshua Lund, reveals that the company currently spends around $14 million a year on infrastructure to run the private messaging service and another $19 million per year in personnel costs. That adds up to $33 million to keep the lights on.
With Thanksgiving taking place this week, you may need podcasts to drown out the sound of family fights and sports games. (I know.) Fortunately, TechCrunch has a lot to choose from.
Equity published two: count them, two – this week’s episodes. The first recaps OpenAI’s wild weekend, from Sam Altman’s firing to the latest activity (as of November 20). The second, with former Equity presenter Matthew Lynley, Alex and yours truly, considers what OpenAI’s latest twists and turns may bring for startup founders.
Meanwhile, Found Studs co-founders and good friends Lisa Bubbers and Anna Harman talked about their ear piercing business, which aims to help Gen Z and millennials create the “hearing landscapes of their dreams” by opening ear piercing studios. drilling throughout the country.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys, which you’ll find out if you’re already a subscriber. If not, consider registering. Here are some highlights from this week:
Pay attention to what happened with the OpenAI dashboard: Dominic-Madori critically analyzes the unusual structure of OpenAI’s board of directors, which was technically part of a non-profit organization with control over OpenAI’s for-profit division. In his words: “If the structure of this company disgusts you, you’re not alone.”
Who would have imagined that the powerful would win the fight against AI? One way to think about the OpenAI restructuring of recent days is that a board of directors of a nonprofit with a specific mission felt that one of the company’s leaders was not working to achieve those goals. So they canned it. Another way to think about it, Alex colorfully writes, is that “a group of yahoos who had no idea what they were doing ran a power play against the true value driver of their company and, in response, were fired.”
OpenAI and the dangers of vendor lock-in: Companies that chose a flexible approach rather than relying on a single AI model vendor must feel pretty good after all the OpenAI drama, Ron writes. If there’s any object lesson to be learned from all this, he says, it’s that it’s never a good idea to turn to just one supplier.