A third straight week of tech layoffs in the books

You thought the market was bad for venture capitalists, but what about the actual workers behind the tech companies they’ve backed?

Reluctantly, we’re writing a tech layoffs roundup for the third week in a row, because once again, there have been reductions across stages and sectors. Over the past month, public and private tech companies have been announcing mass layoffs across sectors. Employees from Section4, Carvana, DataRobot, Mural, Robinhood, On Deck, Thrasio, MainStreet and Netflix have been impacted by the workforce reductions. Some bigger companies are instituting hiring freezes, such as Twitter and Meta, or announcing a shift in strategy, such as Uber.

As has been our mantra while reporting on the layoffs sweeping the tech industry: layoffs don’t happen to companies, they happen to people. Especially for the U.S.-based tech employees, layoffs don’t just mean a loss of income — they mean a medically dangerous loss of healthcare.

Let’s take a look at which companies announced reductions this week.

After layoffs hit Netflix’s content arm Tudum a few weeks ago, 150 more primarily U.S.-based employees were let go, plus 70 other employees in the animation division.

A Netflix representative wrote in an emailed statement, “As we explained on earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company.” Netflix reported revenue of $7.87 billion for the first quarter of 2022 and a significant loss of 200,000 subscribers.

Contractors were also impacted by these layoffs, but the number of affected workers in that designation is unclear. TechCrunch asked Netflix about reports that staff running diverse social channels like Strong Black Lead, Golden, Most and Con Todo were laid off, but Netflix said that the company decided not to renew contracts with certain agencies it used to recruit contractors. Still, it doesn’t feel great to see queer people and people of color losing their jobs, which helped Netflix cater to these audiences.

Picsart’s unicorn status didn’t save it 

Less than a year ago, Picsart raised $130 million from SoftBank, putting the visual creator tools startup into unicorn territory with a valuation exceeding $1 billion. A leaner, hipper version of Adobe, things seem to have taken a downturn for Picsart, which laid off 8% of its staff this week, affecting 90 people. Other SoftBank-backed companies like Cameo, which also became a unicorn last year, just conducted layoffs. When Alex Wilhelm last covered Picsart, he noted that the company was expected to go public — that still hasn’t happened, which may be a clue into what’s going on at the company to precipitate such cuts.

Cars24, a marketplace for used cars last valued at $3.3 billion by its venture capital investors, cut 600 jobs — or 6% of its entire workforce — this week. The Series G startup had just raised a $400 million round, making the reduction more about runway extension than lack of ability to pay the bills.

As our own Manish Singh reports, Cars24 is one of many Indian startups that fired people in the last few weeks. Employees from Vedantu, Unacademy, Meesho, OkCredit, Trell, Furlenco and Lido have also cut several roles, he says.

Marketplace startups, such as Cars24, feel especially vulnerable during a downturn. Consumer spending habits can get extremely fickle, which means that demand may decline while supply stays consistent or even grows. Balancing the two sides is the biggest art for any marketplace startup, but it becomes especially difficult to predict stability in revenue when everyone else has hit pause.

Skillz scales back esports biz team 

Esports company Skillz laid off 70 employees, around 10% of the team, earlier this week, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. No executives were impacted by the cuts.

“We decided to reorganize our resources and investments to increase our profitable growth and further deliver against our vision of building the competition layer of the internet,” the company said in an emailed statement. “This realignment resulted in changing some of our programs and consequently people on our team as we prioritize our resourcing levels to continue to offer a great player experience and enable more game developers to bring their creations to life.”

The company’s statement is ironic; to better support its external community, it is cutting its internal community. The company says it plans to continue hiring in some areas of the business but did not mention which ones.

TechCrunch+ roundup: Construction tech survey, founder-CEO friction, diversify your cap table

The technological advances we’ve made over the last few thousand years are stunning, but the construction industry still relies on centuries-old technology.

Configuring a robot to mix cement is easy, but delivering a CementTron 3000 to a job site, training employees on its use, and keeping it maintained are not the kinds of disruptions builders are looking for, especially when margins are so thin and experienced workers are hard to find.

Even so, investors are backing startups bringing robotics, data management, automation and augmented reality into the construction process.

