Hi, folks, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s newsletter that highlights some of the more noteworthy moments in tech over the past few days. The holiday season is nigh upon us, but the tech industry waits for no one — on the horizon are IBM, AMD and Intel conferences, plus the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The news cycle won’t die down anytime soon, and rest assured we’ll continue doing our best to keep you informed.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. A fair amount happened this week, including Amazon’s re:Invent conference, a ransomware catastrophe at Fidelity, Sam Altman officially returning to OpenAI, Neuralink raising money, and SpaceX acquiring a parachute company. Also, Tesla officially launched the Cybertruck, Black Friday numbers came in, Evernote imposed caps on its free plan, and Teenage Engineering unveiled its latest gadget. We cover all that — and more — in this edition of WiR.
First, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already done so. Now, on with the news.
Amazon reinvents — again: Amazon’s annual re:Invent conference, which focuses on the tech giant’s AWS business, was somewhat subdued this year. But AWS CEO Adam Selipsky talked a big game, taking cheap shots at rivals, from Google and Microsoft to OpenAI. Among the more notable unveilings was a $195 thin client that looks (suspiciously) similar to a Fire TV Cube, a business-oriented AI chatbot called Q and three new serverless offerings. Christine has a roundup of the rest of the announcements.
Massive breach at Fidelity: Last Tuesday, Fidelity National Financial, or FNF, a real estate services company that bills itself as the “leading provider of title insurance and escrow services” and “North America’s largest title insurance company,” announced that it had experienced a cyberattack. Lorenzo writes that, since then, homeowners with mortgages and prospective buyers purchasing properties with FNF or one of its many subsidiaries have been left confused and concerned, not knowing exactly what’s happening — or what to do.
Altman returns to OpenAI: Sam Altman is officially back as OpenAI’s CEO after a tumultuous week and change. And OpenAI officially has a new board of directors — plus a non-voting board observer, courtesy of Microsoft — replacing most of the board that attempted to oust Altman in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
Neuralink raises cash: Neuralink, the Elon Musk–founded company developing implantable chips that can read brain waves, has raised an additional $43 million in venture capital, according to a filing with the SEC. Founded in 2016, Neuralink has devised a sewing machine–like device capable of implanting ultra-thin threads that connect to electrodes inside the brain. But Neuralink is under increasing scrutiny for what critics allege are a toxic workplace culture — and unethical research practices.
SpaceX buys parachutes: SpaceX is known for its vertical integration, but one component it’s been outsourcing is parachutes — until earlier this month, when the company quietly bought parachute vendor Pioneer Aerospace for $2.2 million after its parent company went bankrupt. Aria reports that it’s the second known acquisition for SpaceX, which acquired small satellite startup Swarm in 2021 for a $524 million mostly stock deal.
The Cybertruck launches — for real: Tesla moved forward on Thursday with the long-awaited launch of its Cybertruck electric pickup during an afternoon presser. Harri notes that the boxy vehicle is Tesla’s first new model since 2020, when it started delivering the Model Y.
Black Friday boom: A rush of deep discounts and the growth of flexible payment options were the drivers behind $9.8 billion in online sales in the U.S. on Black Friday — a record figure for the day. According to Adobe Analytics, sales were up by 7.5% on last year’s numbers — a figure that Ingrid writes should provide some surprise holiday cheer to retailers, which have been seeing overall sluggish growth.
Evernote hobbles its free plan: Days after Evernote started testing a free plan with access to only one notebook and 50 notes with limited users, the company has now made this its new default free plan. The note-taking app said that this change will be applicable for all new and existing free users starting December 4.
Teenage Engineering releases a groovebox: Teenage Engineering’s new $300 groovebox has no business being this cute, Harri writes — and I can’t disagree. Called the EP-133 K.O.II, it’s a combination drum machine, synthesizer and sampler — an appropriately supersized upgrade to Teenage Engineer’s pint-sized PO-33 K.O.
ChatGPT turns one: OpenAI’s viral AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT turned one this week. Initially a basic free-to-use, web-based and chat-focused interface on top of one of OpenAI’s existing models, GPT-3.5, ChatGPT would go on to become the company’s most popular product . . . ever — and the fastest-growing consumer app in history. I wrote something to mark the occasion.
In need of a podcast to fill the time? You’re in luck. TechCrunch has a full roster to keep you occupied.
This week on a throwback episode of Equity, Alex chats with Anu Hariharan, who previously led YC Continuity, about what makes a “great” founder and how those founders are successfully guiding their companies toward cash-flow positivity. Hariharan recently partnered with two of her former colleagues and former Brex executive Lucas Fox to launch a new fund, Avra, which aims to raise about $350 million and operate a program that some are referring to as a “YC for growth.”
Over on Found, the crew was joined by Neil Batlivala from Pair Team, which is building the infrastructure that’ll help the most vulnerable populations get the clinical and social care they need through the coming Medicaid expansion. Dom and Becca talked to Neil about how his previous health tech experience led him to start a company solely focused on connecting care facilities like food pantries and shelters to clinical training and care through Medicaid funding.
And on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn interviewed Optimism’s CEO and co-founder Jing Wang and chief growth officer Ryan Wyatt. Optimism is an Ethereum-focused layer-2 blockchain that focuses on scaling and speed, while also lowering costs for users.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:
The 2024 IPO cohort comes into focus: Many other unicorns are likely going to be watching how the upcoming Shein and Reddit IPOs perform, since they’ll pretty much prove how high private-market valuations translate to the public markets, Alex writes.
Fastest green cards if you’re from India or China: Sophie Alcorn, the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley, writes about how founders from India or China can get green cards as quickly as possible when facing deadlines from investors or partners — including through VC networks and resources.
Tepid cybersecurity funding: If you looked at venture capital investment trends in the cybersecurity market, you might think that the sector was struggling, Alex writes. What’s the reason? There’s not one, but several.