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Is today’s market sad or sane? – TechCrunch

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Hello and welcome back to Equity, a podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines.

This is our Wednesday show, where we niche down to a single topic, think about a question and unpack the rest. This week, Natasha and Alex brought on Bessemer partner Mary D’Onofrio to chat about the public market slump, but more importantly, its trickle-down impact on private companies. Our big question was a broad and important one, built off of our most recent three-views column for TechCrunch+.

How is this change in market conditions going to affect startups?

As a trio, we chatted about the obvious and non-obvious impact on startups as companies like Peloton, Netflix and indexes like the BVP Nasdaq Cloud Index flash warning signs. We asked questions like what is ahead for startups that raised at premium valuations during the market peak and how the exit market may shape up in the coming quarters. D’Onofrio gave two particularly hot takes on the future of due diligence and the nearly shuttered IPO window, so make sure to tune in.

We don’t do too many guests on the show these days due in part to our all-virtual recording setup thanks to COVID. But D’Onofrio was a blast to have on, so we’ll be asking her back before too long. Enjoy!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.



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The FTC files suit to block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition

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The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. It contends that the acquisition, if completed, would give Microsoft an unfair advantage over its competitors.

This morning, the four-person commission voted to issue the lawsuit. The three Democrat members (chair Lina Khan, Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya) voted in favor and the Republican (Christine Wilson) voted against. The commission allegedly met with Microsoft the day prior to discuss concessions, according to a report from The Washington Post.

If its news release is anything to go by, the commissioners weren’t convinced that Microsoft wouldn’t withhold Activision Blizzard’s popular games from competing services. The FTC cited Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax, and how games such as Starfield and Redfall became exclusive following its close.

Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement, “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals. Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”

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The FTC is not the only government body to express concern about the implications of the acquisition. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating. It recently closed Phase One of the investigation, and expressed concerns in its issues statement.

The history of the planned acquisition

Microsoft announced its intention to acquire the publisher in January. Through this acquisition, it would become the regent of popular gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and many others. Reportedly, it offered around $69 billion for Activision Blizzard.

The concerns about the scale of the acquisition emerged almost as soon as it was announced. The FTC reportedly moved to investigate the deal almost immediately. Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad said at the time that Microsoft would have to pay Activision $3 billion if the deal was blocked.

The current focal point of the antitrust concerns is the Call of Duty franchise. Sony has repeatedly contended, in public statements primarily aimed at the CMA’s investigation, that Microsoft could undermine its competition via these popular and lucrative games. It could, according to Sony, either outright stop publishing them on Sony’s platforms, or it could offer them on its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Sony claims Call of Duty on Game Pass would diminish demand for Sony consoles even if Call of Duty is still published on them.

Microsoft has, in turn, responded that its competitors have plenty of exclusive titles of their own. It’s also offered to sign 10-year deals with Sony, Nintendo and Valve (the company behind PC games store Steam) to offer Call of Duty titles on their platforms. It announced earlier this week that it has inked such a deal with Nintendo.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chair and president, said in a statement to The Verge, “We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers. We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court.”



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Airtable chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are out • TechCrunch

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As part of Airtable’s decision to cut 20% of staff, or 254 employees, three executives are “parting ways” with the company as well, a spokesperson confirmed over email. The chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are no longer with the company.

Airtable’s chief revenue officer, Seth Shaw, joined in November 2020 just one month before Airtable’s chief producer officer Peter Deng came on board. Airtable’s chief people officer, Johanna Jackman, joined Airtable in May 2021 with an ambitious goal to double the company’s headcount to 1,000 in 12 months. The three executives are departing today as a mutual decision with Airtable, but will advise the company through the next phase of transition, the company says. All three executives were reached out to for further comment and this story will be updated with their responses if given.

An Airtable spokesperson declined to comment on if the executives were offered severance pay. The positions will be succeeded by internal employees, introduced at an all-hands meeting to be held this Friday.

Executive departures at this scale are rare, even if the overall company is going through a heavy round of cuts. But CEO and founder Howie Liu emphasized, in an email sent to staff but seen by TechCrunch, that the decision – Airtable’s first-ever lay off in its decade-long history – was made following Airtable’s choice to pivot to a more “narrowly focused mode of execution.”

In the email, Liu described Airtable’s goal – first unveiled in October – to capture enterprise clients with connected apps. Now, instead of the bottom-up adoption that first fueled Airtable’s rise, the company wants to be more focused in this new direction. Liu’s e-mail indicates that the startup will devote a majority of its resources toward “landing and expanding large enterprise companies with at least 1k FTEs – where our connected apps vision will deliver the most differentiated value.”

The lean mindset comes after Airtable reduced spend in marketing media, real estate, business technology and infrastructure, the e-mail indicates. “In trying to do too many things at once, we have grown our organization at a breakneck pace over the past few years. We will continue to emphasize growth, but do so by investing heavily in the levers that yield the highest growth relative to their cost,” Liu wrote.

Airtable seems to be emphasizing that its reduced spend doesn’t come with less ambition, or ability to execute. A spokesperson added over e-mail that all of Airtable’s funds from its $735 million Series F are “still intact.” They also said that the startup’s enterprise side, which makes up the majority of Airtable’s revenue, is growing more than 100% year over year; the product move today just doubles down on that exact cohort.

Current and former Airtable employees can reach out to Natasha Mascarenhas on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912. You can also DM her on Twitter, @nmasc_. 



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Airlines Finally Get Serious About Contrails. What Are They?

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What are those puffy white plumes trailing jets high up in the sky? They’re called contrails, and scientists have long said they contribute to climate change.

Now some major airline companies are getting on board. Carries such as American, Southwest, United, Alaska, and Virgin Atlantic, and tech companies like Google, are working with the Rocky Mountain Institute to figure out which of these contrails are bad for the environment and what they can do about it.

“Air travel has almost a double-sized impact on global warming than what we thought it was before,” said Andrew Chen, an aviation specialist with the Rocky Mountain Institute, told The Dallas Morning News. “The most interesting dynamic is that the airlines are not shying away from contrails.”

Related: ‘The Fumes Are Unbelievably Bad:’ Residents Complain About Kyle Jenner’s Private Jet

What are airplane contrails?

Conspiracies abound about how the lines of clouds following jets are “chemtrails” released by the government in a secret program to add toxic chemicals to the atmosphere.

But scientists say that these clouds are, in fact, water vapor trails or condensation trails (contrails, for short) created by airplane engines. The hot, humid exhaust mixes with the colder atmosphere, causing a cloud similar to what you see when you breathe on a cold day.

Climate scientists believe contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere contributing to global warming.

Carbon emissions from jets have long been the target of environmentalists, leading many airlines to retool their planes to use alternative energy. But the industry is now getting serious about contrail pollution, as well.

“The science around contrails has become more clear in just the last few years,” said Jill Blickstein, vice president of sustainability at American Airlines told the DMN. “For example, we’ve known for some time that some contrails formed in the morning can have a cooling effect and that contrails formed at night were more likely to be warming. But we didn’t have a good sense of the net impact of all contrails. That warming impact has become clearer recently.”

Not all contrails have the same impact. The worst seems to happen at night when the earth is cooler, but the contrails block heat from escaping.

The good news is that airlines can avoid making contrails, but doing so may require changing flight patterns and burning more fuel, thus creating more carbon dioxide.

To read more about this, head on over The Dallas Morning News.

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