OpenAI unleashes GPT-4, SVB files for bankruptcy, and a PE firm acquires Pornhub
Welcome to Week in Review, folks, TechCrunch's regular recap of the week in tech. GPT-4, OpenAI's text- and image-understanding AI, might've dominated the headlines over the past few days. But fresh drama around Silicon Valley Bank's collapse emerged as well.
We cover all that and more in this edition, so grab a coffee and settle in.
Quick note, TechCrunch Early Stage 2023 is fast approaching. It'll be in Boston on April 20 and will feature three concurrent tracks of founder-forward workshops, case studies and deep dives with experts in tech entrepreneurship. Further down the line, mark your calendar for TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which will take place in San Francisco on September 19– 21. As always, it'll be jampacked with roundtables, firesides, Q&As and showcases from luminaries in their fields. You won't want to miss it.
Now, on to the news.
OpenAI debuts GPT-4: After much anticipation, OpenAI, the AI startup with major backing from Microsoft, has released a powerful new AI model called GPT-4. GPT-4 can generate text and accept image and text inputs -- an improvement over its predecessor, which only accepted text -- and performs at "human level" on various benchmarks. But GPT-4 isn't perfect. Like most other generative text AI, the model “hallucinates” facts and makes reasoning errors -- sometimes with great confidence.
Microsoft goes all-in on AI: Leveraging the latest tech from OpenAI, including GPT-4, Microsoft launched new AI-powered features across its suite of productivity tools under the brand Copilot. Copilot handles different tasks depending on the app in which it’s used. For example, in Word, Copilot writes, edits, summarizes and generates text; in PowerPoint and Excel, Copilot turns natural language commands into designed presentations and data visualizations; and in Power Apps, Copilot helps refine ideas for low-code software.
SVB files for bankruptcy: One week after trading was halted for SVB Financial and after regulators took control of the holding company for Silicon Valley Bank and other subsidiaries, SVB Financial has taken the next inevitable step. On Friday, the bank announced that it has formally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. This will mean that SVB Financial can apply -- and plans to apply -- to the courts to resume activities while finding buyers for its assets, which include going ahead with its plan to sell off SVB Securities and SVB Capital.
Google Glass bids farewell: Google Glass, Google's misunderstood bit of AR tech, is no more. Google announced this week that it would stop selling the last incarnation of Glass, Glass Enterprise Edition, on March 15 (but continue to support existing customers until September 15). Readers will recall that Glass, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last month, never quite managed to gain traction, becoming the subject of ridicule and parodies even after a pivot in focus from consumer to enterprise.
YouTube TV gets pricey: In a move sure to irk cord cutters, YouTube has announced that it’s raising the price of its YouTube TV subscription to $72.99 per month -- an $8 increase from the current $64.99 monthly fee. The Google-owned company blames a rise in "content costs" for the change. (Perhaps not coincidentally, YouTube TV recently announced a streaming deal with NFL Sunday Ticket, which is reportedly worth $2 billion per season.)
Via acquires Citymapper: Transportation startup Via, which recently raised $110 million at a $3.5 billion valuation, has snatched up Citymapper, the London startup that produces the popular urban mapping app of the same name. Originally making a name for itself as an alternative to apps like Google Maps for consumers planning journeys in metropolitan areas using public transportation, Citymapper arguably never really managed to capitalize on its momentum and early promise.
Baidu's ChatGPT rival flails: In other AI news this week, Ernie Bot, Chinese search giant Baidu's answer to ChatGPT, underwhelmed. TechCrunch wasn't able to try it, but industry observers inside and outside China pointed to the fact that rather than showcasing Ernie through a live demo, Baidu opted for a lengthy presentation with pre-recordings of Ernie’s answers. The company’s shares slumped as much as 10% in Hong Kong following Li’s presentation.
Pornhub meets private equity: MindGeek -- owner of several adult entertainment sites, including Pornhub, Brazzers and Redtube -- was acquired by a Canadian private equity firm, Ethical Capital Partners (ECP). The acquisition follows a rocky few years for the porn giant. MindGeek’s CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo both departed from the company in June 2022. MindGeek also is currently in the midst of multiple lawsuits that allege it has knowingly profited off of child sexual abuse material.
Dish customers in the dark: Dish customers are still looking for answers two weeks after the U.S. satellite television giant was hit by a ransomware attack. In a public filing published on February 28, Dish confirmed that ransomware was to blame for an ongoing outage and warned that hackers exfiltrated data, which “may” include customers’ personal information, from its systems. But Dish hasn’t provided a substantive update since, despite customers continuing to experience issues -- and not knowing if their personal data is at risk.
TechCrunch's stable of quality podcasts grows by the hour. (Rejoice, those with long commutes.) This week on Equity, Alex and Natasha discussed the M&A spree that captured Qualtrics, Cvent, and Mint Mobile, as well as what's followed the SVB collapse, GPT-4 and why Y Combinator is scaling back from late stage. Over at Found, meanwhile, Amanda and Darrell spoke with Teddy Solomon, the co-founder of Fizz, a social media app aimed at college students focusing on building community on campus. The interview touched on what Gen Z is looking for in their social media, how to thoroughly moderate a platform like Fizz and how this kind of community building could go far beyond colleges.
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:
Rethinking points of failure: Natasha M writes about how, in light of the SVB collapse, perhaps founders should rethink entrusting a single person to lead their business to success. She polled a number of early-stage founders who are building companies that have raised a Series A or less to understand how they think about succession. The consensus is that it’s not top of mind, or even top of the list, in a world where founders are more focused on runway, product-market fit and growth.
Strange things afoot at Unearthly Materials: Tim reports on Unearthly Materials, a startup that claimed to have big-name investors behind its tech that could lead to a superconductor breakthrough. But as it turns out, those investors weren't all on board, especially given Unearthly Materials' questionable record.
Good news for software companies: Depressed from this week in news? Alex writes that it isn't all doom and gloom. Some software companies are performing quite well during the wider tech industry crash -- at least, if their earnings reports are anything to go by.