Investor warning signs, China AV frenzy, 2022 insurtech trends – TechCrunch

February 2014 seems so far away.

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

To mark the eighth anniversary of Nadella’s rise to power, corporate journalist Ron Miller took a look at the executive’s tenure to rate his performance and identify the potential pitfalls that lie ahead.

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

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

But the Biden administration has taken more interest in antitrust law, which could have a direct impact on Redmond’s long-term expansion strategy.

“The challenge for Nadella and Microsoft in the coming years will be to navigate increasing regulatory scrutiny while striving to keep the company broadly diversified,” says Ron.

Thank you so much for reading TechCrunch+, and have a great weekend!

Walter Thompson
Editor-in-Chief, TechCrunch+

Dear Sophie: How can start-ups compete to attract talent?

Picture credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophia,

As a first-time startup founder, I struggle to compete with other startups when it comes to compensation.

We’ve had some interest from people who need visas or apply for green cards, but paying government and legal fees would be overkill for us.

Any advice for reducing the cost of recruiting abroad?

— Junior Founder

3 warning signs your investor will leave you on the sidelines

Steps with traffic cone on chalkboard

Picture credits: porcorex (Opens in a new window) /Getty Pictures

Many VCs like to be heard saying they’re founder-focused, but in practice, relationships between investors and entrepreneurs are largely transactional.

“Founders need to see their investors show genuine concern for their well-being — and that needs to be visible in their registration structure, communication and post-pitch behavior,” says Michael Redd, co-founder and president of 22. ventures.

“If not, that should be reason enough for the founders to back off.”

Which insurtech startups are poised to thrive?

Last week, Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm reported bad news for publicly traded insurtech companies: Despite a hot year for fundraising, valuations have fallen.

In a follow-up, they looked at some of the potential winners in the industry, particularly private neo-insurers, companies bundling services and startups expanding access to underserved customers.

“Venture capitalists and founders we spoke with indicated general optimism about how to tackle the insurance market: it’s too big, too valuable, and too stale to not end up with a shovelful of technology, according to the argument.”

To cope with stricter data regulations, companies should turn to fully open APIs

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

Picture credits: Javier Zayas Photography (Opens in a new window) /Getty Pictures

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

Startups looking to expand internationally may find it a good idea to use open-source software that can be audited for vulnerabilities and replicated, 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 the self-driving vehicle frenzy in China?

An aerial view of a traffic jam stopping vehicles on the expressway on October 1, 2018 in Nanjing, China's Jiangsu Province.

Picture credits: Yang Bo/China Press Service/Getty Images

Any new technology needs evangelists to drive adoption and raise funds: a straight line runs from Steve Jobs’ Apple launch announcements to Thomas Edison’s public demonstrations of incandescent light and alternating current.

In China, the central government is the biggest driver of the autonomous vehicle industry, which “experienced an unprecedented period of acceleration in 2021, with more than $8.5 billion invested,” reports Rita Liao.

According to Hongquan Jiang, Chairman and Managing Partner of Boyuan Capital, “Chinese regulators prioritize security. They would gladly install a few more sensors to provide more redundancy so companies can test more advanced solutions like safety driverless cars.

3 views: Is the Metaverse for work or play?

Picture credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

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

Presenting itself as a floating 3D avatar in remote meetings may appeal to some, but given its immersive potential, wouldn’t consumers rather use the metaverse for gaming than 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 Collides with the Future of Work
  • Alex Wilhelm: inch by inch, the fusion between work, play and identity

And just like that, Peloton knows a correction

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

Picture credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

“The Ant and the Grasshopper” is one of my favorite fables, although I always thought it was kind of mean of the ant to let the grasshopper get hungry just because it played the fiddling all summer instead of collecting seeds.

I guess former Peloton CEO John Foley is unfamiliar with Aesop’s history. When sales soared 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, journalist Haje Jan Kamps examines the company’s history, its wins and losses, and how its management failed to prepare for winter.