DEI? More like 'common decency' — and Silicon Valley is saying 'no thanks'

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I just came off recording an episode of Equity, where I learned about the newest wave of stupidity. The tech industry's DEI allergy has hit a new low, as Silicon Valley leaders are once again waving their "meritocracy" banners high and wide. Scale AI's Alexandr Wang has decided that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are passé — and replaced them with his shiny new acronym MEI: merit, excellence, and intelligence. I cringed so hard I'm going to need a chiropractor.

Of course, the ignorance inspired enthusiastic applause from tech titans like Elon Musk on X, while LinkedIn's startup crowd rolled their eyes so hard they were practically doing backflips.

Critics argue that Wang’s post misses the mark (no shit!) by ignoring systemic barriers and reducing complex social dynamics to a simplistic — and dangerously naive — ideal of meritocratic purity. Meanwhile, back at Scale AI's headquarters, annotators in economically depressed regions toil away for pay that wouldn’t cover a decent brunch in Silicon Valley. But sure, let’s talk about how "objective" hiring practices will save us all from the tyranny of fairness and inclusion.

Yours truly,


(@Haje on X. Feel free not to message me about your thoughts on the above. Also: The above thoughts are mine and don't reflect the stance of TechCrunch or any of the other writers, and all the usual blah-blah people say when they write an enraged op-ed.)

Most interesting startup stories from the week

Ever wonder what keeps a top-tier venture capitalist up at night? Spoiler alert: It’s not his hefty investment portfolio or his packed schedules. Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and the brains behind Khosla Ventures, recently revealed his biggest worry — and it's not what you’d expect from someone with a $50 million bet on OpenAI that paid off big-time. I loved Connie's candid chat with Khosla about AI's future, regulation woes, and why Europe's tech scene might be snoozing while the rest of the world races ahead. Buckle up; it's an enlightening (and surprisingly entertaining) ride!

Most interesting fundraises this week

Volkswagen is taking a leap of faith (and cash) into the electric future by investing up to $5 billion in Rivian's software development, starting with an initial billion-dollar infusion. This partnership seems like a win-win: Rivian gets the financial boost it needs to navigate its ambitious path forward, and VW finally has a shot at brushing up its somewhat rusty software skills. In their new bromance, these two auto giants will share tech secrets like school kids trading lunch snacks — VW even gets access to Rivian's sleek electrical architecture. The collaboration could infuse some much-needed pizzazz into Volkswagen’s lineup while giving Rivian a European flair — in a deal that kinda started from the two companies nerding out about building cars in Georgia (the state, not the country).

Imagine spending your summer break not behind the bike sheds smoking weed (or whatever the yout' are doing these days), but in a VC office negotiating half a million dollars. Sounds like the plot of a teen drama, right? Well, for Christopher Fitzgerald and Nicholas Van Landschoot, this is real life. Instead of perfecting their cannonballs or binge-watching Netflix, these two 18-year-olds have convinced seasoned investors to back their AI-powered API startup with $500,000.

  • Coming in hot: In a world where instant gratification apparently knows no bounds, Zepto just nabbed a whopping $665 million to ensure you never have to wait more than 10 minutes for your groceries — or your electronic gadgets. Investors are tripping over themselves as if they’ve never seen a grocery app before!

  • Much CRM. Such smart: Forget everything you know about CRMs being glorified, soul-sucking spreadsheets. Christopher O'Donnell, the former HubSpot exec who helped put that company on the map, is back with a vengeance — and this time he's armed with AI.

  • The $50 million buy-now button: Ever feel like online shopping is akin to searching for a needle in a digital haystack? Well, Daydream seems to think so, too, and has decided to tackle this conundrum head-on. Armed with a whopping $50 million seed funding and an arsenal of AI-powered tools, it's setting out to make e-commerce searches as effortless as finding cat videos online. Meow, indeed.

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories …

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that just don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya: