Top tech startup news for Thursday, February 23, 2023: Binance, El Camino, Gridium, Make Sunsets, and Replit
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for today Thursday, February 23, 2023.
Tech Startup Replit launches a ChatGPT-like bot for coders and starts a browser-based coding revolution
Remember back in 2021 when Marc Andreessen coined the expression“software is eating the world?” Well, AI is now about to eat software developers. With the barriers to entry for software development getting lower than ever, one tech startup is about to turn the world of software development on its head.
Replit is a San Francisco-based tech startup that is starting a browser-based coding revolution with its collaborative integrated development environment (IDE). The company got its name from Read-Eval-Print-Loop (REPL), an interactive programming environment where user inputs are read and evaluated, and then the results are returned to the user.
Remember how Figma revolutionized the design world by introducing its browser-based platform and multiplayer design feature? Now, Replit is trying to shake things up by using AI to write code via a browser. The startup recently launched Ghostwriter Chat, the first-of-its-kind technology.
Replit startup has trained an AI bot, like ChatGPT, which can assist in writing computer code through conversational interaction. Starting Wednesday, Replit said software developers will now have access to powerful new technology, Semafor reported.
Founded in 2016 by CEO and co-founder Amjad Masad, Replit is like Google Docs for developers. It enables developers to write and collaborate on software in real-time. The startup also offers a “bounty” service in which companies and individuals can ask the Replit community to create specific codes for a fee.
In an exclusive interview with Semafor, Masad said: “Coding turned out to be almost the perfect use case for LLMs,” referring to the “large language models” that power technology such as ChatGPT. With Replit, developers can build software collaboratively from anywhere in the world, on any device, without spending a second on setup, the company said on its website.
Masad believes the software will give the most skilled developer the ability to create “one-person billion-dollar companies” by exponentially increasing their ability to build complex software programs, including new artificial intelligence-enabled businesses.
SEC and New York regulator reject Binance.US’s $1 billion deal to buy bankrupt crypto lender Voyager
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and New York’s top financial regulator have blocked Binance.US’s $1 billion deal to buy bankrupt crypto lender Voyager Digital, the latest in a string of attempts by the government to enforce regulatory compliance on crypto firms.
Binance announced in November that it was preparing to relaunch a bid to buy the embattled Voyager Digital after FTX’s failed bid to acquire the company. In September, FTX acquired bankrupt Voyager’s assets for $1.42 billion.
In a filing on Wednesday, the SEC said the proposed deal may violate laws on the unregistered offer and sale of securities. The agency also cited multiple news reports of U.S. investigations into the global Binance crypto exchange, of which Binance.US is a purportedly independent partner, which means the deal could become “impossible to consummate,” Reuters reported.
Just last week, Reuters also reported that Binance moved $400 million from the bank account of a US partner to a firm managed by CEO CEO Changpeng Zhao. According to the report, Binance had secret access to a bank account belonging to its purportedly independent U.S. partner and transferred large sums of money from the account to a trading firm managed by Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, Reuters said, citing banking records and company messages seen by the publication.
Binance has been plagued with problems in recent months. The DOJ is currently investigating the global Binance crypto exchange for possible money laundering and sanctions violations. According to Reuters, a top Binance executive told the Wall Street Journal last week that “Binance expected to pay penalties to resolve the investigations.”
Smart meter startup Gridium raises $14M in funding to help real estate firms in their decarbonization efforts
Gridium is a San Franciso-based smart meter data analysis startup that partners with leading real estate firms to decarbonize commercial buildings. The startup engages directly with energy users to promote improved operational efficiency and energy management, using customers’ own data to highlight opportunities for savings.
To further accelerate growth and expand its SaaS footprint, Gridium announced today it has raised $14 million led by Navitas Capital, with participation from other backers from the commercial real estate space—Lincoln Property Company and Tim Naughton, current Chairman and former CEO of AvalonBay. Gridium will also use the funding proceeds to fuel its hiring efforts, scale the software offerings, and bolster strategic partnership opportunities.
In addition, Gridium also said that it had entered into a revolving debt financing facility sized at $10M with Mitsubishi HC Capital America, Inc. The facility supports Gridium’s capacity to provide upgrades to equipment, controls, and software without requiring an upfront capital expenditure from customers, an offering named Gridium Alpha. Projects will be executed in the service territories of PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE in California.
