Starbucks CEO to Work Monthly Shift at Company's Cafes

Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) CEO Laxman Narasimhan told employees Thursday that he plans to work a half day shift every month at one of the coffee chain's locations. "To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities, I intend to continue working in stores for a half day each month, and I expect each member of the leadership team to also ensure our support centers stay connected and engaged in the realities of our stores for discussion and improvement," he wrote in a letter to employees, quoted by CNBC. His pledge comes as he takes over the helm of the coffee giant as Howard Schultz leaves the company about two weeks earlier than previously planned as the company looks to improve its relationship with its baristas. As of Friday, more than 190 company-owned Starbucks locations have voted to unionize, according to National Labor Relations Board data, with employees citing unsafe working conditions, understaffing and unreliable scheduling as some of the reasons behind unionizing.

Top AI Mobile Apps Generated Over $14 Million So Far This Year

Consumers have spent more than $14 million in the 10 highest-earning mobile apps that advertise their use of OpenAI's technology, according to new report from analytics provider, TechCrunch reports. In February 2023, the top AI apps combined accounted for nearly $5.9 million in global consumer spending, the firm says. Moreover, the group of apps averaged $232,000 in daily consumer spending within the first 20 days of March, up 11% from February's daily spending average of $210,000. The firm's analysis included the AI apps Genie - AI Chatbot, AI Chat - Chatbot AI Assistant, Pixelcut AI Photo Editor, AI Chatbot - Open Chat Writer, Apo - AI Personal Assistant, Chat AI Bot - Writing Assistant, ChatOn - AI Chatbot Assistant, AI Chat - Ask Anything, Chat AI - Ask Anything, and GoatChat. Of there, Genie has generated the most revenue so far this year at $3.2 million, while AI Chat and Pixelcut have garnered $2.8 million and $2.2 million, respectively.

Google Opens Early Access to AI Chatbot Bard

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) announced that the company is releasing its ChatGPT competitor Bard for early access, calling the program an "early experiment that lets you collaborate with generative AI." Bard is a chatbot based on a large language model, like OpenAI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing, with Google's bot using the company's own LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). "You can use Bard to boost your productivity, accelerate your ideas and fuel your curiosity," Sissie Hsiao, VP of product, and Eli Collins, VP of research at Google, wrote in a blog post. "You might ask Bard to give you tips to reach your goal of reading more books this year, explain quantum physics in simple terms or spark your creativity by outlining a blog post." When Bard generates an answer to a user's text query, the user can rate the answer with a thumbs up or down, restart the conversation, or simply click on a "Google It" button to switch to the company's search engine. Users in the U.K. and U.S. can join the waitlist for Bard at

Amazon Lays Off 9,000 More Employees in Additional Job Cuts

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced Monday it was laying off another 9,000 employees, impacting workers at AWS Cloud, Twitch Gaming, Advertising and PXT (experience and technology solutions) divisions. CEO Andy Jassy said in a memo published Monday that the reason the company is doing cuts in stages is that some managers were still evaluating their departments during the an earlier round of layoffs than began in November and extended into January, affecting more than 18,000 employees. This decision comes as Amazon looks to streamline costs, with Jassy noting that he was evaluating "uncertainty that exists in the near future" in regards to the economy. “The overriding tenet of our annual planning this year was to be leaner while doing so in a way that enables us to still invest robustly in the key long-term customer experiences that we believe can meaningfully improve customers’ lives and Amazon as a whole,” Jassy said.

Big Banks Deposit $30 Billion into First Republic Bank

A group of nearly a dozen financial institutions agreed to deposit $30 billion in First Republic Bank (NYSE: FRC) to aid the lender in effort to stabilize the U.S. banking system. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), Citigroup (NYSE: C) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) will contribute about $5 billion each, while Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) will give about $2.5 billion, the group said in a release. Truist (NYSE: TFC), PNC Financial (NYSE: PNC), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), State Street (NYSE: STT) and Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE: BK) will deposit about $1 billion each. “This action by America’s largest banks reflects their confidence in First Republic and in banks of all sizes, and it demonstrates their overall commitment to helping banks serve their customers and communities,” the group said in a statement. The deposits will stay at the bank for at least 120 days, according to an announcement from First Republic.

