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Unilever and Verizon are the latest companies to pull their advertising from Facebook – TechCrunch

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Advertiser momentum against Facebook’s content and monetization policies continues to grow.

Last night, Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) said it will be pausing advertising on Facebook and Instagram “until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners.”

Then today, it was joined by consumer goods giant Unilever, which said it will halt all U.S. advertising on Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook) and even Twitter, at least until the end of the year.

“Based on the current polarization and the election that we are having in the U.S., there needs to be much more enforcement in the area of hate speech,” Unilever’s executive vice president of global media Luis Di Como told The Wall Street Journal.

The effort to bring advertiser pressure to bear on Facebook began with a campaign called #StopHateforProfit, which is coordinated by the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Color of Change, Free Press and Sleeping Giants. The campaign is calling for changes that are supposed to improve support for victims of racism, anti-Semitism and hate, and to end ad monetization on misinformation and hateful content.

The list of companies who have agreed to pull their advertising from Facebook also includes outdoor brands like REI, The North Face and Patagonia.

Facebook provided the following statement in response to Unilever’s announcement:

We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies. We’ve opened ourselves up to a civil rights audit, and we have banned 250 white supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram. The investments we have made in AI mean that we find nearly 90% of Hate Speech [and take] action before users report it to us, while a recent EU report found Facebook assessed more hate speech reports in 24 hours than Twitter and YouTube. We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.

And Twitter provided a statement from Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions:

Our mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely. We have developed policies and platform capabilities designed to protect and serve the public conversation, and as always, are committed to amplifying voices from underrepresented communities and marginalized groups. We are respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.

As of 1:57 p.m. EDT, Facebook stock was down more than 7% from the start of trading. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he will also be addressing these issues at a town hall starting at 2 p,m. EDT today.

 

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Raising capital for robotics startups with Bee Partners and Rapid Robotics – TechCrunch

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Jordan Kretchmer founded Rapid Robotics with the mission of simplifying robotics for manufacturing by providing out-of-the-box automation solutions. Founded in 2019, the company quickly gained the attention of top VCs, including Bee Partners, which led Rapid Robotics’ seed round and participated in each of the following rounds. Hear Rapid Robotics’ pitch and hear from Kira Noodleman, partner at Bee Partners, to learn why robotic companies are quickly (and easily) gaining VC money.

This TechCrunch Live event opens on July 6 at 11:30 a.m. PDT/2:30 p.m. EDT with networking. The interview begins at 12 p.m. PDT followed by the TCL Pitch Practice at 12:30 p.m. PDT. Register here for free.

TechCrunch Live records weekly on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. PDT/2:30 p.m. EDT. Join us! Click here to register for free and gain access to all TechCrunch Live events — including TechCrunch Live, City Spotlight, Startup Pitch Practice, Networking and other TechCrunch community events — with just one registration.

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AI chipmaker Rebellions gets $22.8M Series A extension from Korean telco company KT  – TechCrunch

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South Korean AI chip developer Rebellions has raised a $22.8 million (30 billion KRW) extension to its Series A financing from a strategic investor KT, one of the largest telecom companies in South Korea. 

Last month, TechCrunch reported on Rebellions closing on $50 million in funding that valued the company at an estimated $283 million. At that time, Rebellions CEO and co-founder Sunghyun Park told TechCrunch that the startup wrapped up its initial Series A, which was oversubscribed, in less than three months from financial investors. 

The Pavilion Capital-backed AI chipmaker has raised about $72.8 million (92 billion KRW) in total Series A funding, bringing its total funding to about $102.8 million since its inception in 2020. 

Rebellions spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company plans to use the extension round to mass-produce its second AI chip prototype, ATOM, that will be used for large companies in the cloud sector and data centers. 

KT says it wants to develop AI chips such as NPU (neural processing unit) that will be used for data centers, autonomous vehicles and fintech.

This is the second strategic investment KT has made with AI chipmakers in South Korea in its effort to accelerate the AI semiconductor business. Ku also said in a prepared statement that KT would continue to invest in startups amid a tough investment environment. 

The competition for AI chips has been heating up as companies, including big tech giants like Nvidia, Intel, Google, and Apple, develop competing products. Intel acquired Habana Labs, an Israeli startup developing AI chipmaker for data centers, in 2019.  

The global AI chip market is projected to reach $194.9 billion by 2030, up from $8.02 billion in 2021, per the AI chip market outlook report. 

“AI semiconductor is one of the next big technologies,” said CEO of KT Hyeon-Mo Ku in a prepared statement. “Through the partnership with KT, we hope Rebellions will become a global fabless company like NVIDIA and Qualcomm.”  

