AI is terrifying

Welcome to Startups Weekly, your weekly dose of news and insights from the world of startups. In this edition, we explore the scary reality of AI technology, the optimism in the fintech sector, the evolution of social media, and the highs and lows of hardware startups. We also highlight TechCrunch’s upcoming event in Atlanta and share our top reads of the week.

The Scary Reality of AI Technology

AI technology is improving at a rapid pace, and it’s starting to raise some existential questions. In a recent article titled “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a bot,” the author explores the interwoven acts of AI technology, people’s inability to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not on the internet, and the upcoming 2024 presidential election. The author suggests that we may be so comprehensively copulated at this moment in time that digging our way out might prove impossible.

Optimism in Fintech Sector

Earlier this year, fintech companies were going through rounds of layoffs, but it appears that optimism has returned to the sector. This week, celebrity investors (including Paris Hilton) piled into consumer savings startup Checkmate, and Nymbus landed a $70 million round of funding to help drag banks away from legacy tech and into the new-fangled digital age. Major innovations are happening all over the world, including a major Brazilian player plotting to serve 11 African markets, a startup helping Indonesians take control over their credit scores, a bank raising $78 million to expand operations across South Africa, Singapore and the Philippines, and stories coming out of India, Kenya, LatAm, France, etc.

Evolution of Social Media

The social media landscape continues to evolve at neck- and thumb-breaking speeds. The surgeon general this week suggested that social media “can have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” Some organizations are fighting back, including the state of Montana, who decided to try to ban TikTok altogether. Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis announced his run for president on Twitter, which brought the entire social media platform crunching to a halt. Misinformation continues to run rampant on social media, particularly illustrated by the incident that took place this week when a fake Pentagon attack hoax was posted by a Twitter Blue-verified Twitter user called @BloombergFeed.

Highs and Lows of Hardware Startups

Humanoid robots are forging ahead with literal leaps and bounds. Figure’s humanoid robot took its first steps, and the company raised $70 million. Apptronik is teasing its to-be-revealed-this-summer robot, and Sanctuary AI showed off its slightly creepy looking ‘bot last week. However, there are many failure modes in hardware startups, and even being highly successful and delivering well-performing products is no guarantee that the resulting company succeeds.

TechCrunch Event in Atlanta

On June 7, TechCrunch will host City Spotlight: Atlanta. The event will feature amazing programming, including a fireside chat with Ryan Glover, the co-founder of the fintech Greenwood, as well as a panel that examines the venture ecosystem within the Atlanta region and identifies the best ways to raise and meet with local venture capitalists. Early-stage Atlanta-based founders can apply to pitch to a panel of guest investors/judges for a chance to win a free booth at TechCrunch Disrupt this year to exhibit their company in our startup alley.

Top Reads of the Week

Calling all early-stage startups! Apply to join the Startup Battlefield 200 cohort at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023. All finalists get expert training, VC networking, a booth at Disrupt, and the chance to compete for $100,000 in equity-free funds. Applications close May 31. Apply today.