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SpaceX doc leaks, TikTok ban gains steam, and Grok to go open-source

Hey, folks, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter recapping noteworthy happenings in tech over the past few days.

This week, TechCrunch viewed leaked documents out of SpaceX showing some questionable practices related to employee stock options.

X CEO Elon Musk announced that he would open source Grok, X’s AI-powered chatbot meant to compete with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Grok — developed by Musk’s AI startup, xAI — was released last year, armed with features such as access to “real-time” information on X and views undeterred by “politically correct” norms.

Elsewhere, Ron interviewed Denise Dresser, the CEO of Slack, on her effort to bring stability to the Salesforce business that’s seen three CEOs in a single year.

Lots else happened. We recap it all in this edition of WiR — but first, a reminder to sign up to receive the WiR newsletter in your inbox every Saturday.

News

Leaked SpaceX docs: We got our hands on some leaked SpaceX documents that show some unusual terms to stock awards that employees are required to agree to. Among other things, the company gives itself the right to ban past and present employees from participating in tender offers if they are deemed to have committed “an act of dishonesty against the company” or to have violated written company policies.

Phantom, now a phantom: Phantom Auto, a remote driving startup that launched seven years ago amid the buzz of autonomous vehicle technology, is shutting down after failing to secure new funding, Kirsten exclusively reports.

Meme stock: In a new SEC filing, Reddit reveals that, following its IPO, it’ll allow its community members to sell their shares immediately instead of being subject to the usual lock-up agreements that prevent IPO investors from selling shares for six months.

Funding

Banking as a service: U.K.-based Griffin Bank, an API-driven banking-as-a-service (BaaS) platform, just obtained a license to launch as a fully operational bank — and raised $24 million from investors, including MassMutual Ventures, NordicNinja and Breega.

EU breaches data rules: An investigation into the European Union’s use of Microsoft 365 has found that the European Commission, the cabinet government of the EU, breached the bloc’s data protection rules through its use of the cloud-based productivity software.

Analysis

Deepfakes go royal: Amanda writes about how a photo of Kate Middleton and her children, possibly edited with the help of AI, is an omen of what’s to come as AI deepfaking and editing tools proliferate.

Relaxation device: Haje goes hands-on with Moonbird’s relaxation device, which is designed to help customers find sleep and reduce stress through breathing exercises.

Podcasts

This week on Equity, Alex looked at data from Carta on how startup compensation is changing, raises from Empathy and Bear Robotics and developments from Bluesky, Brave and Chamath Palihapitiya’s VC firm Social Capital.

On Found, Becca and Dom spoke with Rebecca Hu, the CEO and co-founder of Glacier, an AI robotics company that’s building robots to accurately sort recycling.

And on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn interviewed Melody Hildebrandt, CTO of Fox Corporation, and Mike Blank, COO at Polygon Labs. The episode is part of Chain Reaction’s monthly series diving into different topics and themes in crypto. This month’s theme is blockchain and AI integrations.

Bonus round

Metaverse royale: Readyverse Studios — co-founded by blockchain tech company Futureverse and Ernest Cline, the mind behind the sci-fi series Ready Player One — this week debuted Open, a third-person battle royale experience. Lauren has the story.

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