Pixels, Palm readers and Pokémon problems

Hello friends! That’s what Lucas always starts off with, right?

Lucas is out for a few weeks, so I’ll be handling Week In Review until he’s back. TL;DR on me: I’m Greg, and I’ve been with TechCrunch for a long, long time. I joined around the time Twitter found the vowels in its name and people thought Facebook’s valuation was laughably high at $15 billion. (For reference, Facebook’s market cap broke $1 trillion last month.)

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And now, here’s a quick overview of what you might’ve missed this week.

The Big Thing

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

While Zoom has been around since 2011, its growth in 2020 was just on a whole different level. The pandemic blasted Zoom into the product-name-as-a-verb hall of fame pretty much overnight, with “let’s Zoom next week” joining the ranks of “Xerox this for me?” or “Photoshop it” or “Google it.”

With rapid growth, of course, comes growing pains.

Among these pains was a significant uptick in trolling. The idea of “Zoombombing” was born, wherein unapproved attendees crash a Zoom call and flood it with nasty images, hate speech, and whatever else they can blast out before the moderator (often unfamiliar with Zoom’s interface) figures out how to lock it down.

By April of 2020, Zoom had tweaked its settings to make meetings a bit less zoombomb-able by default — but by that point, a lawsuit had already been filed. Fourteen lawsuits were filed, in fact, and later condensed into one. The suits argued that the company hadn’t done enough to prevent Zoombombing, as well as shared user data with third parties without the user’s permission.

This week Zoom agreed to an $85 million settlement, along with a promise to add even more safeguards against would-be crashers. It’s an interesting example of how massive/sudden popularity can cause all new problems … but, well, considering that Zoom’s market cap went from $34 billion in March 2020 to $118 billion as of this week, I doubt anyone there is too crushed about it.

Other Things

Google previews the Pixel 6

Google’s next flagship Android phone is coming! When? TBD. How much? Good question! The company held back an unusual number of details in its first official acknowledgement of the Pixel 6’s existence, presumably to keep the focus on the custom AI-centric system on a chip they’re building for it. We know it’s got a big ol’ camera bump (or “camera bar,” as they’re calling it) and there will be two models (Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro). But beyond that, we’re stuck relying on leaked specs for now. Fortunately, said leaks have been pretty spot on thus far.

Robinhood’s wild ride

Robinhood went public this week — and, perhaps fittingly for the app that played no small role in the GameStop/AMC/etc. meme stock bonanza earlier this year, its first few days of trading have been something of a rollercoaster. It opened at $38, slipped on day one, only to rocket up to the $70s on day two. As I write this, it’s slowly heading back down to earth with a current price of around $53. As for the root cause of the volatility… as Alex Wilhelm put it: “This happens in 2021; we just have to get used to it.”

Pokémon Go players are mad

Because the fundamental concepts of Pokémon Go (Talk to strangers! Hang out in huge groups!) don’t work as well in a pandemic, Niantic tweaked a bunch of stuff last year to make the game more playable from home. Among other things, they bumped up the real-world radius in which players could interact with in-game landmarks, allowing you to do more while moving less. This week they started rolling those changes back as a “test”… and, well, people are mad. The company presumably has some data-driven reasons to revert… but from the outside, with the pandemic still ongoing, it just looks like a bad decision. Niantic has responded to the community uproar by forming an internal team to examine the options, promising updates by September 1st.

WhatsApp gets self-destructing, single-view photos

This week, WhatsApp embraced its inner-Snapchat with the introduction of “view once” mode, which allows users to send photos and videos that can be viewed once before they self-destruct. Be aware, though, that you probably don’t want to go and use it to send those top-secret documents (and/or butt pics); unlike Snapchat, WhatsApp won’t even give you a heads-up if the viewer takes a screenshot.

Amazon wants to pay you $10 to scan your palm

Last year Amazon started letting customers at its checkout-free grocery stores pay for goods by waving their palm print over a biometric scanner. Now they’re paying new customers $10 to scan their print and get onboard. This story was super popular on the site this week, and I’m left wondering if it’s because people are mad about Amazon gobbling up all this biometric data or because they want the $10. Probably a bit of both.

Twitter kills Fleets

RIP Fleets. Less than a year after Twitter decided it too needed to clone Snapchat Stories, the company has ditched the concept. Why? It says it hoped it would entice new users; instead, the only people using it were those who were already pretty hardcore.

Square buys Afterpay

The buy-now, pay-later space got real big real fast, and Square wants in. This week the company announced its intent to acquire Afterpay, a company that lets you split big purchases across 6 weeks without credit checks or interest, for an earth-shattering $29 billion.

Google’s new Nest cams

Google’s got some new Nest camera gear coming later this month, including a few things that you might be surprised they didn’t make already — like a battery-powered outdoor camera and a motion-activated floodlight camera for your porch.

Elon’s Big Ship

The fun news: This week SpaceX put together the tallest rocket ship in history, with its fully stacked Starship rocket coming together at an absurd 390 feet tall (or 475 feet if you count the launch pad). The less fun news: It’s not going anywhere for now, as this assembly was just a fit test — put it together, take it apart, make sure nothing broke. An actual launch of this mammoth configuration isn’t expected until later this year, but it should be quite the spectacle.

Extra Things

Five factors founders must consider before choosing their VC

We’ve heard it on repeat lately: With so much capital flooding the market, now is the time for founders to be picky about who they let invest. But what things should you consider? Agya Ventures’ co-founder Kunal Lunawat has a few notes, from how well a VC understands your vision, to their background, to good ol’ gut instinct.

Avoid these common financial mistakes so your startup doesn’t die on the vine

Startups are hard enough without trying to deal with screwed up finances. In this article, Zeni founder Swapnil Shinde outlines three different financial pitfalls that are easy to fall into, but avoidable: fragmented finances, old data, and founders that don’t know when/what to delegate.

Directly above view of some rotten cherry tomatoes on Yellow background

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

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