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Finnish tech conference yanks $1M pitch contest prize from Russian co-founders • TechCrunch

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What’s up, Crunchers! Haje is back from his away-ness, and we are chomping at the bit to bring you a wall of amazing stories from our dastardly team of TC wordcraftspeople. Let’s goooooo! — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Here yesterday, gone today: “We should have reviewed all participants’ operations more closely before entering into the competition.” That’s what Slush organizers said after they and VC pitch judges decided to revoke a $1 million award to Immigram after discovering the company had ties to Russia. Mike has more.
  • Dark times at Tesla: Tesla recalled about 350,000, or 1% of electric vehicles it sold over the past two years or so for some pretty major issues, including taillights that go out and front passenger airbags that malfunction, Jaclyn writes.
  • Cloudy with a chance of doom and gloom: There is no rosy outlook for startups here. Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy doesn’t mince words when he warns startups that “a lot of turmoil and volatility” is in the funding forecast over the next 12 to 18 months, Manish reports.

Startups and VC

Actor Noah Schnapp, who plays Will on Netflix’s hit original series “Stranger Things,” is passionate about tbh, a company he co-founded that aims to “reinvent” hazelnut cocoa spread Nutella, reports Mary Ann. The company is turning to crowdfunding to raise money for the vegan alternative.

At our TC Sessions: Crypto event last week in Miami, Darrell sat down a veritable who-is-who in crypto to talk about the crypto regulation landscape. The key takeaways that all three panelists essentially agreed upon is that the benefit of the FTX situation is that there’s now more impetus than ever to arrive at some kind of regulatory framework specific to crypto in the U.S. You can watch the segment on the site.

Here’s a fellowship of stories to see you through the rest of your Monday. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Get your product and customer success teams on the same page to improve net retention

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

You don’t need to move the needle far to optimize customer success. SaaS startups that incrementally improve will stack small wins that have the potential to alter the company’s trajectory.

Instead of a traditional siloed approach, rolling product and CX teams into a single unit helps align incentives, writes Bryan House, SVP of product and customer success at Elastic Path.

“Regardless of what you call the role, product management, UX and customer success should report to the same person,” he advises. “This leader should create a structure that shares incentives and common goals aligned to your customers’ measures of success.”

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

It’s a bit of déjà vu for Broadcom, which is back under the watchful eye of competition regulators. This time, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority is looking into the chip giant’s proposed $61 billion deal to buy virtualization software giant VMware. If you don’t recall the last time, it was when Broadcom tried to acquire rival Qualcomm in 2018. The deal was scrapped after former president Donald Trump cited national security concerns. Paul writes that “both the political and competitive optics are different this time around, so it’s difficult to predict how this will all unfold,” but he did get a comment from Broadcom on what the company thinks.

Oh, and FIFA is back. Lauren has your guide to streaming it.

Five more for your Monday:

UPDATE: The first version of the Daily Crunch incorrectly stated that the Slush conference was in Sweden. So as to not incur the wrath from both sets of Vikings, we’ve corrected the headline. Slush is an annual tech conference that happens, of course, in Helsinki, Finland. As an honorary Scandinavian, Haje is suitably ashamed of the mistake. Det skal ikke skje igjen, folkens! 

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India pips North America to become the biggest smartwatch market • TechCrunch

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India surpassed North America to take the top global spot in the smartwatch market in the quarter that ended in September, according to a report from market research player Counterpoint. The festival sales and proliferation of affordable smartwatches helped grew the local market by 171% year-on-year.

The affordable smartwatch models getting bigger displays and adding features such as Bluetooth calling were key selling factors in India during the festival sales, Hong Kong-headquartered Counterpoint said.

“Indian brands expanding their product portfolios at affordable price points and emphasis on local manufacturing also contributed to the growth,” Counterpoint analyst Anshika Jain said in a statement.

“Bluetooth-calling emerged as an important feature, contributing a 58% share in total shipments, the highest ever share to date. Consumers are also preferring bigger display sizes, which is evident from the fact that over half of the total shipments in Q3 came from the 1.5”-1.69” display size.”

North America, which was the top market from Q4 2020 to Q2 2022, grew 21% year-on-year while China and Europe had a negative growth.

India’s growth meant that the country’s top brand Noise captured third place on overall shipment charts — thanks to a 218% year-on-year growth— only lagging Apple and Samsung.

The smartwatchmaker told TechCrunch that it aims to scale its local production from 50% to 80% by the end of the year. Local rival Fire-Boltt, which was only a percentage behind Noise in the market share, grabbed the fourth place in global rankings.

Apple grew 48% due to stellar sales of the new Apple Watch 8 series, which accounted for 56% of overall sales. Samsung grew 6% year-on-year despite registering a 62% shipping increase from the previous quarter.

