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The rise in e-commerce has made trucking an increasingly vital industry. Despite 21st century technological advancements that have boosted the industry, it’s still run mainly by small businesses and independent truckers — meaning it’s fragmented and often operating on outdated financial platforms. Truckers are feeling the pain of high costs of fuel and antiquated payments systems, leading to lower driver retention.

San Francisco-based startup AtoB used these pain points as a jumping off point for the company’s business model. AtoB’s integrated financial platform is like Stripe for transportation, says Harshita Arora, co-founder of AtoB. The startup’s core product is a fuel card for truckers that provides them with fuel discounts, card security and an embedded fuel management software. The company has since expanded to provide truckers with instant payroll services, and is now targeting next-gen fleets (think rental car companies like Kyte) that need better back-end financial systems t..

F3C puts its investment spin on consumer brands with new $25M fund

The Family Fund & Founder Community, which goes by F3C, announced $25 million in new capital commitments and its focus on becoming the largest community of founders that co-invest in the late-seed and Series A stages of consumer brands.

General partners Kurt Seidensticker, founder of Vital Protein; Sean Kelly, founder of SnackNation and Caroo; and Josh Wand, founder of Forcebrands, have already amassed a community of over 50 founders and CEOs, including Amanda Baldwin at Supergoop, Tyler Ricks at SuperCoffee, Jake Kassan at MVMT and Jordan Bass at HOP WTR.

With the new venture fund, they will back and mentor up-and-coming founders leading consumer and consumer-tech brands. We saw another consumer brand founder do this recently, too: Daniel Lubetzky, founder of Kind Snacks, plans to deploy $350 million into consumer brands through his new his VC firm, Camino Partners.

Kelly told TechCrunch that F3C’s “secret sauce” is that they are all operators and therefore are intimately familiar ..

The bearable mediocrity of Baidu’s ChatGPT competitor

China Report is MIT Technology Review’s newsletter about technology developments in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

Did you stay up late last week to watch the release of Ernie Bot, the first Chinese rival to ChatGPT? It felt like the most anticipated event in China’s tech world so far this year, but I couldn’t force myself to stay awake till 3 a.m., so I watched a recorded version of the Baidu press conference the following morning.

By that time, the launch had been met with an almost overwhelming wave of disappointment. Chinese publications with testing access ridiculed the chatbot’s performance, social media users mocked it with memes, and Baidu’s stock dropped by 6.4%. (If you missed the news, don’t worry: I wrote a story summarizing the day’s highlights and letdowns.)

But a curious thing has happened since last week’s launch: Ernie Bot’s reputation seems to have bounced back. Baidu’s stock price rebounded by 15.7% on Friday. More Chinese reporters gai.. launches virtual and physical card issuing

Fintech startup is better known for its payment processing service, but the company is launching a new product today: its customers can now create payment cards for their own customers.

The company has been testing Issuing for a while, and millions of cards have already been created with the new service. supports physical cards as well as virtual cards that can be used multiple times or can be set to be disabled after the first payment.

For instance, Jow, a meal planning app that creates a list of ingredients to buy for you, has been using Issuing to create single-use virtual cards that can be used to purchase groceries at a partner company. says that its issuing product doesn’t rely as much on integrations with third-party companies compared to other fintech companies. This should give it more flexibility for generating new cards on the fly.

This also means cards can work hand-in-hand with other parts of..

Emblem is the latest European seed fund in new wave of VC funds

If you plan to launch a new startup in France, Denmark or Sweden, there is a new seed fund looking for your pitch. Emblem is announcing today that it has raised nearly $54 million (€50 million) for a new European seed fund. And this is only the first close — the firm expects to raise as much as $80 million (€75 million) by the end of the year.

Emblem was founded by Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan and Guillaume Durao. This isn’t the first time Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan’s name appears on TechCrunch as she used to be an entrepreneur herself. I first covered her startup Clustree back in 2014.

Clustree was a talent management and HR platform that was acquired by Cornerstone OnDemand. Some business angels like Frédéric Montagnon and Florian Douetteau were quite instrumental in Clustree’s trajectory, so she started investing in startups herself after selling Clustree.