Founded in 2011 by Adam Stein and Tom Arnold, Gridium directly serves over 300 million square feet of office buildings, corporate headquarters, and medical facilities across the United States. These buildings save millions of dollars on electricity, gas, and water utility bills, reduce their carbon emissions, and execute their sustainability goals. Building owners and operators also use Gridium to navigate the energy transition by improving efficiency, financing retrofits, and streamlining operations.
“We’re proud to support Gridium and their commitment to decarbonizing buildings,” said Tom Waters, Director, of Clean Technology Finance at Mitsubishi HC Capital America, Inc. “Working with Gridium’s deeply experienced team as they continue to produce lasting, substantial value for building operators and owners reaffirms our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This debt facility will boost the team’s ability to move efficiently and capture more share in this important market.”
“The latest raise validates our unwavering commitment to accelerating our customers’ decarbonization strategies and will support the continued expansion of our geographic footprint across the U.S.,” said Tom Arnold, Chief Executive Officer of Gridium. “And as a source for customized engineering, procurement, and construction services paired with project finance capacity, we can strengthen overall service and quality on our Alpha decarbonization projects
Controversial geoengineering startup Make Sunsets releases balloons containing sulfur dioxide on U.S. soil after it was banned in Mexico
Late last year, we wrote about Make Sunsets, a solar geoengineering startup that’s mimicking volcanic eruption to cool Earth. In December, the controversial startup released sulfur particles into the atmosphere in an attempt to stop climate change.
The solar geoengineering startup had to cease operations in Mexico after the government cracked down on the idea of putting chemicals into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight away from the Earth.
In January of this year, the Mexican government cracked down on Make Sunsets, forcing the startup to pause operations in the country. In a statement, the government of Mexico said that “experimentation with solar geoengineering will not be allowed in Mexico,” adding that it plans to “prohibit and, where appropriate, stop experimentation practices with solar geoengineering in the country.”
Fast forward a month later, Make Sunsets has reemerged on U.S. soil to launch balloons in Nevada. This week, Make Sunsets said in a blog post that it had completed three balloon launches near Reno, Nevada. Each of the balloons contained less than 10 grams of sulfur dioxide, which is the most commonly cited aerosol particle discussed in conversations about solar geoengineering.
In a kind of apology blog post published on Wednesday, Make Sunsets acknowledged it had barged forward.
“We appreciate the Mexican government’s concern for protecting communities and the natural environment and support their call for scientific expertise and oversight of climate intervention activities. We also appreciate their concern for national and local engagement and regret that we had failed to take this into consideration sooner,” Make Sunsets said.
Founded in 2022 by CEO Luke Iseman, Make Sunsets claims that it has developed “reflective, high-altitude, biodegradable clouds that cool the planet. Mimicking natural processes, our “shiny clouds” are going to prevent catastrophic global warming.”
El Camino, a startup founded by a Colombian-American, raises $1.1M Pre-Seed to be the travel industry’s first experiential marketplace for women
While the fashion, beauty, and health industries have been quick to cater to the diverse needs and priorities of women, the travel industry has fallen behind. Despite the fact that women travelers are the fastest-growing segment in the industry, they have long been disregarded by major players. Now, one travel startup is aiming to change that and usher in a new era of experiential travel that is personalized, inclusive, and inspiring.
Enter El Camino, a Washington, DC-based travel startup and the travel industry’s first experiential marketplace that offers a variety of unforgettable experience travel options for women.
Led by industry veteran and Colombian-American founder Katalina Mayorga, and Justin Bridges, El Camino originally started as a traditional small-group travel company, but over the years saw first-hand the growing pain points of women travelers who prioritized safety and valued unique immersive experiences but lacked credible options when booking.
To further take its platform to the next level, El Camino Travel (El Camino) announced today it has closed a $1.1 Million pre-seed funding round led by Slauson & Co. with participation from Trip Ventures. Other backers included angel backers Joe Zadeh, former VP of Experiences at Airbnb; Kinjil Mathur, CMO of Squarespace and Rafat Ali, Founder and CEO of Skift.
The fresh cash infusion will primarily be used to accelerate the development of the underlying technology of the company’s marketplace which dramatically increases efficiency and lowers costs for El Camino as well as its operating partners. In addition, the company will be able to expand its inventory to keep up with the growing demand for its small-group trips.
Generating millions in revenue since launch, the funding proceeds will be used to accelerate El Camino’s technology build, brand awareness in the $360B tours and experiences sector of the industry, and its mission to be the first premium marketplace for women travelers that connects them directly to exceptional experiences.