Welcome, folks, to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter that recaps the week in tech that was. Hope the holidays were restful for those who observed them. We at TC, for our parts, are gearing up for an eventful next week at CES in Las Vegas — while keeping an eye on the news cycle, as ever.
In this edition of WiR, we spotlight Brian’s CES 2024 preview, 23andMe blaming victims for its data breach, GitHub making Copilot Chat generally available and Frontdesk laying off its entire staff. Also on the agenda are spiders and body butter, Fidelity marking down X’s valuation, Meta cutting the price of the Quest 2 and MIT scientists’ vibrating obesity pill.
It’s a lot to get through, so we won’t delay. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already done so.
CES 2024: Brian has a thorough roundup of what to expect at CES 2024, including — but not limited to — generative AI, robotics, TVs, cars, smartphones, and health tech. He writes that he’s optimistic about the show overall, particularly in light of the consumer electronics industry’s move to more decentralized manufacturing and the quality of startup pitches that’ve come in so far.
Your fault, not ours: Facing over 30 lawsuits from victims of a data breach implicating ~6.9 million customers, 23andMe is now deflecting blame to attempt to absolve itself of any responsibility. In a letter, the genetic testing company says that users “negligently recycled and failed to update their passwords following these past security incidents, which are unrelated to 23andMe.”
Copilot Chat launches: GitHub has rolled out Copilot Chat, a ChatGPT-like programming-centric chatbot, in general availability for all paying Copilot users and free for verified teachers, students and maintainers of certain open source projects. The chatbot’s powered by GPT-4, OpenAI’s flagship generative AI model, and fine-tuned specifically for dev scenarios.
Frontdesk implodes: Mary Ann writes that Frontdesk, a startup that managed more than 1,000 furnished apartments across the U.S., laid off its entire 200-person workforce Tuesday after attempts to raise more capital failed. Frontdesk CEO Jesse DePinto said that Frontdesk would be filing for a state receivership, an alternative to bankruptcy, according to TechCrunch’s sources.
Spiders and body butter: Sol de Janeiro’s Delícia Drench Body Butter went viral on social media after users claimed they were hunted, bitten and (unsuccessfully) courted by wolf spiders when they applied the moisturizer, thanks to the alleged inclusion of chemicals that spiders find sexually arousing. But Sol de Janeiro — and independent experts — tell TechCrunch that there’s no merit to the rumors.
X’s valuation falls . . . again: Mutual fund company Fidelity has marked down its investment in X Holdings, the parent company of X (formerly Twitter), by 71.5% from the original valuation of shares, reports Ivan. Fidelity spent $19.2 million to acquire a stake in X back in October 2022.
Quest 2 discounted: Months after Meta launched the Quest 3, the company is slashing prices for the VR headset’s predecessor, the Quest 2, by $50. The 128GB version drops from $299 to $249 and the 256GB version drops from $349 to $299 — with plenty of accessories on sale to boot.
Vibrating the fat away: Brian writes about an MIT team’s new obesity-fighting, pill-like vibrating capsule, which is designed to send signals to the brain to simulate the sensation of being full. Early tests are promising — giving animals the pill 20 minutes before eating reduced their consumption by around 40% — but the capsule is a long way from human trials.
In need of new podcasts to fill out your rotation? Don’t panic — TechCrunch has you covered.
On a throwback episode of Equity, Morgan interviewed Shruti Dwivedi — the co-founder and CEO of health tech startup Duly, which is focused on simplifying and personalizing contraception for young women in India and beyond — at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023. The pair talked about the stigma around contraception, cultural roadblocks Duly faces and what’s next for the startup.
Meanwhile, Found went Down Under with Rebecca, who spoke with Alex Zaccaria, the co-founder and CEO of Australia-based Linktree. The two chatted about how the startup scaled the freemium model to grow the now-massive social media reference landing page business.
And on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn dove back into the latest developments on spot bitcoin ETF applications in the U.S. as anticipation builds. Fred Thiel, the CEO of Marathon Digital Holdings, a digital asset technology company and the largest publicly traded bitcoin mining firm, joined the episode to talk crypto shop.
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:
Another alleged cool superconductor: Tim has the story on the latest team of scientists who claim to have discovered a near-room-temperature superconductor. He’s not convinced that the paper, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, will stand up to scientific scrutiny; time will tell.
Crypto losses decline: While malicious actors continue to hack the crypto industry for a cash grab, the dollar amount is down substantially — 51% — compared to the previous year, Jacquelyn writes.
The coming copyright challenges: When news broke last year that AI heavyweight OpenAI and Axel Springer had reached a financial agreement and partnership, it seemed to bode well for harmony between folks who write words and tech companies that use them to help create and train AI models. But perhaps it doesn’t, Alex posits.