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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for November 23, 2021! Yes, we’re one day closer to Thanksgiving. No, you cannot stop working yet. One more day! One day more! But before we get into the news, a reminder that our Space event is ticking ever closer. — Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Apple sues NSO: If you read international political news, you’ve likely heard of NSO Group. Its hacking tools have been used by governments to spy on dissidents and journalists alike. It turns out Apple has had it with the group’s “nation-state spyware Pegasus,” as TechCrunch put it. So Apple is suing NSO Group, calling the company “immoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.”
- India looks to ban crypto: A plan to “introduce, evaluate and enforce a bill to prohibit ‘all private cryptocurrencies’ in the country” is set to come with the winter legislative session in India. It wouldn’t be the first country to look to supplant private-market blockchain tech with plans for a national digital coin. China is another such country. The bill may include exceptions, but it’s not a promising trend for India’s crypto sector.
- Forget unicorns; we need new terms: Remember when startup unicorns were rare and reaching a $1 billion valuation was big news? It was some time ago. Now with more than 900 unicorns around the world, the term has lost meaning. What should we replace it with?
- AR tomatoes: London-based Dent Reality wants to bring augmented reality, or AR, to the grocery store. Sure, there’s a lot of chatter these days concerning the metaverse thanks to Facebook’s parent company, but smaller, more targeted AR products could have a place in our collective futures. The startup just raised $3.4 million.
- Your AI therapist will see you now: The U.K.-based startup ieso has raised a huge $53 million Series B for its work to bring cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to its country’s National Health Service (NHS). Per the company’s website, it is “integrating AI and automation” into the therapy market.
- Verbit raises (again) for AI transcription software: Transcribing words from audio is big business. Lots of folks get paid to do it by hand. There are startups like Otter also competing in the space. But Verbit surely has more money than its competitors, having just closed a $250 million Series E at a $2 billion valuation less than half a year after its last raise. The company blends software and humans in its approach.
- Peek shows that Doing Things is making a comeback: If Airbnb lets you rent houses, Peek lets you — or your company — rent experiences. And the company just landed an $80 million round at a $2 billion valuation. We presume that the investment means that folks are once again out and about, despite COVID’s remaining risks.
- Today’s news from BNPL Land: The buy now, pay later (BNPL) boom continues this week, with TruePay raising $23 million for its Brazilian solution and sector giant Klarna launching a “buy now” option.
- Column Tax preps for tax season with new round: Filing taxes in the United States is about as much fun as fixing a car in the dark, by yourself, without tools. It’s a mess, thanks in part to Intuit deliberately spending money to ensure it can keep collecting tax prep rents. Regardless, Column is focusing on the younger market, integrating with tech that folks already use, and it expects to have its tax prep service out in time for the U.S. tax season.
- And because it is that time of year, here’s a TechCrunch gift guide with a chlorophyll twist.
Einride founder Robert Falck on his moral obligation to electrify autonomous trucking
Swedish autonomous freight company Einride recently raised $110 million to fund its expansion into the United States. In partnership with stateside brands like Oatly and GE Appliances, the company will operate self-driving trucks and autonomous EV pods that connect to Saga, its proprietary IoT system.
Founder and CEO Robert Falck spoke to TechCrunch about why he thinks climate tech solutions are more likely to come from startups and why he doesn’t believe in Level 5 autonomy, where a vehicle can perform every driving task under any conditions.
No human driver can reach Level 5. I mean, consider this: If it’s a blizzard, do you drive as fast as you would on a sunny summer afternoon? No, of course not. So that’s the thinking we applied.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Maybe Square buying Tidal will wind up being good? When consumer fintech and business payments company Square bought Tidal, there was a good amount of head scratching. Well, the two had plans, it appears. The music service has teamed up with DistroKid to offer “a direct artist payments system.” TechCrunch put the new work under the larger rubric of Tidal “experimenting with streaming payout models that are thought to distribute funds more equitably to musicians who don’t get millions of streams on any given day.”
- NASA launching satellite with express purpose of bullying large space rocks: If you are an asteroid, watch out. NASA wants to give you a nudge. And it’s launching the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, mission to do so. Jokes aside, having the ability to steer rocks from Earth’s path is a good idea, provided that you aren’t in favor of concluding our global experiment with highly evolved primates.
- Forget drone ships, how about helicopter retrieval? Want to catch a rocket booster? You can do it in a few ways. SpaceX has little flat boats for the work. Rocket Lab wants to snag its Electron rockets out of the air with helicopters. Either way, the approaches are better than the old method of letting boosters just kersplat into the ocean.
- If you are into the enterprise side of things, our own Ron Miller has a good blog up about what he’s expecting — hoping? — to hear from the new AWS boss next week.
- Netflix gaming, redux: We’re watching Netflix’s push into gaming with some focus as it’s a notable pivot from the streaming service. News is out that the U.S. video company is launching “a reboot of Gameloft’s Asphalt Xtreme, which officially shut down this September.” That’s kinda cool? It’s hardly AAA fare, but all the same, Netflix has to do something different to stand out.
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