Netflix axes its basic plan in Canada, IRL shuts down and Shein’s influencer stunt backfires

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It’s that time of week again, folks. Welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular digest of the past week in tech. New here? Not to worry — sign up here to get WiR in your inbox every Saturday, then read on for the week’s recap.

This week, we’re covering Netflix quietly axing its basic plan in Canada, the IRL social app shutting down after it was discovered that most of its users were fake and the blockbuster sales of the Flipper hacking device. Also in store, TC has reporting on Lenovo’s Yoga Book 9i dual-screen laptop, DeepMind’s next chatbot to rival ChatGPT and Robinhood acquiring a credit card startup. Phew.

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Netflix axes basic plan — in Canada: Netflix has quietly killed the $9.99 CAD per month basic plan in Canada for new subscribers. This simplifies the streaming company’s offering but leaves a big gap between the ad-supported plan and the standard plan, Ivan writes.

A unicorn social app shuts down: Ironically, the social app IRL‘s users don’t exist in real life. An internal investigation by IRL’s board of directors found that 95% of the app’s reported 20 million users were automated or from bots. So, after raising more than $200 million in venture capital, IRL is shutting down.

A laptop, but double: Lenovo’s Yoga Book 9i drew both appreciative and skeptical stares at CES earlier this year when it made its official debut. With two 13-inch OLED screens attached with a central hinge, it’s one of the most unusual laptop designs to ever make it into actual production. And, according to Darrell, it’s the first that proves the dual-screen paradigm can work — and work really well — for a lot of people.

Flipper sells like hotcakes: You may have stumbled across the Flipper Zero hacking device that’s been doing the rounds, which includes a bunch of ways to manipulate the world around you — including RFID card systems, remote keyless systems, key fobs, barriers to entry and more. The company claims that it’s on track to sell $80 million worth of products this year after selling almost $5 million worth as Kickstarter preorders — and claims it sold $25 million worth of the devices last year.

Robinhood acquires X1: Robinhood announced on Thursday that it would acquire no-fee credit card startup X1 for $95 million in cash. X1, which offers an income-based credit card with rewards, has raised a total of $62 million in venture-backed funding from investors like Soma Capital, FPV, Craft Ventures and Spark Capital since its 2020 inception.

Shein’s stunt backfires: As Shein eyes an IPO, the company’s image needs a serious makeover. From stealing indie designers’ work to violating local labor laws, Shein has fallen out of vogue on social media — so the company invited a group of influencers to tour one of its factories in Guangzhou, China. Critics point out that it was a highly curated brand trip wherein influencers were offered free travel opportunities and gifts, encouraging them to promote a favorable image of the company.

Databricks acquires MosaicML: This week, Databricks announced that it’ll pay $1.3 billion to acquire MosaicML, an open source startup with neural networks expertise that built a platform for organizations to train large language models and deploy generative AI tools based on them. Prior to that, MosaicML had raised just under $64 million from investors, including Atlas, Playground Global and Samsung Next.

ChatGPT gets Bing: ChatGPT on mobile can now surf the web. But only via Bing — for better or worse. This week, OpenAI announced that subscribers to ChatGPT Plus, the premium version of the company’s AI-powered chatbot, can use a new feature on the ChatGPT app called Browsing that lets users use ChatGPT to search Bing for answers to questions.

Audio

Hunting for a podcast to while away the hours? You’ve come to the right place. TC has you covered.

On Equity, the crew kicked things off with Honey Homes’ recent funding and Gusto’s teaming up with Remote; they then dove deep into the latest wave of M&A, from Visa’s purchase of Pismo to Databricks’ deal with MosaicML.

Meanwhile, Found featured the founders of Spout, a startup that makes a device that can pull fresh drinking water out of the air.

Over at Chain Reaction, this week’s episode welcomed Jack Lu, co-founder and CEO of NFT marketplace Magic Eden, to discuss the state of the crypto market.

And The TechCrunch Podcast covered Shein inviting several fashion influencers to its facilities in China. The internet didn’t take kindly to the stunt.

TechCrunch+

TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:

M&A is back: It’s been a quiet year when it comes to tech M&A. But suddenly this week, it’s as though the M&A floodgates finally opened and we started to see some movement.

Big Tech embraces generative AI: As the race to build generative AI tools for the enterprise devolves into a battle royale, Big Tech companies are busy wielding their most powerful weapons: checkbooks. Will the trend continue? That’s an open question.

When companies have more influence than countries: According to the CIA’s World Factbook, if Apple were a country, its revenue would be No. 50 on the list of countries ranked by GDP. While it’d lag the likes of the U.S., France and Egypt, as a country, Apple would produce more wealth than Norway, Portugal or Greece, and only slightly less than Hong Kong, Peru or Israel. Should it be this way? Haje explores.


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