TechCrunch+ roundup: Investor warning signs, China’s AV frenzy, 2022 insurtech trends

February 2014 seems so long ago.

Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox shut down after it was hacked, the Nokia X was unveiled at Mobile World Congress, and Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s Server & Tools division, was promoted to the CEO spot, replacing Steve Ballmer.

To mark the eighth anniversary of Nadella’s ascension, enterprise reporter Ron Miller looked back at the executive’s tenure to grade his performance and identify potential pitfalls that lie ahead.

“When a company has this much financial clout, it can pretty much push its way into any market,” writes Ron.


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Microsoft’s largest acquisitions have taken place since Nadella took the reins: $69B for Activision, $26B for LinkedIn, and $20B for Nuance Communications.

But the Biden administration has taken a stronger interest in antitrust legislation, and that could directly impact Redmond’s long-term expansion strategy.

“The challenge for Nadella and Microsoft in the years ahead will be navigating increasing regulatory oversight while working to keep the company broadly diversified,” says Ron.

Thanks very much for reading TechCrunch+, and have a great weekend!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

Dear Sophie: How can early-stage startups compete for talent?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

As a first-time, early-stage startup founder, I find it difficult to compete against other startups on compensation.

We’ve had some interest from individuals who need visas or are demanding green cards, but paying the government and legal fees would be a stretch for us.

Any advice for reducing the cost of recruiting from abroad?

— Fledgling Founder

3 warning signs that your investor will leave you on the sidelines

Steps with Traffic Cone on Chalkboard

Image Credits: porcorex (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Many VCs like to be heard saying that they’re founder-focused, but in practice, investor-entrepreneur relationships are largely transactional.

“Founders need to see their investors demonstrating real concern for their well-being — and it has to be visible in their check-in structure, communication and post-pitch behavior,” says Michael Redd, co-founder and chairman of 22 Ventures.

“If it isn’t, that should be cause enough for founders to back away.”

Which insurtech startups are set to thrive?

Last week, Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm reported some unhappy news for publicly-traded insurtech companies: despite a hot year for fundraising, valuations declined.

In a follow-up, they examined some of the sector’s potential winners, specifically private neoinsurers, companies that bundle services, and startups that are expanding access to underserved customers.

“Venture capitalists and founders that we spoke with indicated a general optimism about tackling the insurance market: It’s too big, too valuable, and too out of date to not wind up on the receiving end of a shovelful of technology, the argument goes.”

To cope with stricter data regulation, enterprises should look to fully open APIs

High angle view of many yellow padlocks on yellow background. One of them is open.

Image Credits: Javier Zayas Photography (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Now that regulators in markets as scattered as China, California and the EU are implementing new data privacy laws, working with APIs from U.S.-based cloud vendors has become more complex.

Startups hoping to expand internationally may find it a good idea to use open source software that can be audited for vulnerabilities and reproduced, writes Jean-Paul Smets, CEO of Rapid.Space.

In a deep dive into open source APIs, Smets explains why open source makes sense for applications that don’t need to depend on vendors’ closed systems.

What’s driving China’s autonomous vehicle frenzy?

Aerial view of a traffic jam bringing vehicles to a halt on the highway on October 1, 2018 in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province of China.

Image Credits: Yang Bo/China News Service / Getty Images

All new technology needs evangelists to drive adoption and raise money: a straight line connects Steve Jobs’ Apple launch announcements with Thomas Edison’s public demonstrations of incandescent light and alternating current.

In China, the central government is the biggest booster of the autonomous vehicle industry, which “saw a period of unprecedented acceleration in 2021, with over $8.5 billion invested,” reports Rita Liao.

According to Hongquan Jiang, chairman and managing partner at Boyuan Capital, “Chinese regulators prioritize safety. They’d gladly put up a few more sensors to provide more redundancy so businesses can test more advanced solutions like cars without safety drivers.”

3 views: Is the metaverse for work or play?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Meta, Microsoft and other companies are jumping in feet-first when it comes to building metaverse experiences for enterprise customers.

Presenting one’s self as a floating 3D avatar during remote meetings may appeal to some, but given its immersive potential, wouldn’t consumers prefer to use the metaverse to play instead of being productive?

Alex Wilhelm, Natasha Mascarenhas and Anita Ramaswamy share their thoughts:

  • Anita Ramaswamy: At the metaverse water cooler, workers can have the best of both worlds
  • Natasha Mascarenhas: The metaverse clashes with the future of work
  • Alex Wilhelm: Inch by inch, the further melding of work, play, and identity

And just like that, Peloton is experiencing a correction

peloton illustration that depicts a stationary bike in a state of entrropy

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

“The Ant and the Grasshopper” is one of my favorite fables, although I always thought it was a bit mean of the ant to allow the grasshopper to go hungry just because it played the fiddle all summer instead of gathering seeds.

I’m guessing former Peloton CEO John Foley is unfamiliar with Aesop’s story. When sales spiked at the start of the pandemic, his company embarked on a number of very optimistic initiatives.

And today, Peloton has a new CEO after laying off 2,800 employees.

In an in-depth analysis, reporter Haje Jan Kamps examines the company’s history, its wins and losses, and how its management failed to prepare for winter.