Disputes, Employee Misconduct Rattle Centerview’s Silicon Valley DreamsRead more

crypto culture ai

Live from SF, It’s Tech Week

Hi, welcome to your Weekend.

It was the boom-iest of times, it was the doom-iest of times.

At least that’s how it feels right now in Dickensian San Francisco, where AI companies are setting up shop on every avenue, while fentanyl dealers are hanging out in every alley.

I joke—but seriously, it’s wild out here. No fewer than 17 of the 35 startups listed on The Information’s new Generative AI Database have sprung up in San Francisco. These companies have collectively raised more than $13 billion(!) to explore an area of tech that barely existed a few years ago. Meanwhile, not even the Old Navy on Market Street—a downtown fixture since the dot-com days—can survive the current economic climate. 

The contrasting vibes were on full display the last several days, as the Andreessen Horowitz-sponsored SF Tech Week rolled into town. It was fantastic to see more than 200 events burst out around the city. As reporter Erin Woo and photographer Laura Morton discovered, spirits were high. Business cards (and hot wings) were flying. The SF death spiral seemed to have stalled. But one glance at the Friday afternoon headlines—“S.F. Mayor Breed to open unified command center to tackle open-air drug dealing”—revealed a more complicated story.

Those contrasts reminded me of AI company CEOs like Adam D’Angelo issuing warnings that AI could be the death knell of humanity (more on that below). So, are we booming or are we dooming? Apparently, folks, we’re doing both. 

the 1:1

Adam D’Angelo’s Endless Quest to Answer Everything

Fourteen years after the Quora CEO founded his user-driven Q&A site, D’Angelo has pinned his hopes on a buzzy new AI app, Poe. The service allows users to simply and quickly interact with a slew of large-language models at once. D’Angelo spoke with Arielle about the app he hopes will be for the AI era what Netscape was for Web 2.0.

sf tech week

What Doom Loop? A Six-Day Tech Party Tries to Shift the Vibes in San Francisco

Thousands of techies converged this week for a 200-event “SF Tech Week” extravaganza that attempted to answer the question: Wait, isn’t every week tech week in San Francisco? Erin and Laura hiked through Cerebral Valley and reported from the other side. 

scene and heard

‘I Don’t Know What the F*** This Thing Is’: Inside Zuzalu, the Pop-Up City of Vitalik Buterin’s Dreams

At a monthslong commune in Montenegro assembled by the founder of ethereum, techno-futurists found a safe haven to debate, dance and ponder the meaning of it all. Margaux spoke with a slew of Zuzalans (as they self-identify), who partied alongside Grimes, Stable Diffusion founder Emad Mostaque and an eclectic mix of players. 

Listening: An audio tour of video games
“Wow,” said Simon Parkin, wrapping up a conversation with Wordle creator Josh Wardle on his six-month-old podcast, “My Perfect Console.” “That got a little more philosophical at the end than I was expecting.” As often happens on Parkin’s pod, his chat with Wardle digressed from an aesthetic discussion about game creation to an emotional excavation of a game’s creator. Parkin, who covers games for The New Yorker, is a nimble interviewer and has deep knowledge of the space, applying a high-touch approach to a medium still widely considered low brow. Guests include video-game makers like Valve’s Erik Wolpaw and enthusiasts like investigative reporter and Hollywood scion Ronan Farrow. Parkin asks his guests to choose the five games most meaningful to them, the titles that would form their “perfect console.” One of Farrow’s picks was Myst, a 1990s PC game about “colonialism—and daddy issues,” he said, “so of course I love that game.” —Abe

Reading: The fairy godfather of the one percent 
Want to attend the Met Gala? Reserve a private hospital wing? Renew a visa with one text? Ray Flemings is your man—“one of the premiere fixers for the global elite,” per Motherboard’s Maxwell Strachan. To hire Flemings, clients must have a $30 million-plus net worth and be willing to spend at least $1 million annually on “lifestyle” maintenance. Flemings calls his network Myria, and it has morphed from a private concierge service into a full-fledged tech startup. Last year, he took a Myria-branded app through Y Combinator, winning an investment from the accelerator. Flemings likes to describe capitalism as an “almost holy idea” and breathlessly professes to believe “that the world’s richest people should be having more fun and spending more money. We believe that that is actually for the greater good.” Good for some, at least. —Annie 

Noticing: A play-to-earn downturn 
Remember the crypto glory days when venture firms like Andresseen Horowitz and Paradigm touted “play-to-earn” games as nothing less than the future of work? As this CoinGecko graphic shows, the whole thing has turned into a nightmare. Last year Step’N, a blockchain game that pays users to exercise, handed out an average of $40 a day to players; now you’re lucky to net a nickle. The crash is especially devastating to people in countries like the Philippines, where players were made to believe that games like “Axie Infinity” could help them provide for their families. In reality, the economics only worked when crypto token prices were high. Still, some investors are clinging to the promise of play-to-earn. On the same day CoinGecko published its research, Seven Seven Six founder Alexis Ohanian tweeted that within the next five years, “the majority of gamers won’t play games unless they are being properly valued for that time.” It’s pretty clear what’s driving Ohanian’s optimism: His firm has invested in Yuga Labs’ “Otherside,” one of the most prominent play-to-earn games. May he never wake up to find his investment worth less than a nickel. —Margaux

Makes You Think

Nevermind. We’re doomed. 

Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.


Weekend Editor, The Information

Jon Steinberg is the Weekend Editor at The Information. He is a former editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine and senior editor at New York magazine, where his work won many National Magazine Awards.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Former Apple design chief Jony Ive and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. Photos by Getty.
Designer Jony Ive and OpenAI’s Sam Altman Discuss AI Hardware Project
Jony Ive, the renowned designer of the iPhone, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman have been discussing building a new AI hardware device, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
From left to right: Blair Effron, Robert Pruzan and David Handler. Photos by Getty; Tidal Partners.
Exclusive Finance
Disputes, Employee Misconduct Rattle Centerview’s Silicon Valley Dreams
The San Francisco Bay Area–based bankers at Centerview Partners, the investment bank that advised Silicon Valley Bank’s owner and Credit Suisse through recent turmoil, got two doses of bad news last week.
Art by Clark Miller
Exclusive startups entertainment
MasterClass Takes a Crash Course in Frugality
MasterClass had a problem with the shoot featuring its latest star instructor, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Photos via Getty
Exclusive microsoft ai
How Microsoft is Trying to Lessen Its Addiction to OpenAI as AI Costs Soar
Microsoft’s push to put artificial intelligence into its software has hinged almost entirely on OpenAI , the startup Microsoft funded in exchange for the right to use its cutting-edge technology.
Art by Clark Miller
The Big Read policy
Europe Has Figured Out How to Tame Big Tech. Can the U.S. Learn Its Tricks?
Late last month in Belgium, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had a pressing question for Paul Tang, a Dutch politician and member of the European Parliament.
If AI researchers can meet Nat Friedman's Vesuvius Challenge, “It’ll be the first time we’ve read handwriting that hasn’t been seen in 2,000 years.” Art by Clark Miller
The AI Age culture ai
Nat Versus the Volcano: Can an AI Investor Solve an Ancient Mystery from the Ashes of Vesuvius?
Long before men’s daily thoughts about ancient Rome became a TikTok meme , former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman’s mind was regularly turning toward the Roman Empire.