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Daily Crunch: Trump pardons Anthony Levandowski

On his way out the door, President Donald Trump pardons a former Googler, Jack Ma reappears and Wattpad gets acquired. This is your Daily Crunch for January 20, 2021.

The big story: Trump pardons Anthony Levandowski

Although Donald Trump is no longer president of the United States as I write this, he still held the role on Tuesday evening, when he included former Googler Anthony Levandowski (who had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets) in his final set of 73 pardons. The pardon had been supported by Founders Fund’s Peter Thiel and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, among others.

Today, of course, Joe Biden was inaugurated, prompting immediate changes to the White House website. And Amazon wasted no time offering the new president help with rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines.

Also, we have a piece from former White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina about the relationship between the Biden administration and Silicon Valley.

The tech giants

Alibaba shares jump on Jack Ma’s first appearance in 3 months — Alibaba’s billionaire founder resurfaced as he spoke to 100 rural teachers through a video call.

Valve and five PC games publishers fined $9.4M for illegal geo-blocking — In addition to Valve, the five sanctioned games publishers are: Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax.

TikTok’s new Q&A feature lets creators respond to fan questions using text or video — The feature is currently only available to select creators who have opted into the test.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Wattpad, the storytelling platform, is selling to South Korea’s Naver for $600M — Naver plans to incorporate at least part of the business into another of its holdings, the publishing platform Webtoon.

SpaceX delivers 60 more Starlink satellites in first launch of 2021, and sets new Falcon 9 rocket reusability record — This puts the total Starlink constellation size at almost 1,000.

Landbot closes $8M Series A for its ‘no code’ chatbot builder — The startup has grown to around 2,200 paying customers.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Fintech startups and unicorns had a stellar Q4 2020 — The fourth quarter of 2020 was as busy as you imagined.

Dear Sophie: What are Biden’s immigration changes? — The latest edition of Dear Sophie, the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

Hello, Extra Crunch community! — Tell us what else you want from Extra Crunch.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

MIT develops method for lab-grown plants that eventually lead to alternatives to forestry and farming — The process would be able to produce wood and fibre in a lab environment.

Reflections on the first all-virtual CES — We’ve long questioned whether in-person trade shows are a thing of the past. This year, we put it to the test.

Remote workers are greener, but their tech still has a real carbon cost — A new study examines tentative carbon costs on the connectivity and data infrastructure that make working from home possible.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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