Counterpoint report segregates smartwatches into two categories: High-level operating system smartwatches (HLOS), which include devices from companies like Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Garmin, and Amazfit; and what it calls “basic” smartwatches that feature a lighter operating system and are more affordable. Noise, Fire-Bollt, and BoAT operate in the latter category.

The research shop said that the HLOS segment grew 23%, whereas basic smartwatches grew by more than a double — resulting in commanding a 35% of the market share. Apple currently dominates the HLOS market with about 50% market share whereas Samsung sits second in the chart.

Image Credits: Counterpoint

“This remarkable increase in basic smartwatch shipments shows us that the market base is rapidly expanding toward more accessible segments amid aggressive drives by the supply side. But still, in terms of revenue, the HLOS smartwatch overwhelms the basic smartwatch with a market size of almost 10 times due to its high average selling price (ASP),” Research Analyst Woojin Son said in a statement.

Earlier this month, analyst firm IDC published a report on India’s wearable market, noting that the smartwatch segment grew by 178% with more than 12 million units shipped in the quarter ending September. The report said that this growth could also be attributed to falling smartwatch prices in the region as the average selling price (ASP) dropped from $60 to $41.9 in a year. IDC says that the ASP of basic smartwatches is $27.5 as compared to the $330 ASP of advanced smartwatches. This is an indicator that Indian consumers are likely to go for cheaper alternatives than the Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy Watch.

All the India-based smartwatch manufacturers have committed to rapidly increasing their local manufacturing output in the coming months to increase the production rate. This could help them bring down the device prices further and increase shipments to catch up with Samsung and Apple in unit shipments.

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Telegram shares users data in copyright violation lawsuit • TechCrunch

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Telegram has disclosed names of administrators, their phone numbers and IP addresses of channels accused of copyright infringement in compliance with a court order in India in a remarkable illustration of the data the instant messaging platform stores on its users and can be made to disclose by authorities.

The app operator was forced to shared the data after a teacher sued the firm for not doing enough to prevent unauthorised distribution of her course material on the platform. Neetu Singh, the plaintiff teacher, said a number of Telegram channels were re-selling her study materials without permission at discounted prices.

An Indian court earlier had ordered Telegram to adhere to the Indian law and disclose details about those operating such channels.

Telegram unsuccessfully argued that disclosing user information would violate the privacy policy and the laws of Singapore, where it has located its physical servers for storing users data. In response, the Indian court said the copyright owners couldn’t be left “completely remediless against the actual infringers” because Telegram has chosen to locate its servers outside the country.

In an order last week, Justice Prathiba Singh said Telegram had complied with the earlier order and shared the data.

“Let copy of the said data be supplied to Id. Counsel for plaintiffs with the clear direction that neither the plaintiffs nor their counsel shall disclose the said data to any third party, except for the purposes of the present proceedings. To this end, disclosure to the governmental authorities/police is permissible,” said the court (PDF) and first reported by LiveLaw.

A Telegram spokesperson declined to say whether the app operator shared private data.

“Telegram stores very limited or no data on its users. In most cases, we can’t even access any user data without specific entry points, and we believe this was the case here. Consequently, we can’t confirm that any private data has been shared in this instance,” Telegram spokesperson Remi Vaughn told TechCrunch.

India is one of the largest markets for Telegram, which has amassed nearly 150 million users in the South Asian market. Telegram has gained popularity among some users in part of its piracy problem, as I previously reported. The platform remains littered with channels — sometimes with tens of thousands of users — where movies and TV shows are widely shared.

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Disney coughs up $900M to acquire MLB’s remaining stake in BAMTech streaming company • TechCrunch

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Disney paid $900 million to Major League Baseball (MLB) earlier this month to buy out the league’s remaining 15% stake in the streaming firm BAMTech, according to an SEC filing made public Tuesday.

The transaction makes Disney a 100% owner of the streaming company that powers Disney+ and the firm’s other consumer services.

The SEC filing noted that MLB’s interest in BAMTech was recorded in the entertainment company’s financial statements at $828 million, and in November Disney bought out MLB’s stake for $900 million. Last week, Disney announced that Bob Iger is returning to the company as a CEO to replace Bob Chapek. Since this transaction was undertaken earlier this month, it was probably one of the last big moves by Chapek.

In the filing, Disney said that Iger will “initiate organizational and operating changes within the Company to address the Board’s goals” in the coming months.

MLB founded MLB Advanced Media in 2000 to power its website and online streaming. It spun off the streaming division as BAMTech in 2015. A year later, Disney invested $1 billion for a 33% stake in BAMTech. In 2017, the entertainment conglomerate invested an additional $1.58 billion to acquire 42% more stake. In 2021, the National Hockey League (NHL) sold its 10% stake to Disney for $350 million— propelling Disney’s stake in BAMTech to 85%.

The move comes days before Disney+ is set to launch its ad-supported tier. In Q3 2022, the streaming service registered an increase of 12 million subscribers with a total of 164.2 million subscribers globally.

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