Data hints at the value of startup offices

Toward the end of 2022, a number of entrepreneurs — some citing Elon Musk — told me they planned to bring back in-person work culture in the following year to help promote productivity and, in some cases, loyalty. One founder even told me over drinks that they weren’t worried about losing talent — claiming that those who leave just because there’s an in-person mandate weren’t truly mission-driven to begin with. While some founders are clearly set on a return, others are confused. There’s the argument — sometimes coming from venture capitalists desperate to see portfolio companies succeed — that being in-person will help grow productivity and, eventually, the bottom line. And there’s also the counterargument that remote work allows for more inclusive and expansive hiring, which could also help, well, the bottom line. And if 2023 isn’t the year for the bottom line, I don’t know what else it could be. Kruze Consulting, an accounting firm for startups, mined through over 750 companies’

When the government is the customer (some things to keep in mind)

Five years ago, Google backed away from a Pentagon government contract because thousands of employees protested that its tech might be used for lethal drone targeting. Today, however, Silicon Valley has far fewer qualms about developing tech for the U.S. Department of Defense. So said four investors — Trae Stephens of Founders Fund, Bilal Zuberi of Lux Capital, Raj Shah of Shield Capital and longtime In-Q-Tel president Steve Bowsher — speaking at a startup event for military veterans today in San Francisco. Said Shah of the shift in attitude that he has observed personally: “The number of companies, founders, and entrepreneurs interested in national security broadly — I’ve never seen it at this level.” Bowsher argued that the “reluctance of Silicon Valley to work with the [Defense Department] and intel community” was always “overblown,” adding that across his 16 year with In-Q-Tel, which is the CIA’s venture fund, his team has met with roughly 1,000 companies each year and just “fi

Meta’s Reality Labs lost $13.7 billion on VR and AR last year

Mentions of the “metaverse” were relatively few and far between in Meta’s quarterly earnings call this week — we counted a mere seven mentions compared to 23 for “AI” — but the company’s investment into its vision of a VR-connected social future remains colossal. Starting in 2021, Meta began breaking out its Reality Labs VR and AR division into its own segment for financial reporting purposes. That makes it possible to see just how much Meta is pouring into those areas and the numbers are staggering. Meta reported $13.7 billion in operating losses for Reality Labs for 2022, more than the already jaw-dropping $10.2 billion it sunk into the division in 2021. Reality Labs brought in $2.16 billion last year in revenue, a drop from $2.27 billion in 2021. For scope, remember that Meta bought Oculus — the pioneering VR hardware company that formed a groundwork for its efforts — for $2 billion back in 2014. The company’s investment in the area has only escalated, with the company picking

Daily Crunch: Apple says it earned $20.8B from 935M subscriptions last fiscal quarter

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here . Friday, cha cha cha! Fri-day! Cha cha cha! We’re doing a tiny, joyous, two-person conga line around our virtual Daily Crunch editorial Zoom meeting to celebrate the arrival of the first weekend in February. Yes, it looks ridiculous. No, we couldn’t care less even if we took every ounce we had and poured into less-caring. Couple of quick ones for startups: If you’re going to MWC, we want to hear from you , and we want your votes for the TechCrunch Early Stage fireside chats, breakout sessions and roundtable discussions! And for today’s Black History Month recommendation, we suggest Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow . It’s an extraordinary read that, when it was published a decade ago, reignited the desire for criminal justice reform and is still as poignant and relevant today. — Christine and Haje The TechCrunch Top 3 The Big Apple of subscri

YouTube Music contractors strike over alleged unfair labor practices

A group of 40 YouTube Music workers went on strike Friday. Employed by Alphabet subcontractor Cognizant, the striking workers allege that both companies’ management have leveraged unfair labor practices to get in the way of their union drive. “Right now, the vast majority of our department is ready to vote yes in a [National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)] election,” said YouTube Music generalist Sam Regan at a strike in Austin, Texas, viewed via Facebook livestream . “In an act of retaliation against our organizing efforts, our employer is forcing an end to remote work before the vote, which would dramatically interfere with the fair voting conditions mandated by federal law.” YouTube Music’s content operations team is expected to return to the Austin office on Monday. But according to the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), the majority of workers were hired remotely, and almost one quarter are not even based in Texas. “Workers are paid as little as $19 dollars an hour and thus, cannot af

Twitter Blue expands to six new countries, brings back Spaces curation

Twitter is in a hurry to make money, and in another step that might lead to some revenue it has expanded the Twitter Blue subscription to six new countries. The paid plans are now available in Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain making it 12 regions in total to which users can subscribe to it. The company also launching a new Spaces tab with curated stations for live and recorded spaces along with podcasts. Users without a Twitter Blue subscription can access the Spaces tab already but it mostly shows what live audio sessions are currently going on. Twitter is also bringing back themed stations that list Spaces station by topics. The company already started testing it in August before Musk took over. But in the last few months, Spaces had almost no curation because of the layoffs. Now, the social network might be relying on algorithms to group related real-time audio conversations together. The social network is making podcasts available to only Blue subscribe

Damus pulled from Apple’s App Store in China after two days

Damus, one of the fastest-growing Twitter alternatives, has been pulled from China’s App Store just two days after the app was approved by Apple. The app, which runs atop the Jack Dorsey-backed decentralized social networking protocol Nostr, was removed from the China App Store per request by the country’s top internet watchdog because it “includes content that is illegal in China,” according to an app review notice Damus received and shared on Twitter . That was fast — Damus (@damusapp) February 2, 2023 Being decentralized means there is no central authority that decides who can participate or say what on the platform. That made Damu’s approval process difficult at first, as Apple requires services to have a mechanism for flagging objectional content, but Damus eventually worked out a way to get listed in Apple’s App Store on February 1 . The decentralized nature of the app no doubt led to its short-lived debut in China where information is under

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