🚀 A tough week for tech
Plus, a new anonymous social app hits #1!
😥 Layoffs hit tech. Unfortunately, a number of big tech companies announced major layoffs this week. In a difficult economic environment, companies are getting leaner by cutting headcount, including Stripe, Opendoor, Lyft, Chime, and Twitter. We thought this letter from Stripe CEO John Collison explained it well - the broader economic slowdown means that some companies are overstaffed with their current workforce. A number of others, including Amazon, have instituted hiring freezes.
If you’ve been affected by these layoffs, we’d love to help! a16z has a job board with roles at portfolio companies. You can also respond directly with your background and what you’re looking for, and we will let you know if we find relevant roles.
🐦 Twitter updates. It’s been a busy week at Twitter. Elon Musk + team have been “building in public” - announcing new features, polling users, and soliciting feedback. Musk is planning to unveil a premium version for $8/month, replacing Twitter Blue. This would include blue check verification, fewer ads, and priority in replies/search, among other features. He’s also exploring bringing Vine back(!). Twitter had a major layoff this week, though the number of employees let go has not been announced.
💻 DALL·E 2 opens API. The generative AI space continues to heat up, with a bunch of cool consumer-facing applications emerging across all forms of content (check out Avatar AI, which makes avatars based on photos of you 👀). And this week, OpenAI released the DALL·E API in public beta, allowing developers to launch apps and products that leverage the company’s generative image model. It’s a big move for developers who may not be able to build their own AI models but want to power consumer experiences in this space - we’re excited to see what comes out of it!
There are three constants in life: death, taxes, and food delivery. While many other tech companies are struggling with softening consumer demand, DoorDash continues to crush it. In Q3, the company grew GOV 30% YoY - with particularly strong growth in new categories like grocery (which saw a 100% YoY GOV increase).
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the company continues to improve contribution margin, generating $595M in contribution profit in Q3. For those who have wondered if the “gig economy” model can be profitable - here’s your answer!
what we’re following 👀
Why is TikTok trying to become a social app?
What Netflix’s new ads tier actually looks like.
The magic behind the Roku screensaver (yes, this is niche - but it’s important!).
A U.K.-based startup called JoiPaw is building video games for dogs.
Nikita Bier is back! The creator of tbh, which went viral in 2017 and was acquired by Meta, is also the maker of Gas - which you might recognize from the #1 spot on the App Store charts. Gas launched two months ago, and has been rolling out to schools state by state. The app is growing 100% daily, with 5 million downloads.
Gas app has a similar use case/target demo to tbh - anonymous polling for teens. Unlike other anonymous apps, Gas’ prompts are pre-defined and positive (e.g. "Who do you secretly admire?" or "Who should DJ every party?"). Users join their school, add friends, and vote for friends in polls. You get flames when you're picked in a poll, as well as some info about who voted for you (e.g. "From a boy in the 10th grade").
With this second act, Nikita is breaking one of the "cardinal rules" of social apps: don’t worry about monetization! Most social networks build the user base and focus on monetizing later (often via ads), when they have tens or hundreds of millions of users. In contrast, Gas app has had a subscription since day 1. Users pay to unlock "God Mode," where they can get more info about who is voting for them (among other features). Nikita tweeted on Nov. 1 that the app had made $2M in revenue.
Gas app seems to play to the most fundamental of human curiosities, especially for teenagers: “What do other people really think about me?” According to Nikita, the app hits 40-50% saturation within a high school in only three days! And this isn’t a particularly surprising phenomenon - anonymous polling / Q&A products like Formspring, Ask.fm, Honesty Box, and Sarahah also gained mass adoption quickly (particularly within high schools).
This isn't to say Gas app won't face challenges. The company has been up against (false) claims that Gas is tied to human trafficking, which led to mass deletions in some regions. This is a fairly common conspiracy theory that crops up repeatedly around new social apps targeting teens - Down to Lunch is another company that faced the same challenge.
The more existential question around Gas, though, is how long the novelty will last. We haven't (yet) seen an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous social network with real staying power, as users generally aren't building profiles or relationships on the platform. Nikita himself tweeted he wasn’t sure “how long it will run for.” Gas app has been at the top of the App Store charts for the last two weeks - his prior app, tbh, had a similar reign before fizzling out.
a16z - Partner, Fintech Investing Team* (Remote)
Compound - Investor (SF, NYC)
Reach Capital - Investment Associate (SF)
Forward - Strategy & Analytics, Growth (SF)
Connect Ventures - Associate (LA)
MasterClass - Associate, Strategy & Finance (LA)
Chord - Associate Product Manager (NYC)
ResortPass - Chief of Staff* (NYC)
August Schools - Product Manager (NYC)
Traba - Strategy & Analytics (NYC)
Techstars - Investment Associate* (NYC)
*Expects 3+ years of experience.
GM - GM Ventures Intern (Remote)
Okta - Content Design Intern (Remote)
Brex - Ops Intern (Remote)
Coalition - Product Design Intern (Remote)
Selfbook - Marketing Intern (Remote)
Slack - Product Design Intern (SF)
Zipline - PM Intern (South SF)
Netflix - Product Design Intern (Los Gatos)
Anduril - MBA Mission Ops Intern (Costa Mesa)
Riot Games - Product & Licensing, MBA Strategic Advisory, MBA PM Interns (LA)
Weave - Corporate Strategy Intern (Lehi, UT)
TikTok - PM Intern (Mountain View), Marketing, MBA PM Interns (NYC)
puppy of the week 🐶
Meet George, an (almost) two-year-old bernedoodle who lives in Boston.
He enjoys watching football, going on long hikes, and eating apples.
Follow him on Instagram @georgethebernedood!
All views are our own. None of the above should be taken as investment advice. See this page for important information.