February 2, 2023

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Tech’s latest controversy? The Return of the Five-Day Personal Workweek • TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends from senior reporter and equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

May the serious among us rise: Techies, it’s prediction season. It’s my favorite time of year, not because I’m a glutton for threads or because I care deeply why the worst of DTC is yet to come — an attitude that’s echoing loudly for the third year in a row, mind you — but because it’s beautiful to see us all sit down and think.

Before I get into my thoughts, here are some of my favorite prediction pieces and threads Lolita Taub from Ganas VCQED Investors’ Nigel Morris and our own.

OK, so here’s what I think will happen next year: the return to face-to-face, five-day workweeks for tech workers. Before you get into all the exceptions and asterisks, let me explain why I think this will happen.

All of 2021 we talked about shifting the pendulum of power to employees, spearheaded by the Great Layoff. Then this year, the Great Retirement became the Great Reboot, as employers laid off a large percentage of their employees due to changing macroeconomic conditions. As 2023 begins, many have been predicting that the layoff wave could get worse before it gets better – a prediction already coming true with recent rounds of cuts ahead of the holiday, including Airtable, Plaid and Komodo Health.

In many cases, power is shifting back to employers – meaning those who have wanted to bring staff into the office since lockdown began could finally be empowered to do so. I’m not saying that every founder and every executive conspires in secret, but I also think that the domino effect plays a role here. When your biggest competitor starts working from the office to increase productivity, you may feel tempted to do the same; At the same time, if you’re a rowdy early-stage start-up lucky enough to be hiring, you may still be able to gain the upper hand in recruiting if you tell employees they’re working from anywhere can.

My perspective isn’t just a hunch; That’s what I hear from founders. A number of entrepreneurs, some citing Elon Musk’s decision to bring Twitter employees back to in-person work, say they plan to bring back a mandatory in-person work culture in the new year because of the issues arising remotely Work (be it productivity or collaboration). It’s a little bit of manifesting, a little bit of reality. One founder told me over drinks and fancy snacks that he’s not worried about losing talent – because those who leave just because of a personal mandate aren’t mission-driven to begin with.

Hm.

There’s a lot that complicates this feeling a lot, especially when you think about how personal work affects the immunocompromised and those with families and care responsibilities. While I don’t think the companies that have been 100% distributed since day one are going to jump into buying offices, I do think we’re going to see more companies than you think starting out with a hybrid approach, and more hybrid companies value personal work more than remote control.

I know you’re all thinking about it because you didn’t shy away from it from telling me that on Twitter. Let’s end there with some of my favorite tweets:

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

— Haje ✏️ (@Haje) December 9, 2022

I wonder how all of the distributed hiring in recent years will affect that — will companies pay to move these people back to where the HQs are, or will they call it a financial gain to have smaller office space ? For example, only 30% of our team lives near an office.

— Laurel Toney (@LaurelToney) December 9, 2022

I don’t think I won’t be back!!

Instead of moving to a “go to the office” paradigm, let’s focus on a “get things done” paradigm, with workplace and time flexibility.

— Miquel Plana (@mikeladion) December 9, 2022

You push hard enough for it. Every LinkedIn “influencer,” VC, and “career coach” seems to be on the RTO train.

— Ryan Fitzgerald (@theonlyfitzhere) December 9, 2022

Let’s take a break from all this work babble and talk about some other work babble. As always, you can find me on Substack and Instagram where I post more of my words and work. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll be talking about wayward AI and open source—as well as employee gift guides.

AI art apps have a moment – thanks to Lensa AI

Artificial intelligence is having (another) moment – which means that rugged innovations are getting deserved, if not lively, attention. This week, TC’s Sarah Perez spotted the rise of AI art apps across the App Store, seemingly jumping off the success of Lensa AI’s viral avatar generators.

This is why this is important: We will see many ephemera and real power in this area in the coming months. Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, helped build ChatGPT (which was responsible for all the hilarious prompts and replies you’ve seen all over Tech Twitter). He made a big point in describing the technology, but one that I think can be scaled to the whole sector:

“ChatGPT is incredibly limited, but good enough at some things to give a misleading impression of size. It’s a mistake to rely on it now for anything important. it is a progress preview; We still have work to do in terms of robustness and truthfulness.” Altman tweeted.

Illustration of Lensa AI's magical avatar, a young woman with long dark hair

Photo credit: Lensa AI on Instagram (opens in new window)

How open source is shaping the future of Twitter

TC’s Paul Sawers is one of the most thoughtful writers I know, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about if you read his latest article, “Decentralized discourse: How open source is shape Twitter’s future.” He elaborates on how algorithmic Transparency, encrypted DMs, and, yes, even content moderation, have been a recurring theme in Twitter’s presence – and will surely shape the next chapter.

Here is an important excerpt:

What if Twitter decided to go open source? Not just a recommendation algorithm or protocol, but the whole shooting game – codebase, clients and all? It would certainly be a Herculean undertaking, especially with everything else that’s happening on Twitter right now.

It would also be an almost unprecedented move for a $44 billion private company to open up its entire code base to the masses of the world. That’s not to say it could never happen, however, as Musk is in the form of taking radical steps. Eight years ago, Musk tore up the patent book when he vowed Tesla would not sue any company for infringing one of its patents “in good faith.” At the time, Musk said it was about accelerating the adoption of electric cars and the necessary infrastructure (such as charging stations), an ethos broadly in line with that of open source.

Illustration of birds with speech bubbles

Image credit: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Gift Guide Corner

Here are some of the fun and imaginative gift guides the TC staff put together this week:

Image credit: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

A few notes

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FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried has been arrested in the Bahamas

Komodo Health, which was once tipped on an impending IPO, has cut staff with the departure of its CFO

The FTC wants to prevent Microsoft from buying Activision

As AI permeates biotechnology, what are investors looking for in 2023?

Seen on TechCrunch+

Why the SPAC route makes sense for Getaround

OK now. Now we will see more startups adopt other startups

There are many reasons to be excited about Canada’s venture market

How to respond when a VC asks to rate your startup

How much money should you raise for your startup?

So we’ve come to the end of our last talk about this wild act of the year. I won’t lie: These last 12 months have not flown by very quickly. Instead, every day in tech news felt important, complex — if not exhausting and confusing — in ways that really shaped my perspective on that world. It’s still a work in progress, but I will say that 2022 was ultimately the year I finally found the right sourcing, trust, and networks to realize that technology isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.

To brag for a second, there were quite a few career highlights for me this year Interview with Kevin Hart messing around with many a millionaire on Twitter. I wrote about the difficulties of rebuilding a startup and gave an insight into a community-based company that is failing its community. I laughed at how technology came full circle – and then found that my predictions aged horribly each time. We’ve expanded Equity Wednesday into a thoughtful show that tries to answer one big question at a time, rather than all questions at once.

Startups Weekly is now read by tens of thousands of all of you – and it’s never been hotter!

I have never been more fascinated by how power and capital work in this world. Thanks to all of you, from those who read and expand our stories, to those who help us poke rocks waiting to be flipped, to those who tell us which angle to look at missed (and how we can do better next time). ). It’s also thanks to my amazing team here at TechCrunch, for whom I can never say enough words of gratitude.

I won’t be in the office until the New Year, probably sipping cocoa, sipping on some Skyline chilli and enjoying my mom’s chana masala. I wish you a merry and safe holiday season and when we get back let’s talk resolutions ok‽

In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if you followed me anywhere other than Twitter. I’m on Substack, Mastodon and Instagram as @/natashathereporter.

OK, you say goodbye first. No seriously. ok good ok bye

N