Well, that’s one way to hire a new CEO

Welcome to Startups Weekly, with your shiny new host, yours truly. If you’ve seen my name on Root Devices, it’s probably because of my popular Pitch Deck Teardown series, where I take a startup pitch and celebrate the good ones, criticize the bad ones, and use both to learn more about what the world of VC pitching looks like. This week I posted part 50 of the series (hooray!) with a deep dive into the package that Danish company Ageras used to raise $36 million from private equity investors. If you’re feeling brave, I’d be happy to do some loving, educational hack-and-slash at your presentation too. Keep it up, it’s going to be fun. maybe.

Okay, that’s it quite a lot enough navel gazing, let’s get to what’s happening in the startup world.

Startups are mostly recruiting for their staff all the time. Investors generally don’t like it when this happens—it’s usually not a good outcome for them—but it can be a great way for startup founders to land a soft landing when the company is circling Dr. … I mean … when the opportunity presents itself.

That doesn’t seem to have happened with Ring founder Jamie Siminoff. Brian reports that Siminoff was secretly working on another startup called Honest Day’s Work. The company was bought by Latch (best known for its smart locks), who then promptly invited Siminoff to take over as CEO. The lesson here seems to be that if your recruiting efforts fail, buy the entire company your desired CEO works for.

As for recruiting — if you have the budget to spend, there are tons of amazing team members available right now; we’ve rounded up all the tech layoffs so far this year.

Generative AI is becoming mainstream

The first time I covered generative AI in detail at Root Devices in 2021 included an early version of ChatGPT-3. The novelty of asking an AI to co-write an article with me felt exciting – boy, how far have we come.

Since then, I’ve experimented a lot with ChatGPT, and I’ve always come to the conclusion that it can’t replace me as a writer quite a lot still, but we’re getting awfully close to that point. I also had a bit of an existential crisis when I co-founded an avocado-centric octopus cult called the Octo-guacamolians and wondered if maybe deep down I was an AI myself.

Fast forward to this week, when Kyle reports that no one knows what AI is writing anymore, and Frederic notes that Google has announced PaLM 2, its big next-generation language model. Annoyingly (and perhaps suspiciously), the search giant failed to share many details about how it trained its model. “What we’ve found in our work is that it’s not really a matter of model size — that bigger is not always better,” DeepMind vice president Zoubin Ghahramani said at a press conference, leaving more questions than answers on the table.

The meta, however, also focuses heavily on AI. Kyle reports that the company is developing custom chips to train AI, and Ivan added that the company has introduced generative AI features… for advertisers.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / Root Devices

Climate technology continues to have its time in the sun

You know what scares me? The fact that VCs are finally starting to take climate change seriously means they believe they can get outsized returns over the 7-10 year time horizon of a VC fund (this is how VCs work, after all). To make financial sense, they know something many of us have known for a long time: climate change will change everything.

The silver lining is that where there is big, somewhat predictable change, there are opportunities.

I reported that Pale Blue Dot announced a new $100 million fund and immediately announced that it was backing Amini, an African climate technology startup that is solving the environmental data gap, with a $2 million investment, as Tage reported.

Perhaps investing in a black woman-led company was foresight, as Tim and Dominic-Midori published two articles on TC+ this week concluding that without black representation in climate technology, “the planet will burn” and VC funding for female climate tech founders is amazing – the pair took a deep dive into how the VC community could improve this.

Illustration of women amidst foliage.

Image Credits: Atlas Studio / we know [composite] / Getty Images

Tough times for startup criminals

In a truly stunning story, Kate reports that Terraform’s Do Kwon is pleading “not guilty” to charges of traveling with fake documents. The disgraced founder was arrested back in March, he is said to have Belgian and Costa Rican passports. The founder was released on bail, which seems incredibly stupid for a person arrested for allegedly possessing two fake passports. It screams “flight risk” to me, but what do I know?

Meanwhile, Amanda reports that time is up for Elizabeth Holmes after the court ruled she had enough of the former Theranos founder’s shenanigans. Holmes is expected to report to prison at the end of the month to begin serving an 11-year sentence and pay nearly half a billion dollars in restitution to the victims of their fraud.

Criminals will criminalize, but it’s somewhat reassuring that the legal system tries to hold everyone to roughly the same rules. (LOL, who are we kidding, but at least there are new companies working on criminal justice reform.)

Illustration showing police silhouettes on an abstract background.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / Root Devices

When it comes to crime and data theft, our security reporting team challenges everyone with a ton of amazing stories. Here’s a concern:

My favorite most popular reads on Root Devices this week

Root Devices+’s top startup tips this week

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Calling all early stage startups! Apply to join the Startup Battlefield 200 cohort at Root Devices Disrupt 2023. All finalists receive professional training, VC networking, a booth at Disrupt, and the opportunity to compete for $100,000 in non-equity funding. Applications close on May 31. Apply today.


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