Stripe Valuation at $50 billion in New $6.5 Billion Funding Round

Digital payments company Stripe announced that it raised over $6.5 billion in Series I funding at a $50 billion valuation, a notable discount from its peak valuation of $95 billion in 2021. New investors in this round include GIC, Goldman Sachs Asset and Wealth Management and Temasek, joining existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Baillie Gifford, Founders Fund, General Catalyst, MSD Partners and Thrive Capital. Stripe said the funds raised will be used "to provide liquidity to current and former employees and address employee withholding tax obligations related to equity awards, resulting in the retirement of Stripe shares that will offset the issuance of new shares to Series I investors." Stripe also said that it "does not need capital to run its business." The company has remained privately own for over a decade, despite recurring speculation about an IPO. In July, Stripe cut its valuation from $95 billion to $74 billion and further lowered it to $63 billion in January as investors pullback on the tech sector. Stripe also laid off 14% of its workforce in November.

Goldman Slashes GDP Forecast on Small Bank Stress

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) on Wednesday lowered its 2023 economic growth forecast, citing that small- and medium-sized banks will reduce lending as a result pressure on the broader financial sector. The firm lowered its GDP growth forecast by 0.3 percentage points to 1.2% as it anticipates smaller banks will try to preserve liquidity in case they are met with further bank runs. Banks with less than $250 billion in assets make up about 50% of U.S. commercial and industrial lending, 60% of residential real estate lending, 80% of commercial real estate lending and 45% of consumer lending, according to Goldman. "Small and medium-sized banks play an important role in the U.S. economy," Goldman economists David Mericle and Manuel Abecasis wrote in a note to clients. "Any lending impact is likely to be concentrated in a subset of small and medium-sized banks."

Meta to Lay Off 10,000 More Workers

Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META) plans to lay off 10,000 more employees following its initial cuts in November and incur restructuring costs from $3 billion to $5 billion, the company announced Tuesday, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg called 2023 Meta's "year of efficiency." The Facebook-parent also plans to close 5,000 additional open roles that have yet to be filled as continued economic uncertainty puts a damper on the tech company's previous growth plans. "Here's the timeline you should expect: over the next couple of months, org leaders will announce restructuring plans focused on flattening our orgs, canceling lower priority projects, and reducing our hiring rates," Zuckerberg wrote in a message to employees, which was published on the company's blog. Zuckerberg noted that Meta is preparing for "the possibility that this new economic reality will continue for many years."

SpaceX, T-Mobile to Begin Testing Satellite-to-Cell Service This Year

SpaceX plans to start testing its Starlink satellite-to-cell service with T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) this year, Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink enterprise sales at SpaceX, said. during a panel at the Satellite 2023 conference in Washington D.C. "We're going to learn a lot by doing -- not necessarily be overanalyzing -- and getting out there," Hofeller said, quoted by CNBC. SpaceX and T-Mobile announced their partnership in August, with the collaboration aimed at ending dead zones for mobile devices. The company has launched about 4,000 Starlink satellites to date, with Hofeller saying Monday that SpaceX is manufacturing six satellites per day at its facility near Seattle, Washington and is producing "thousands" of user terminals per day. SpaceX expects the unit to turn a profit this year.

Meta Platforms Reportedly Exploring New Social Media Network to Compete with Twitter

Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META) is reportedly exploring a new decentralized, text-based social network that could compete with Elon Musk's Twitter. "We're exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates," Meta told tech news Platformer in an email. "We believe there's an opportunity for a seperate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests." Decentralized social networks run on individual servers that use uniform protocol, avoiding centralized control of content. The social media giant's project, codenamed P92, would be build as a stand-alone app, with users using their Instagram accounts to log in, Platformer reports. The effort by Meta would attract some Twitter users that are looking for alternatives after Musk took over the platform late last year. The project would also expand Meta's offerings beyond Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. The project is being led by Instragram lead Adam Mosseri, Platformer said.