Many major construction firms operate their own R&D divisions, but that hasn’t substantially changed attitudes about adopting new tech: in one survey, more than one-third of respondents who worked in the industry said they are ambivalent about using new tools. Despite their reluctance, growing numbers of construction tech startups are helping builders with bidding, scheduling, modeling software, and, quite frequently, drones.

To learn more about the market forces shaping construction tech in 2022, we spoke to five investors:

  • Nikitas Koutoupes, managing director, Insight Partners
  • Heinrich Gröller, partner, Speedinvest
  • Momei Qu, managing director, PSP Growth
  • Suzanne Fletcher, venture partner, Prime Movers Lab
  • Sungjoon Cho, general partner, D20 Capital

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TechCrunch columnist Sophie Alcorn will join a TechCrunch+ Twitter Space on Tuesday, May 24.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/Sophie Alcorn

On Tuesday, May 24 at 8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. ET, I’m hosting a Twitter Space with Silicon Valley immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn, who writes the “Dear Sophie” advice column for TechCrunch+ each Wednesday. If you have questions about working and living legally in the United States, please join the conversation.

To get a reminder before the chat, follow @TechCrunchplus on Twitter.

Thanks very much for reading: I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

For better or for worse: Managing founder-CEO tension inside a startup

Hands pulling rubber band

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

Technical founders often recruit a CEO who can fill in gaps in their business experience, but if they cannot build a strong partnership, everyone suffers.

Metaphorically, imagine two people in a lifeboat arguing over which direction leads to land.

Managing potential points of tension is critical, but founders must be pragmatic: Only choose someone you respect, and be prepared to invest time and energy into cultivating a close relationship, advises Max Schireson, an executive-in-residence at Battery Ventures. Previously, the co-founders of MongoDB hired him to be their CEO.

“In the best case, a strong partnership can pioneer new models and build a lasting and impactful company,” says Schireson.

Dear Sophie: Can I do anything to speed up the EAD renewal process?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I’m on an L-2 visa as a dependent spouse to my husband’s L-1A.

My EAD (work permit) is expiring in May — we filed for the extension of both my visa and EAD a few months ago. How long is the current process?

Might there be anything I can do so my employment isn’t affected?

— Career Centered

The one-chart argument that tech valuations have fallen too far

As you may have heard, tech companies are having a bit of a whoopsie.

But is it possible that stock sellers have gone overboard when it comes to devaluing these startups so deeply and so quickly?

Alex Wilhelm says they have, in large part because “select tech concerns are now worth less than they were before the pandemic, despite having a few years of growth in the bank.”

To make his case, he tracked the share price for Okta and found that the identity platform’s share price has rolled back to where it was in early 2019.

“It’s also about three times as large,” writes Alex. “But it is now worth less today than it was back then. Chew on that.”

3 things to remember when diversifying your startup’s cap table

High Angle View Of Multi Colored Toys Over White Background

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

Just as a sales team builds and refines its funnel, early-stage founders in fundraising mode can create an investor funnel that will help sustain their company for years to come.

Oriana Papin-Zoghbi, CEO and co-founder of women’s health startup AOA Dx, shared her investor breakdown with TC+:

  • 35% private investors.
  • 34% women (female investors or female-headed funds).
  • 26% venture capitalists.
  • 23% family and friends.
  • 18% international investors.
  • 15% angel groups.

“When building an investor funnel, vocalizing what you want is crucial to finding the right investors,” says Papin-Zoghbi.

“Finding the right investors is like finding the right team members — you need to be upfront about your expectations and address what you want them to bring to the table.”

Pitch Deck Teardown: BoxedUp’s $2.3M seed round pitch deck

When video production equipment rental company BoxedUp launched, it initially focused on serving corporate customers who hosted events and conferences.

And then, it pivoted: Earlier this year, BoxedUp raised a $2.3 million seed round to scale up its rental marketplace where individuals can rent high-end equipment directly to creators.

“We found a $10 billion opportunity where owner-operators are renting things out via Instagram and rental shops are still using really old websites,” said CEO and founder Donald Boone.

“Instead of spending $30,000 to buy a camera to rent out one at a time, we could instead create the platform to connect people that have that $30,000 camera,” he told TechCrunch in March.

To help other founders replicate his success with BoxedUp’s seed round, he’s shared the unreacted 22-slide pitch deck with TechCrunch+.

Texas boy's 31 cheeseburger order demonstrates why you should secure your iPhone


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A Texas mother ended up with 31 McDonald’s cheeseburgers after her two-year-old son got a hold of her iPhone and ordered the food via DoorDash.

