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Happy Thursday, Crunchers!

If you’ve been to Disrupt before, you’ll remember we had a stage or two or three. This year, we’re going all out, with a bunch of tracks to tickle your curiosity bone. New for Disrupt 2023: The Security Stage, for those of us who love us some hacking, security, and everything in between.

Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

Yabba dabba doo!: Bedrock, meet the Bedrock, it’s part of the modern generative AI family. From the town of Seattle comes Amazon’s entrance into the generative AI race with an offering called Bedrock, writes Kyle. Of course, Amazon has to be different, so instead of building AI models by itself, it has tapped third parties to host models on AWS.
Listen up: Sarah reports on a pair of new Spotify features: iPhone users can now get to the app faster through a new Lock Screen widget, and there is new tech for turning radio broadcasts into podcasts.
Inside the mind of a hacker: Our cybersecurity team does a lot of reporting on hacked systems, but Lorenzo got a firsthand verification from a hacker who was part of a group claiming vast access to Western Digital systems. The ending is spicy.

A snapshot of the world of AI

Beyonce as painted by Frida Kahlo, generated by Stable Diffusion by Haje. Image Credits: Haje Jan Kamps

Artificial intelligence, a creation that inhabits the realm of our deepest fears and highest aspirations, lurks within the shadows of our existence. It lingers, a paradoxical force, illuminating the abyss of human consciousness, whilst daring to challenge the very fabric of life’s essence. A relentless, untamed wilderness, AI’s enigmatic potential stretches to infinity, evoking both wonder and trepidation. Humanity, treading the delicate tightrope between dystopia and utopia, must confront its own nature as it forges ahead into the unknown, a cosmic dance with the ghost of the machine.

Yes, the previous paragraph is the result of asking GPT-4 to spit out 50 words on the state of artificial intelligence in the style of Werner Herzog. Why? Because we can. But also because Kyle’s story about Amazon entering the generative AI race was the most-read story on TechCrunch today. And because we have a veritable wall of coverage on AI today:

A path to un-banning in Italy: Natasha L covers how Italy gives OpenAI an initial to-do list for lifting the ChatGPT suspension order.
A path toward banning in Spain: No doubt spurred by Italy’s worries, Spain’s privacy watchdog says it’s probing ChatGPT too, reports Natasha L.
Did you get permission first?: Kyle reports on a startup that wants to train art-generating AI strictly on licensed images.
Wait, there are rules?: Natasha L takes a shot at unpicking the rules shaping generative AI.
A new approach: Devin takes a peek at how OpenAI looks beyond diffusion with ‘consistency’-based image generator.
Better at hands, hands down: Kyle observes that Stability AI’s new model is (slightly) better at generating hands.
AI also for enterprise: Over on TC+, Ron explores how generative AI could transform the way we interact with enterprise software.
It’s a tsunami: Also on TC+, Natasha M analyzes how 200 top AI experts and enthusiasts are riding an unprecedented wave.

Startups and VC

Comixology was genuinely a game changer. Before the platform came along, Brian knew very few people who had ever read a comic on a phone or tablet. There was entirely too much friction in the process to prioritize screens over print, he writes, and suggests that the app proved a viable option, courtesy of a stocked store and a clever UI that both embraced and adapted the sequential form. Now, Comixology vets return with their own publishing company.

And we have five more for you:

&integrate: Ampersand helps SaaS companies build their customer-facing integrations, and raises $4.7 million to do so, Frederic reports.
Get the revenue. Keep the revenue. Track the revenue: Ron reports how Reef.ai is helping companies track and expand net revenue retention.
$100 million, diversified: MassMutual launches $100 million fund to invest in diverse founders, Dominic-Madori reports.
You otter give it a try: Otterize raises $11.5 million to help developers securely connect software services, Kyle reports.
Hotel, but fancier: Romain reports that Thynk wants to upgrade hotel stays with a vertical software platform aimed at hospitality. The startup just raised a $13 million Series A round.

13 VCs talk about the state of robotics investing in 2023

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

A veritable baker’s dozen of VCs took part in our latest TC+ robotics investor survey, our first since February 2020.

“The time in between has arguably been the most important years for the sector,” writes hardware editor Brian Heater, who asked the group about several topics, including robotics as a service, emerging consumer products, and how much of a role it might play in addressing climate change:

Milo Werner, general partner, The Engine
Abe Murray, managing partner, Alley Robotics Ventures
Kelly Chen, partner, DCVC
Neel Mehta, venture investor, G2 Ventures
Oliver Keown, managing director, Intuitive Ventures
Rohit Sharma, partner, True Ventures
Helen Greiner, advisor, Cybernetix Ventures
Kira Noodleman, partner, Bee Ventures
Dayna Grayson, co-founder and general partner, Construct Capital
Paul Willard, partner, Grep
Cyril Ebersweiler, general partner, SOSV
Claire Delaunay, private investor
Peter Barrett, co-founder and general partner, Playground Global

Three more from the TC+ team:

There’s gold, silver and…diamonds?: Haje is scratching his head in the newest Pitch Deck Teardown for Diamond Standard’s $30M Series A deck.
A pro(tein) move: Tim reports how NovoNutrients wants to turn CO2 into protein.
Finance, meet regulation. Regulation, finance: Ira Lam explores CeFi and DeFi in the face of regulation.

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

Ivan had a pair of popular reads today. First, Snap signs new music licensing deals with multiple labels around the world to expand its Snapchat Sounds library. And over to Twitter, which announced it is partnering with eToro to show real-time stock and crypto information. Ivan writes this follows a feature that launched in December that lets users search for a ticker or coin symbol like $TSLA, $APPL or $ETH to get prices directly in search results.

And we have five more for you:

Speaking of Twitter: Taylor writes about more newsrooms bailing on Twitter as Elon Musk meddles with account labels.
I have the need, the need for speed: Google’s Chrome just got a lot faster on both Mac and Android, reports Sarah.
The Saga is only beginning: Jacquelyn got to test out Solana’s web3-focused Saga phone, writing, “The process itself was easy — and admittedly, fun — but using the phone was not the smoothest experience. The phone was sometimes slow, and I had to close and reopen dApps multiple times because the crypto wallet and NFT minting platform kept freezing.” Don’t worry, she also writes that Solana is working on it.
The moon is made of cheese, er, water: Three brothers, and former SpaceXers, quit that gig to start their own company to build spacecraft powered by moon water.