Small Notes on the Big News – TechCrunch


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What a week, all of you. What a week. Somehow, the news is still here, even though it’s just inches away from the last half of December. So much for a slower vacation! First, a few notes on the key news of the week, then we talk about vector research and some final reads from the book. Into the breach!

  • The end of PSPC as we know it: It’s a damn stupid idea to spend time calling High on any particular market move – this is a great way to sound silly in public. Yet the rising smoke surrounding the Trump Media SPAC hit smog levels as the BuzzFeed SPAC deal did everything in its power to fail at the finish line, only to limp the audience and then lose nearly half of its value. High? High.
  • Crypto vs. TradFi: It’s not for me to get into the middle of a religious war, but the tech market really needs to decide how to fund and build crypto companies. And the answer is probably not venture capital? This week we saw the Expectations of OpenSea’s IPO has not been greeted warmly by its users, but with contempt. Going Public? Why not issue a token and stay in the crypto space? Well, because a lot of trade money has gone into OpenSea, and these investors have to pay back their investors in dollars, not digital ducks. How to solve this? Not clear, but I wonder if in the long run we will see crypto companies building themselves entirely from traditional financial rails. Why not?
  • Multiple SaaS: I’m sorry I didn’t write this, but we saw one of the the most marked negative movements in software reviews in recent memory recently. Of course, the prices are still high, but not as high as they used to be. Be careful, unicorns are overpriced.
  • And finally, Instacart just lost its president: Only a few months after his arrival, Instacart gets rid of high-level hiring. The Exchange wrote a tiny bit about Instacart in November, noting reports that Instacart’s growth rate returned to Earth after its pandemic crisis moderated. The company is continues to grow, albeit slowly. Slow growth, however, will not allow the company to go public at a price that makes sense. So what is in store for you? We have no idea.

How to get coverage for your business. And, vector search.

One of the best parts of being a tech journalist is spending time with smart people who can explain the future to you. Not in the soon we will be in the metaverse meaning, but in the here is a technology that will change the way we manage information in the future sense.

Enter Bob van Luijt, CEO and co-founder of Semi-Technologies. The startup is being built Weave. Like many startups today, Semi is a for-profit OSS company. More simply, it is about creating a company on an open source project, namely Weaviate.

Bob was kind enough to not only spend a few hours telling me about his business, the unstructured data research market, and how Weaviate works, but also scratched TechCrunch’s 2021 release and put it in a small interface. graphic so I can play around with it.

By the way, this is a great way to get journalists to care about your business. Not the scratching job; that was an added kindness – but spending a lot of time patiently answering slightly silly questions, even when the reporter in question has to retread a lot of ground.

Anyway, vector research. What Weaviate does is quickly find unstructured data. Microsoft says vector search “Uses deep learning models to encode sets of data into meaningful vector representations, where the distance between vectors represents similarities between items.”

Bob made it a bit simpler with an example. In a traditional database, you might have data indicating that the Statue of Liberty is in New York and that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris. But in order to snag those data points, you have to be looking for something specific. With vector research – through Weaviate or a related software product – you can request the data to show you what the database contains on landmarks in France. And bring out the data from the Eiffel Tower.

Well no ? Very. Tinker with the TechCrunch portal that Bob and his team were kind enough to set up, I was very impressed with a question they suggested: “Who writes the TechCrunch newsletter when Alex Wilhelm is away?” Frankly, this is a funny request due to its imprecision. Which TechCrunch newsletter? And what outside medium? Well the search results managed to find some text in that same column, noting that I was taking a day off and Anna would take care of the newsletter herself.

Very cool. Semi Technologies is a fairly young company, but one that I keep an eye on. For several reasons, the first being that open source startups are almost always more interesting than their closed code counterparts. Mainly because the founders who build with OSS technology tend to take a little softer approach to business, and because I love Bob.

More to come once I can condense my nearly 3,000 words of spaghetti notes from calls with Semi into something a little more cohesive.

Image credits: Semi

To book

After spending quite a bit of time this week working through our list of two-part venture capital book recommendations, we’re adding some of our own favorites to the mix. Sure, grains of salt like books are as personal as paintings, but we can’t help but share some of the best things we’ve read this year!

Some of Anna’s favorite reads in 2021:

Fiction:

Born to be gentle: Adventures for the anxious, by Rob Temple

According to my records, it was the first book I read in 2021, but 12 months later it really marked me. You might know its author, Rob Temple, as the man behind the hilarious social media accounts and the book series. Very British issues. But this book is different. It’s a tale of her struggle with anxiety and her attempts to get out of her comfort zone. It’s touching, very relevant, and often very funny – if you’re a Sue Townsend fan like me, there’s a good chance you like her, too.

non-fictional works:

How to Read the Numbers: A Guide to Stats in the News (and Knowing When to Trust Them), by David Chivers and Tom Chivers

This is the book I’m reading right now, with the caveat that I’m not nearly done yet – but it shows great promise. It might fuel the media reaction, but it has a point: a lot of the numbers we read in the news should be taken with caution. Which makes it a great read for journalists and news readers. The more expert readers learn to read numbers, the more sophisticated we can be in our analysis.

Some of Alex’s favorite reads in 2021:

The sequence of salvation, by Peter F. Hamilton

The best science fiction doesn’t just slap spaceships on top of the world we live in and call it a day. Indeed, the best science fiction reshapes everything from economics and humanity to science and physics itself. “The Salvation Sequence” is a series of books I’ve read this year that have done just that. From the economics and treatment of aliens to what it means to be truly human and future politics, it’s all in there. And that’s a hell of a trick. I can’t wait for the next tome to come out so I can reread the whole damn series.

A memory called Empire and A desolation called peace, by Arkady Martine

There is more than one way to shape the future. Martine sketches a future where the concept of civilization and barbarism clashes with art and empire. And memory. And hidden technologies and war. This is more than what I can really describe to you in a short blurb, other than to say that what Martine has managed to build in her sci-fi universe is almost more art than science. And it’s high, high to rent.

Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse

Fantasy novels are all too often scams of European feudal history. Oh your duke is a jerk? Better that the serfs rebel! That sort of thing. And then there’s Black Sun, which takes the fantasy in a whole different direction. Apparently inspired by the traditions of South and Central America, this is one hell of a roller coaster of good. Must read.

The last graduate, by Naomi Novik

Novik is quite a good writer. “Uprooted” and “Spinning Silver” both kicked the ass. But his masterpiece, from my point of view, is “A Deadly Education”. It was released at the end of 2020. That’s how my countdown to its sequel, “The Last Graduate”, began. I rarely count the days until a book comes out, but then I had no choice. And “The Last Graduate” was superb. If you want to meet a protagonist like you’ve never read before and step into a world where everything has teeth, read these books. Read the. You will thank yourself.

Alexis