ChatGPT goes pro, layoffs at Alphabet and Dungeons & Dragons flirt with restrictive new licenses • Zoo House News
Welcome, welcome, folks, to Week in Review, Zoo House News’s regular column that rounds up the news from the past week. If you want it in your inbox every Saturday, sign up here. I hope you’re sitting comfortably with a warm drink on this wintry Saturday afternoon. Are you expecting Greg’s byline? Don’t worry — he’s still enjoying parental leave, as I mentioned in the January 7 issue. All is well.
Before we get into that, I’d be remiss if I didn’t reiterate that TC Early Stage is on the horizon in Boston. With tickets starting at $99, it’s a worthwhile stop along the Eastern Conference Circuit, packed with expert-led workshops, case studies, and deep dives with tech founders. Some members of the Zoo House News editorial team will be in attendance – don’t be strangers if you see us on the show floor.
ChatGPT goes pro: OpenAI signaled this week that it will soon begin charging ChatGPT, its viral AI-powered chatbot that can write essays, emails, poetry, and even computer code. A “Pro” version of the tool called ChatGPT Professional will throw in no unavailability windows, no throttling, and unlimited messages with ChatGPT – “at least double the regular daily limit”. Pricing remains up in the air.
Microsoft 365 goes Basic: Microsoft will introduce a lower-cost tier of Microsoft 365, its family of productivity software and cloud-based document editing services, starting Jan. 30, the company announced on Wednesday. The plan is called Microsoft 365 Basic and costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. It starts with 100GB of storage, Outlook email, and access to support experts for help with Microsoft 365 and Windows 11.
Layoffs hit one news aggregator: SmartNews, the Tokyo-based news aggregation website and app, has laid off 40% of its US and Chinese workforce, or about 120 people, my colleagues Sarah and Kirsten Report. The company has been impacted by the same macroeconomic factors that have led to a string of layoffs in the tech industry over the past few months, in addition to complications arising from Apple’s implementation of App Tracking Transparency (ATT).
Also robotics: brian reports that Alphabet this week joined the growing list of tech giants cutting jobs amid ongoing economic woes. The company’s robotic software firm, Intrinsic, laid off 40 employees, a move that came less than a year after Intrinsic acquired Vicarious and Open Robotics — the latter announced less than a month ago.
Licensed Fun: Dungeons & Dragons content creators fight to protect their livelihoods. amanda writes in a sobering deep dive. Wizards of the Coast (WotC), the Hasbro-owned game’s publisher, plans to update the game’s license for the first time in over 22 years and release a new licensing system that will allow any D&D content creator with over $750,000 would require paying a 25% royalty to the company for every dollar over that threshold. In good news, WotC has delayed rolling out the licensing scheme after widespread backlash.
Colors but E-Ink: One of the coolest gizmos to be seen at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023 are the color displays from E-Ink. Harry writes. You can spit out 50,000 colors at 300 DPI – a far cry from the 4,000-color maximum of the last-gen model. E Ink says it aims to use them to build a magazine reading experience good enough to satisfy even the most discerning publishers.
Key for days: My colleague (and boss!) Frederick reviewed the Keychron Q10 this week, a keyboard similar to Keychron’s other – but smaller – Alice-style board. He was okay with the gasket mount and silicone gaskets, which offer a bit of flexibility while reducing ping and other noise. As for the Alice layout (the keys aren’t in a straight line, instead the left and right halves are slightly angled), he said it was easy to get used to – and he appreciated that the five macro keys were under the knob these could be mapped to anything you’d like. Read the full review for more.
Welcome home, welcome home: In a profile, Maria Ann lifts the curtains on Welcome Homes, a proptech startup created by the co-founders of cloud service provider DigitalOcean. The New York City-based company, which recently raised $29 million, is offering people a way to design and build new homes online, similar to other venture-backed companies (e.g. Atmos, Homebound) that try to meet the housing shortage.
I hear deepfake voices: Microsoft’s new VALL-E AI model can replicate a voice with just three seconds of audio from the target speaker. But as my colleague Devin writes, this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern – or rather a cause for more concern than voice duplication technology already warranted. Speech replication has been the subject of intense research for years, and the results have been good enough to power many startups like WellSaid, Papercup, and Respeecher. VALL-E is simply the latest illustration of its potential – and its dangers.
Medium joins Mastodon: Online publishing startup Medium, originally founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, is making the open-source social platform Mastodon its own. Sarah reports that Medium has created its own instance – me.dm – to support authors and their publications with reliable infrastructure, moderation and a short domain name to make it easier for authors to share their usernames, among other things.
As always, Zoo House News had a successful selection of audio content for your listening pleasure this week – although I might be a little biased. On Startup-Focused Found, Zoo House News Startup Battlefield Editor Neesha Tambe spoke with Sheeba Dawood, co-founder of clean energy technology provider Minerva Lithium, about the struggles she faces as a woman of color trying to innovate in the mineral manufacturing industry to be and what’s next for the company. TC’s dedicated crypto show Chain Reaction featured an interview with Polygon Labs, one of the biggest market disrupters and Layer 2 blockchains in the crypto space, built on top of the Ethereum ecosystem. Meanwhile, over at Equity, Natasha, Mary Ann, and Becca were chatting about incoming deals from Inflow, Deel, and Fidelity; layoffs and lawsuits at Carta; Microsoft’s much-rumored investment in ChatGPT and OpenAI; and SBF’s substack debut.
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Here’s your regular reminder to subscribe to TC+ if you haven’t already. Here TC offers comprehensive and exclusive insights into trends, industries and new technologies. Here are some of the most popular content on TC+ this week:
Crypto Rollercoaster: While some crypto-focused venture capitalists are optimistic about 2023, others see it as a dangerous time, Jaquelyn reports. According to a source cited in the article, the internal mood among VCs is a game of “wait and see.” Competition in the market is likely to increase as investors write fewer checks and become more selective.
ChatGPT, Meet VC: Some investors are (cautiously) incorporating ChatGPT into their workflows, it turns out. Because ChatGPT is a specifically text-based support tool, automation could find its way into rejection letters, market maps, or even parts of due diligence, TC found — anything to stay afloat in a changing venture landscape. Natasha M, Christineand I Have more.
Pivot when ready: Pivots aren’t necessarily bad news. Brian Casey writes about how he pivoted his deep tech startup into a software-as-a-service company – albeit not without significant challenges. In his words, “The move from hardware to SaaS was the right move for our electric motor design startup, but the process wasn’t exactly linear.”