Let’s talk about succession plans 

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

Maybe it’s the fact that “Succession” is back next week, or maybe it’s the fact that Silicon Valley just experienced its first banking crisis, but I want to talk about the line of descent in startups.

As I write in my latest:

Silicon Valley Bank is a good reminder that startups, often entrenched in the world of risk and scrappiness, sometimes forget to think about the obvious: single points of failure. But just like it makes sense to rely on a community-friendly bank, so does entrusting a single person to lead your business to success. Now that we’ve seen the former not really work out, perhaps it’s time to rethink the latter.

For my full take on the new worry that founders should be thinking through, read: “Banking isn’t the only ‘single point of failure’ entrepreneurs should be rethinking.” 

For more, read about the crypto corner, my latest snapshot of founder sentiment, the impact on Black founders and this timeline on all that has unfolded thus far. This is where the SVB coverage ends for the purposes of this newsletter writer maintaining her sanity and remembering that there is a world outside of the banking trenches.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into news that was buried this week and GPT-4. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram to continue the conversation. You can also send me tips at or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. No pitches, please.

GPT-4 didn’t write this

On Equity this week, Alex and I spoke about the above, but more interestingly, the future of AI. We talk about the technology’s impact of smart people writing books, context and general tech exuberance. We need it, and I’m not just saying that because I live a stone’s throw away from Cerebral Valley.

Here’s why it’s top of mind: GPT-4 launched this week from the team behind OpenAI. Our own Kyle Wiggers reports, “GPT-4 can generate text and accept image and text inputs — an improvement over GPT-3.5, its predecessor, which only accepted text — and performs at ‘human level’ on various professional and academic benchmarks. For example, GPT-4 passes a simulated bar exam with a score around the top 10% of test takers; in contrast, GPT-3.5’s score was around the bottom 10%.” Companies such as Stripe, Duolingo and Khan Academy were among its beta testers.

Image Credits: Microsoft

News that was buried

When there’s an obvious zeitgeist, news often gets buried — both intentionally and unintentionally. As a result, over the past week, there was lots of news that deserved more attention — both good and bad. The list includes Launch House winding down existing operations and laying off staff, as well as Klaviyo and Course Hero conducting companywide layoffs for the first time.

Here’s what else I missed sharing my two cents on: 

Magnifying Glass Focusing Sunlight Into a Point Repetition on Turquoise Colored Background High Angle View; technical due diligence

Image Credits: MirageC (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Etc., etc.

  • Throwback Saturday: If you missed Startups Weekly last week, catch my last issue here: “The oh-so-biased branding risk in venture capital.”
  • Let’s hang on campus? TechCrunch is coming to Boston on April 20. I’ll be there with my favorite colleagues to interview top experts at a one-day founder summit. Book your pass ASAP! Speakers include Techstars’ Kerty Levy, Construct Capital’s Dayna Grayson and NFX’s James Currier. 
  • Big shout out to all the sources that spoke to me, on and off the record, this past week to help me understand Silicon Valley’s first, real banking crisis. There’s more we need to learn and many questions ahead, so keep the trust and tips coming.
  • Programming note: If you’re reading this on a browser, get this in your inbox too! Subscribe here and share it with your friends.

Seen on TechCrunch

Google warns users to take action to protect against remotely exploitable flaws in popular Android phones

At Virgin Orbit, it never should’ve come to a staff furlough

Pornhub owner MindGeek sold to private equity firm

Anonymous app Sidechat picks up rival Yik Yak…and users aren’t happy

Seen on TechCrunch+

Dear Sophie: How can I return to the United States as a founder?

How to pitch me: 7 investors discuss what they’re looking for in March 2023

Zero-based budgeting: A proven framework for extending runway

Product-led growth is propelling a wave of sales tools startups

Silicon Valley has been through an exhausting stretch, and that’s saying a lot given that COVID-19 is still an on-going pandemic and the downturn continues to provide hurdles. If you’ve made it to the end, thank you, but also, take a nap. We’ll be here on Monday. You deserve some rest. I’ll probably have some sweeter words on how tech banded together during a time of immense stress, but for now, sleep.

Chat soon — and let me know if you want to live tweet “Succession” with me next week?


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