Kelsey Burkhalter Golden recounted the incident on Facebook Monday, posting an image of her son next to the small mountain of burgers. She joked that she has “31 free cheeseburgers from McDonald’s if anyone is interested”

“Apparently my 2 yr old knows how to order DoorDash,” the woman added.

Other Facebook users in the comments also shared their own stories about random purchases made by their young children. One commenter said their child ordered three iPhones, while another said they know a kid who once ordered the entire NBA league pass.

But, all these sagas could have been avoided had the users configured the parental controls on their devices. For years, Apple has provided a host of mechanisms to prevent an unauthorized user from ordering 31 cheeseburgers, racking up thousands of dollars in in-app purchases, and more.

For instance, Apple users who want to avoid their kids making random purchases can set parent controls on their iPhone and iPad devices. Users can also set the default payment method on DoorDash to Apple Pay, which requires a Face ID scan before purchases can be made.

Match Group and Google reach an interim compromise over app payments

Match Group, the parent company of dating apps Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, is getting along better with Google, just by a little bit.

On Friday, Match withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order against the company, which it accuses of wielding unfair monopoly power in its mobile app marketplace. Match filed an antitrust lawsuit against the search giant earlier this month over the company’s restrictions on Android in-app payments, which drive app users toward remaining in its mobile ecosystem. The company filed the temporary restraining order request a day after suing Google.

Match cited a handful of “concessions” from Google in its decision to withdraw the restraining order request, including assurances that its apps would not be rejected or deleted from the Google Play Store for providing alternative payment options. The company will also place up to $40 million aside in an escrow account in lieu of paying fees to Google directly for Android app payments that happen outside of Google Play’s payment system, arguing that those fees are “illegal under federal and state law.” The escrow account will remain in place while the case awaits its day in court.

Match’s lawsuit is the most recent example of app makers objecting to Google and Apple’s practice of extracting steep fees for in-app payments. Developer frustration around the issue boiled over two years ago when Epic Games sued Apple for antitrust violations, a case that didn’t result in a straightforward victory for either side but did force Apple to allow developers to offer their users alternative payment options.

Salty, subterranean water could relieve world’s lithium shortage

The next bottleneck in lithium-ion battery supplies isn’t cobalt, even though China has a stranglehold on the market, and it’s not nickel, either, despite nickel prices nearly doubling in the past five months. Cobalt can be partially replaced with nickel, nickel can be partially replaced with manganese, and both can be completely replaced with iron phosphate, which is cheap and plentiful. 

But there’s no substitute for one crucial component of these batteries: Lithium.

Today’s lithium mines can’t hope to meet the skyrocketing demand for the next decade and beyond. Spotting an opportunity, startups like Lilac Solutions and Vulcan Energy Resources have leaped into action with new lithium extraction processes that are more efficient and potentially better for the planet.

The crunch

As automakers have fleshed out their electrification plans, they’ve caused an unprecedented rush for lithium. Over the last six months, lithium prices have gone on an epic bull run.

It started in January, when prices jumped to $37,000 per metric ton from $10,000 a month earlier, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Then it got worse in February, with spot prices rising to $52,000 per metric ton before rising again to $62,000 in March. Things have stabilized since then, but prices are still five times above the average price from 2016 to 2020.

Large companies of all stripes have been racing to secure supplies. Automakers like Ford and Tesla have signed huge contracts, and battery manufacturers and miners are rushing to secure supplies. Last year, for example, a three-way bidding war broke out for Canadian miner Millennial Lithium, which has large reserves in Argentina, and the winning bid ended up more than 40% higher than the initial offer.

Yet, those deals probably won’t be enough to fulfill the predicted demand for lithium, based on automakers’ current plans. Benchmark Mineral Intelligence is expecting demand to grow to 2.4 million metric tons in 2030 from less than 700,000 metric tons today.

Supply won’t be able to keep up given the current pace of new lithium projects.

“By the end of the decade, where we’re at now with the pipeline, we’re going to see significant deficits starting to grow,” said Daisy Jennings-Gray, a senior price analyst at Benchmark.

Last year, lithium supply fell short of demand by more than 60,000 metric tons. Jennings-Gray’s firm predicts that the deficit will be over 150,000 metric tons by 2030. To meet demand, Benchmark says that $42 billion will need to be invested in the space by the end of this decade.

