Tesla makes Musk best-paid CEO of all time and Fisker bites the dust


Elon Musk with dollar signs in his eyes, twitter logo pattern in the background
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly — Haje‘s weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

Elon Musk just convinced Tesla shareholders to approve his $56 billion pay package, making him the highest-paid CEO in history — assuming he can dodge a Delaware judge’s disapproval. And where better to stage this circus than Texas, home of big everything, including egos? Shareholders erupted in applause at Tesla’s Texas gigafactory when the vote results were announced. Meanwhile, Musk juggles more companies than a clown with chainsaws and faces two new lawsuits (being sued just once per week is for wimps). Oh, and forget about any fancy ESG initiatives; those got shot down faster than you can say “corporate responsibility.” Who needs sustainability when you’ve got Elon dancing onstage with 0.7 Twitter’s worth of cash in a suitcase?

Most interesting startup stories from the week

It seems Henrik Fisker’s knack for designing cars is only matched by his talent for driving companies into bankruptcy. Despite aiming to be the Apple of EVs (with Magna playing Foxconn), the much-touted Ocean SUV sank faster than the Titanic with software glitches, recalls, and lemon lawsuits galore. Now filing for Chapter 11 in Delaware, Fisker has gone from dreams of revolutionizing the auto industry to just trying not to get stuck with a $500 million bill. This marks Fisker’s second go of bankrupting an eponymous company. Can he make it to three? Stay tuned.

  • Yeah, saw that one coming: Ever feel like your subscription services are plotting against you? Well, Adobe just got called out by the DOJ for allegedly making it easier to escape from Alcatraz than cancel one of their subscriptions.
  • You will watch our ads: YouTube is at it again, folks. This time they’re pushing their anti-ad blocker crusade to new heights with server-side ad injections, making sure those pesky ads greet you before the video even lands on your device. Oh, and I summarized this story in the TechCrunch Minute series, if you’re more of a watcher than a reader.
  • Goin’ round in circles: Looks like Loop, the insurance startup with a noble mission to overthrow biased pricing models, has hit a massive fundraising wall. After 20 months of trying (and failing) to reel in some cash, co-founder John Henry had the unenviable task of announcing layoffs via Instagram.
colorful bird: Adobe Firefly image
Adobe: Makes pretty AI things but makes it nigh impossible to unsubscribe from its services.
Image Credits: Adobe

Trend of the week: All eyes on AI

Apple has finally thrown its hat into the AI icon circus, joining the likes of Google and OpenAI in a desperate bid to depict AI with a logo that makes any sense at all. Spoiler alert: They’re as clueless as everyone else. Apple’s new visual for “Intelligence” is essentially a psychedelic circle — wait, no — a lopsided infinity symbol? Actually, it’s New Siri. Or maybe it’s when your phone edges glow like an alien spaceship landing. The real takeaway here? No one knows what AI should look like, but let’s slap on some friendly pastel colors and call it innovation.

Meanwhile, Ilya Sutskever, the AI brainiac who last month decided OpenAI wasn’t exciting enough anymore, has started his own shindig called Safe Superintelligence Inc. (SSI) with a couple of other ex-OpenAI pals. After a dramatic exit from OpenAI (presumably over how to avoid Skynet taking over), Sutskever is doubling down on making sure super-smart AI doesn’t become our overlord anytime soon. SSI’s mission? To balance mind-blowing AI advancements with safety measures so we don’t end up starring in our very own “Black Mirror” episode.

Siri's AI updates being revealed during WWDC 2024
Sure, that seems AI-y, doesn’t it?
Image Credits: Apple

Most interesting fundraises this week

Meet the dynamic duo who seem to have skipped their quarter-life crisis and went straight to swimming in cash. Edward Tian and Alex Cui, founders of GPTZero, are living proof that high school friendships can lead to multimillion-dollar ventures. In just a year and a half, they’ve turned their AI detection startup into a moneymaking machine that’s outpacing your favorite viral app. With $10 million freshly bagged from eager VCs who couldn’t wait for an official raise, these guys are on track to create an internet where we can still tell if your essay was written by you or ChatGPT’s stoned-beyond-words cousin named Cheech.