Rebellions is also currently in discussions with potential customers in the financial sector to get its first AI chip, ION, which was launched in November 2021.

“We are looking forward to collaborating with KT, a leader in the Cloud and internet data center industry, and the strategic partnership will be the driving force behind Rebellions’ new growth and business,” Park said in the statement. 

Investors participating in Rebellions’ Series A include Temasek’s Pavilion Capital, Korean Development Bank, SV Investment, Mirae Asset Capital, KT Investment and Kakao Ventures. 

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Frederic Court of London-based Felix Capital on working with, and fending off, American VCs – TechCrunch

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Last month, at the same time that the London-based venture firm Felix Capital was announcing that it has closed its fourth and newest fund with $600 million in capital commitments, we had a separate chat with Felix’s founder, Frederic Court, about how competition in Europe has changed, given that so many U.S. venture firms have opened offices on the continent, including Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners and General Catalyst.

Unsurprisingly, Court said the expanded array of options is great for founders. He also told us that most European investors would prefer to stick with European firms or to start their own shops where they can have more influence. We thought it was an interesting part of a longer discussion; the excerpts below have been edited for length.

TC: A lot of the biggest U.S. firms have set up shop in Europe over the last 18 months or so. How does all this interest impact your work locally?

FC: Many of these firms we know well already. They hire people who are already investors in Europe from other other [venture] platforms. And overall, it’s great for the entrepreneurs in Europe [and] a reflection of the evolution of the market.

Over here, we’ve seen more ambition, more talent, and obviously more capital in the past few years as Europe has begun to build not only local champions but global champions like Spotify and Adyen and Farfetch, where I was fortunate to be involved from day one as an investor. So yes, there’s more competition, but there are  more options as well for founders.

You mention these firms hiring from other platforms, though I’d read somewhere they’ve had some trouble hiring because there aren’t enough investors with general partner-level experience in Europe and also because the mindset is different from U.S. VCs who — until very recently — were focused on growth, whereas European VCs were more focused on removing risk. Does any of that ring true to you?

I think a lot of this is true. The reality is that we’re in an industry where, to measure success, it takes time. I mean, I’ve been in venture capital for over 20 years. There are not many of us. There’s Fred [Destin] who started Stride.VC and [investors at] Accel and Index who’ve been in this space for 20-years plus and with a great track record, but it’s quite a small community. So there is lots of great emerging talent but with fewer data points of success and, as a result, yes, it’s probably been harder for people to hire.

I think there is probably also a sense from many of the investors in Europe [that] they don’t necessarily just wait to be hired by American firms. They very much want to build local firms. When we launched Felix [in 2015] we found tremendous support from friends in the U.S. connecting us to [limited partners] because when I started, I had zero LP connections. But we also found a lot of local support from people wanting to nurture local co-investors with whom they could work well. So it’s not necessarily obvious for a European investor to suddenly join a team that’s new and where decisions will be made, for the most part, in the U.S. [compared with the opportunity they have to] be part of European platforms and have more influence.

It does happen, though. Lightspeed hired Paul Murphy from Northzone. Sequoia poached Luciana Lixandru from Accel in London. Have you lost anyone to the talent wars?  

I’ve got no doubt that many people on our team are getting calls. We talk quite openly about it. Candidly, the hardest thing about running a venture firm is team building. [But] we have a certain way of doing things; we are very much a culture of “we” versus “I.  We have a few great people who came and joined our firm, then moved on with great success, but the people who stayed and the people who joined more recently are very much attracted by this team culture. We pick our battles together, we win them together and we lose them together. And that’s very much a culture that I wanted from the very beginning. Even our fundraising is done in a very open way, with the list of all our investors available to the [entire] team. We don’t feel that we need to be secretive there.

You say there’s full transparency into your LP base across the firm. Are you trying to make the point that other firms might be more cautious about this, given that so many people have been spinning out to create their own firms?

LP relations is typically something that’s totally guarded from the rest of the team [but] we’ve been very open with our investors in connecting them to different team members in order to get to know them and also to validate what I’ve just described to you — that we work in a transparent way and are making decisions together.

Also, personally, it’s a part of the business that I was exposed to quite late, and I wish I’d [been exposed] earlier. It’s a very important part [of being a VC] that doesn’t get discussed as much. If you’re joining some of the large firms that you’ve mentioned, many of the partners or investors will not get involved in fundraising immediately because those firms are like machines in terms of fundraising [based on] very strong past performance. When you’re starting from scratch, often the first six months to a year to two years will be focused on fundraising, so it’s a key skill set, and we want our LPs to know the team and vice versa. It’s a choice to do it this way.

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