Guillaume Durao has been an investor for several years. He worked for Mangrove Capital Partners and Idinvest (the V..

Kakao Mobility picks up ‘super app’ startup Splyt, once backed by SoftBank and Grab

Kakao Mobility, the ride-hailing subsidiary of South Korean messaging and internet giant Kakao, has made its first acquisition as it looks to raise its international profile. It has acquired Splyt, a startup out of London that works with apps in areas like travel, ride-hailing and finance to help them build out “super app” strategies by integrating other services.

Kakao Mobility has already worked with Splyt, and it wants to use the asset to spur global expansion plans across Southeast Asia and Europe. Kakao Mobility currently offers limited services in about 30 markets outside of South Korea: most recently, it launched in Guam last year and Laos earlier this year.

“Splyt and Kakao Mobility’s technology teams have been collaborating since 2019 to integrate and enable global ride-hailing services for Kakao T users through Splyt’s ride-hailing API platform,” CTO of Splyt Stephen Mason told TechCrunch.

Splyt wants to connect the world’s ride-hailing apps for easy international roaming..

Daily Crunch: Bing allows users to generate images using ‘very latest DALL-E models’

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Image prompts: Microsoft is enabling Bing users to tap into their most creative selves — through AI, of course, via the use of OpenAI’s DALL-E image creator, Frederic reports. Frederic also writes about two additional features, Visual Stories and Knowledge Cards. “Best I can tell, Microsoft has been testing these quite a bit in recent weeks since they’ve been popping up in my searches with some frequency.”
Look who’s getting into generative AI: Firefly is Adobe’s approach to generative AI and “will be made up of multiple AI models ‘working across a variety of different use cases,’” Kyle writes. More Adobe news in Big Tech.
Get in line: Speaking of generative AI (because that’s really all we’ve been talki..

TechCrunch+ roundup: Big Data’s cloud backlash, CVC pitch tips, de-risking hardware startups

For most of the Information Age, companies that wanted to scale invested in server farms and hired teams to keep them running.

At one of my first startup jobs, I walked in one day to find two sleeping co-workers who’d spent the night configuring servers at a co-locating facility 60 miles away. Soon after, when I worked at a publicly-traded company, our on-prem data center was resilient enough to operate through a moderate earthquake.

The relatively recent shift to cloud computing promised to lower costs and boost productivity, but “cloud-first strategies may be hitting the limits of their efficacy, and in many cases, ROIs are diminishing,” writes Thomas Robinson, COO of Domino Data Lab.

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I started wearing sweaters at home after I got my last utility bill, but with enormous workloads from “ML, AI and deep learning programs that require dozens or ev..

Everything you need to know about accelerators and incubators

Early-stage founders need mentorship and support to build a successful startup, and conventional wisdom says, “Get thee to an incubator or an accelerator!” However, the two programs are not interchangeable — they serve very different purposes — and there are roughly 500 accelerators and 1,400 incubators in the U.S. alone.

Which type of startup program do you need, and how do you find the right fit? When should you apply? How do you make the most of the experience if you’re accepted? We’re thrilled to tell you that Matt Segneri, the executive director of the Harvard Innovation Labs, will tackle these and other related questions at TechCrunch Early Stage on April 20 in Boston, Massachusetts.

In his session called “How to Think About Accelerators and Incubators,” Segneri will discuss the types of incubators and accelerators available to early-stage founders and what startups should consider before applying, and he’ll provide tips to get the most out of these programs.

We consider this ..

Even the hottest startup categories are not immune from the venture slowdown

Upstart tech companies delivering their product or service via an API raised mammoth amounts of capital during the final year of the 2021-era startup boom. Things have slowed in the intervening quarters.

New data indicates that while the group of companies raised more capital in 2022 than in 2020, a downward trend in fundraising activity throughout the last calendar year shows that no startup cohort is immune from the venture capital slowdown. And that applies to the groupings of new tech companies that were among the hottest before the recent downturn, too.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

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GGV, a venture capital firm that invests across sectors, stages and geographies, compiled an index of what it considers API-first companies that it launched last year. TechCrunch covered its launch, as we have a soft spot for trackable baskets of startups that we can observe across time; simila..