Silvergate Capital Announces Liquidation, Bitcoin and Ether Fall 7%

Silvergate Capital (NYSE: SI) announced it plans to "wind down operations and voluntarily liquidate" its bank division. The decision from the publicly traded crypto bank follows a recent sell-off of assets at a loss to cover over $8 billion in withdrawals as the broader crypto ecosystem meltdown. "In light of recent industry and regulatory developments, Silvergate believes that an orderly wind down of Bank operations and a voluntary liquidation of the Bank is the best path forward. The Bank's wind down and liquidation plan includes full repayment of all deposits. The Company is also considering how best to resolve claims and preserve the residual value of its assets, including its proprietary technology and tax assets." Bitcoin slid 7% to $20,474.50 on Thursday, according to Coin Metrics, and Ether was last trading at $1,440.45, also down about 7%.

U.S. Probes Tesla for Steering Wheels Detaching While Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) after the regulator received two complaints that steering wheels detached in 2023 Model Y vehicles while in use. The preliminary investigation will include more than 120,000 vehicles, the agency said in a filing. "Both vehicles were delivered to the owners missing the retaining bolt which attaches the steering wheel to the steering column," the NHTSA said, adding that the investigation will assess the "scope, frequency, and manufacturing processes associated with this condition." Both incidents occurred at low vehicle mileage. This investigation is a first step before the NHTSA could call for a vehicle recall. Tesla shares were down more than 3% on Wednesday.

Tesla Will Build a New Plant in Mexico

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced on Tuesday that Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) will build a new manufacturing plant in Monterrey, Mexco. Under the agreement, the electric carmaker is required to adhere to a series of water conservation commitments, including using recycled water throughout the entire vehicle manufacturing process. AMLO said during a press conference that the plant will be a considerable investment and will produce "many, many jobs," CNBC reports. Monterrey is an industrial city near the U.S.-Mexico border, with Tesla adding the city to its overseas manufacturing footprint that includes its Chinese and German car plants. CEO Elon Musk is expected to give more details on the Mexican plant during the company's Investor Day event on Wednesday.

Snapchat Launches AI Chatbot Powered by OpenAI's GPT

Snap (NYSE: SNAP) is the latest company to launch it own artificial intelligence chatbot, with its new AI generative text product "My AI" rolling out on the company's Snapchat social media platform. My AI uses OpenAI's GPT technology that is customizable for users and is available as an experimental feature for the platform's $3.99 monthly subscription service Snapchat+. Unlike other chatbots developed to enhance search engine answers like Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing or Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Bard, My AI is designed to be a persona users can chat with either alone or with friends. "My AI can recommend birthday gift ideas for your BFF, plan a hiking trip for a long weekend, suggest a recipe for dinner, or even write a haiku about cheese for your cheddar-obsessed pal," the company wrote in a blog post. "Make My AI your own by giving it a name and customizing the wallpaper of your Chat." Snap plans to store and review My AI conversations to better improve the product's experience.

Meta to Release New Large Language Model to AI Researchers

Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META) has its own trained large language model (LLM) the company is planning to release to researchers, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a blogpost on Friday. Called LLaMA, the model is designed to help scientists and engineers explore applications for artificial intelligence. LLMs make up applications like OpenAI's ChatGPT, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing AI, and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Bard. "LLMs have shown a lot of promise in generating text, having conversations, summarizing written material, and more complicated tasks like solving math theorems or predicting protein structures," Zuckerberg wrote. Zuckerberg said LLM technology could eventually solve math problems or conduct scientific research. "Meta is committed to this open model of research and we'll make our new model available to the AI research community," Zuckerberg wrote.

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