Without new lithium projects coming online, it’ll likely get worse throughout the 2030s. By 2040, the International Energy Agency expects lithium demand to be 42 times higher than it is today.

“It’s an insane number,” said Jordy M. Lee, a program manager at the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines. What’s more, it might even be too low.

“We’ve consistently underestimated how much demand for lithium-ion batteries we’re going to have in the coming years,” he said.

As the rise in demand shows no signs of abating, startups have surged into the space, pitching novel techniques to coax the volatile metal out of the earth.

Carbon capture is headed for the high seas

Unless you live near a port, you probably don’t think much of the tens of thousands of container ships tearing through the seas, hauling some 1.8 billion metric tons of stuff each year. Yet these vessels run on some of the dirtiest fuel there is, spewing more greenhouse gases than airplanes do in the process. The industry is exploring alternative fuels, and electrification, to solve the problem for next-generation ships, but in the meantime a Y Combinator-backed startup is gearing up to (hopefully) help decarbonize the big boats that’re already in the water.

London-based Seabound is currently prototyping carbon capture equipment that connects to ships’ smokestacks, using a “lime-based approach” to cut carbon emissions by as much as 95%, cofounder and CEO Alisha Fredriksson said in a call with TechCrunch. The startup’s tech works by routing the exhaust into a container that’s filled with porous, calcium oxide pebbles, which in turn “bind to carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate,”—essentially, limestone, per Fredriksson.

Though carbon capture has yet to really catch on for ships, Seabound is just one of the companies out to prove the tech can eventually scale. Others, including Japanese shipping firm K Line and Netherlands-based Value Maritime, are developing their own carbon-capture tech for ships, typically utilizing the better-established, solvent-based approach (which is increasingly used in factories). Yet this comparably tried-and-true method demands more space and energy aboard ships, because the process of isolating the CO2 happens on the vessel, according to Fredriksson.

In contrast, Seabound intends to process the CO2 on land, if at all. When the ships return from their journey, the limestone can be sold as is or separated via heat. In the latter case, the calcium oxide would be reused and the carbon sold for use or sequestration, per Fredriksson, who previously helped build maritime fuel startup Liquid Wind. Her cofounder, CTO Roujia Wen, previously worked on AI products at Amazon.

Seabound says it has signed six letters of intent with “major shipowners,” and it aims to trial the tech aboard ships beginning next year. To get there, the company has secured $4.4 million in a seed round led by Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital. Several other firms also chipped in on the deal, including Eastern Pacific Shipping, Emles Venture Partners, Hawktail, Rebel Fund and Soma Capital.

Beyond carbon capture, another Y Combinator-backed startup is setting out to decarbonize existing ships via a novel battery-swapping scheme. New Orleans-based Fleetzero aims to power electrified ships using shipping container-sized battery packs, which could be recharged through a network of charging stations at small ports.

Best iPad accessories for college students


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Give yourself the best chance at success to wind down the school year or start the next one with our top picks for iPad accessories for students.

iPads are an everyday staple on college campuses, with many students preferring to use them on a daily basis over laptops.

By adding a few essential accessories, the iPad can help streamline your study setup, help you glide through group projects, and give you a great way to relax in your downtime.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard

The Magic Keyboard

While you may be able to type on the iPad’s screen directly, there’s something to be said about the ease and practicality of an actual keyboard. That’s why we picked Apple’s own Magic Keyboard.

It’s comfortable to type on, it features a USB-C connector to keep your iPad charged, and its built-in trackpad is the best in the game.

You can grab your own Magic Keyboard for $299 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and iPad Air, or $349 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

In the event that you don’t have an iPad Pro or iPad Air, we suggest checking out the Brydge 10.2 MAX+, which fits the 10.2-inch iPad (7th, 8th, and 9th Gen,) or the Brydge 7.9 which fits the iPad mini 4 and iPad mini 5.

Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil 2 on glass tabletop

The Apple Pencil 2 helps with note-taking on compatible iPad models

The Apple Pencil is a must-have for students. It makes it easier to quickly jot down notes. It’s also helpful in outlining projects, marking up first drafts of papers, and working in many art and design apps.

Of course, which Apple Pencil you get depends on which iPad you have. The second-generation Apple Pencil ($129) is compatible with the iPad lines that feature USB-C charging.