Tender Food, plant-based meat, alternative protein
Tender Food’s plant-based shredded “pork” product.
Image Credits: Tender Food

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories …

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

  • So what happened with Fisker?: Once again, Fisker proves it’s the little engine that couldn’t. Despite outsourcing their manufacturing to automotive giant Magna and aiming for a rapid launch, the EV startup ignored one glaring issue: It wasn’t ready to be an actual car company.
  • Tough times to be an Apple developer: Get ready to pour one out for your favorite third-party apps because iOS 18 is on the way, and it’s bringing its wrecking ball. Apple’s notorious habit of “sherlocking” — aka swiping ideas from third-party developers and baking them into its OS — could hit nearly $400 million in app revenue.
  • Vita-minus: Well, it looks like personalized vitamin subscription company Care/of is officially calling it quits. The company announced all subscriptions will end by June 17. Despite being propped up with $46 million from investors and a hefty Bayer buy-in valued at $225 million back in 2020, it just couldn’t keep the lights on.
  • That’s not how privacy works: In a dazzling display of cybersecurity cluelessness, the EU lawmakers are once again trying to pull off the legislative equivalent of juggling saber-tooth tigers while blindfolded. Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal and bearer of common sense, slammed the EU’s latest plan to scan private messages for CSAM as a surefire way to throw web security under the bus.

More TechCrunch

Fisker is just a few days into its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the fight over its assets is already charged, with one lawyer claiming the startup has been liquidating assets…

The fight over Fisker’s assets is already heating up

A hacker is advertising customer data allegedly stolen from the Australia-based live events and ticketing company TEG on a well-known hacking forum. On Thursday, a hacker put up for sale…

Hacker claims to have 30 million customer records from Australian ticket seller giant TEG

Welcome to Startups Weekly — Haje‘s weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday. Elon…

Tesla makes Musk best-paid CEO of all time and Fisker bites the dust
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

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Fisker was facing “potential financial distress” as early as last August, according to a new filing in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding, which the EV startup initiated earlier this week.…

Fisker faced financial distress as early as last August

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Cover says what sets it apart is the underlying technology it employs, which has been exclusively licensed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Spotify is introducing a new “Basic” streaming plan in the United States, the company announced on Friday. The new plan costs $10.99 per month and includes all of the benefits…

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Photographers say the social media giant is applying a ‘Made with AI’ label to photos they took, causing confusion for users.

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Website building platform Squarespace is selling Tock, its restaurant reservation service, to American Express in a deal worth $400 million — the exact figure that Squarespace paid for the service…

Squarespace sells restaurant reservation system Tock to American Express for $400M

Featured Article

Change Healthcare confirms ransomware hackers stole medical records on a ‘substantial proportion’ of Americans

The February ransomware attack on UHG-owned Change Healthcare stands as one of the largest-ever known digital thefts of U.S. medical records.

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Google said today that it globally paused its experiment that aimed to allow new kinds of real-money games on the Play Store, citing the challenges that come with the lack…

Google pauses its experiment to expand real-money games on the Play Store

Venture firms raised $9.3 billion in Q1 according to PitchBook data, which means this year likely won’t match or surpass 2023’s $81.8 billion total. While emerging managers are feeling the…

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Google is making reviews of all your movies, TV shows, books, albums and games visible under one profile page starting June 24, according to an email sent to users last…

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Zepto, an Indian quick commerce startup, has more than doubled its valuation to $3.6 billion in a new funding round of $665 million.

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Speak, the AI-powered language learning app, has raised new money from investors at double its previous valuation.

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SpaceX unveiled Starlink Mini, a more portable version of its satellite internet product that is small enough to fit inside a backpack.  Early Starlink customers were invited to purchase the…

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Ali Rathod-Papier has stepped down from her role as global head of compliance at corporate card expense management startup Brex to join venture firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) as a partner…

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U.S. officials imposed the “first of its kind” ban arguing that Kaspersky threatens U.S. national security because of its links to Russia.

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Apple has released Final Cut Pro for iPad 2 and Final Cut Camera, the company announced on Thursday. Both apps were previously announced during the company’s iPad event in May.…

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Paris has quickly established itself as a major European center for AI startups, and now another big deal is in the works.

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LTK (formerly and RewardStyle), the influencer shopping app with 40 million monthly users, announced on Thursday the launch of a free direct message tool for creators to instantly share…

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