The first-generation Apple Pencil ($99) is available for select models of the iPad that feature a Lightning port. Of Apple’s current lineup, that’s exclusively the 10.2-inch iPad.

A good bag or backpack

Incase Commuter Backpack in blue opened with iPad and controller

The commuter backpack offers plenty of storage for all the items you use on a daily basis

Carting your iPad around should also be convenient. After all, if you’re spending any amount of time on campus, you’ll probably want to make sure that you have your charger and your charging cables with you. And a good bag should also have a place for your keys, pens and pencils, and whatever else you need for the day.

Whether or not you need a full-size backpack is another thing entirely. If you have a lot of books you’ll need to carry from class to class, we suggest going with a heavy-duty backpack that offers a padded compartment for your iPad.

We like the Commuter Backpack by Incase, which costs $109.95. It features plenty of internal organization pockets to help keep your cords, pens, notebooks, chargers, keys, and wallet easily organized. The padded compartment can fit up to a 16-inch MacBook, which means it’ll easily keep even the largest iPad Pro safe.

Solo New York Ludlow Tablet Bag for iPad

Solo New York’s Ludlow Bag is an affordable way to tote around your iPad

Of course, if most of your books are digital, there’s no reason you can’t downsize, either. A smaller bag, like SoloNY’s Ludlow Universal Tablet Sling, which comes in at a mere $19.99 in select colors, can hold up to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a notebook, pens and pencils, keys, sunglasses, and your phone easily.

Portable SSD

CalDigit Tuff Nano Plus Portable SSD in blue next to a penny

CalDigit Tuff Nano Plus SSD is a compact way for students to gain extra storage

Even just a little extra storage can go a long way, especially if you’re recording and editing video, storing pictures, or making backups of important projects.

We like the CalDigit Tuff Nano Plus for students, as its small size lends itself to fitting in your bag or back pocket, and its silicone bumper makes it easy to identify from others you might purchase in the future.

These guys have an IPX8 water-resistant USB-C port protected from dust with a silicone dust cover. It sports a 1088 megabytes per second max transfer speed. CalDigit Tuff Nano Plus comes in a 2TB storage capacity.

One man’s quest to bring back the small phone

In 2017, we noted that smartphone screen sizes had settled into a sweet spot between five and six inches. In hindsight, that may well have been wishful thinking. A brief respite aside, it seems that phones have only continued to embiggen, driven by a continued spec war and panel manufacturers like Samsung.

Heck, even Steve Jobs famously missed the boat when he declared the 3.5-inch a platonic ideal a dozen years ago. “You can’t get your hand around it,” he noted about the four- to five-inch being manufactured by Samsung, “no one’s going to buy that.”

Now, the comparison isn’t entirely Apples to apples, as it were. For one thing, hardware makers have gotten much better at shrinking the phone around the screen in the intervening decade. That is to say that a five-inch phone in 2010 is a very different beast than a 2022 version. Even so, big phones are big. They’re so big, in fact, that folding the screen in half seems like the only reasonable exit ramp.

Where, Eric Migicovsky wonders, did all the small phones go? The man behind Pebble and Beeper (who also serves as a Y Combinator partner), is talking things into his own (self-described large) hands. Or, perhaps more accurately, he’s nudging it in someone’s direction in hopes that he doesn’t have to do the famously hard work of launching yet another hardware startup.

Noting that the dream of a premium, sub-six-inch Android handset is dying or dead, Migicovsky launched Small Android Phone. “My hope is that we can gather support from the community and convince Google (ideally) or another Android manufacturer to build this phone,” he writes on the site. Google may well have been the tipping point here, as the company notably abandoned smaller phones with hardware restructuring that gave us the Pixel 6.

He noted in an email to TechCrunch that he’s already had conversations with hardware companies and launched the site/petition in hopes of getting them to see things his way. “I am busy and happy running Beeper. My goal is to encourage someone else [to] make one.”

The petition cites the following bullets as driving factors in returning to a simpler, smaller, safer time:

  • Fits nicely in pocket
  • Are much lighter
  • Are easy to use one-handed without dropping
  • Won’t fall out of my pocket while bicycling

Currently around 20,000, Migicovsky believes 50,000 is the sweet spot for convincing a manufacture to go all in on small. “Just back-of-the-napkin math, but it feels right,” he says. “Probably ~$10 million [non-recurring engineering], means 50K units makes a decent profit at [an] $800 selling price.”

One wonders, ultimately, why the proliferation of the smartphone and increased competition have seemingly resulted in homogeneity. Certainly it’s not for lack of trying. When I mention the Palm Phone, he retorts, “I love that they tried! Also the Light Phone 2 is really interesting, but not great as primary phones.” He adds that — at the very least — he needs a good camera. That certainly doesn’t seem like too much to ask for these days.

Launching a new phone company isn’t an impossibility. We’ve got a close eye on Nothing and OSOM’s efforts. But one certainly questions the soundness of doing so in 2022, based entirely on a potentially niche corner of the market. On his site, Migicovsky makes it clear that he’d rather someone else do it.

“If no one else makes one I guess I will be forced to make it myself,” he writes, “but I really, really don’t want it to come to that.”

Endel’s generative soundscapes show up in Sony’s new headphones

The other day, Brian reported on Sony’s new LinkBuds headphones, including its partnership with “what if Brian Eno was a piece of computer software” app Endel. The company uses really fascinating AI technology to generate soundscapes and music tracks to help your brain do its best work — to help you focus deeper, sleep more easily or to relax you. I spoke with one of Endel’s founders to learn more about the tech and its deal with Sony.

“Endel is first and foremost a technology that was built to help you focus, relax and sleep. And the way this technology works, it procedurally generates a soundscape in real time on the spot, on the device. It is personalized to you based on a number of inputs that we collect about you; things like the time of day, your heart rate, the weather, your movement and your circadian rhythms, like how much sleep you got last night,” explains Oleg Stavitsky, CEO and co-founder at Endel. “This technology listens to all of this data, plugs into the algorithm, which creates the soundscape in real time, which allows us to react in real time to the changes in you. Using this technology, we are building an ecosystem of products, so that our soundscapes can follow you everywhere during the day across all these channels and platforms. We are pretty much everywhere at this point; iOS, Android, Apple Watch, Mac or Apple TV, Alexa… you name it.”

In reviewing the product I did stumble across a couple of glaring omissions in where it is available: There was no way of streaming it to my Sonos speakers (the workaround is to install Alexa on Sonos), and the Endel app doesn’t support casting, so you can’t stream to Google Home either.

Running the app using earphones, however, creates an intimate and beautiful experience. The audio tracks are Eno-esque in their expansiveness; it’s like a slowly evolving ambient soundtrack to your day. Sitting at my desk, I felt myself focus; a combination of the music and blocking and drowning out distractions.

The soundscapes are stem-based — professional music industry jargon for snippets of sounds, think of them as samples. The app has a huge library of samples and stems, and the algorithm picks the right stems to sequence the audio together. On top of the basic sequencing, the software runs additional adjustments on top.

“We have a few AI systems on top of that sequencer; AI systems that generate melodies basically. There are millions and millions and millions of variations,” says Stavitsky. “Some of the soundscapes on the app are done in collaboration with some of the biggest artists on the planet. We have Grimes and Miguel and James Blake and Plastic Man and others that we’ve worked with, so they are good. The way they work with us is they prepare a stem pack, a sound pack. They never submit a musical composition. They just are the building blocks that the algorithm then uses to assemble tracks on the fly.”

The company says it’s approached by companies all the time, and have to consider whether partnerships are a cost or a benefit at any given time. It decided to say “yes” to headphones giant Sony, resulting in this collaboration.

“Sony’s headphones innovation department approached us. They said we’re working on this new model that will somehow understand the context of where you are, and we want those headphones to proactively activate a certain soundscape,” says Stavitsky, “I’m frankly very, very skeptical about all these integrations, for a number of reasons. There’s always an opportunity cost. Being a small company, you’re wondering if we should do this. What got me excited about this is that the fundamental idea of Endel is that it’s an always-on soundscape that follows you everywhere during the day. Sometimes you can barely hear it, and sometimes it’s like front and center and it shields you from the rest of the world. I think this idea of headphones that proactively trigger a certain kind of soundscape depending on the context of what’s happening with you is exactly how we envision how our product is used. This is just going to be one huge play button — you press that button, and it listens to your calendar, listens to your heart rate, and it proactively shifts between all of the soundscapes. That’s what we are working toward, and these headphones make that real.”