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LinkedIn goes big on new AI tools for learning, recruitment, marketing and sales, powered by OpenAI

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LinkedIn — the Microsoft-owned social platform for those networking for work or recruitment — is now 21 years old, an aeon in the world of technology. To stay current with what the working world is thinking about most these days, and to keep its nearly 1 billion users engaging on its platform, today the company is unveiling a string of new AI features spanning its job hunting, marketing and sales products. They include a big update to its Recruiter talent sourcing platform, with AI assistance built into it throughout; an AI-powered LinkedIn Learning coach; and a new AI-powered tool for marketing campaigns.

The social platform — which pulled in $15 billion in revenues last year, it tells me — has been slowly putting in a number of AI-based features across its product portfolio. Among them, back in March it debuted AI-powered writing suggestions for those penning messages to other users on the platform. And recruiters have also been seeing a series of tests around AI-created job descriptions and other features this year. This latest raft of announcements is building on that.

For some context, LinkedIn is not entirely new to the AI rodeo. It has, in fact, been a heavy user of artificial intelligence over the years. But until recently most of that has been out of sight. Ever been surprised (or unnerved) at how the platform suggests connections to you that are strangely right up your street? That’s AI. All those insights that LinkedIn produces about what its user base is doing and how it’s evolving? That’s AI, too.

“In one way or another, AI powers everything at LinkedIn,” senior engineer Deepak Agarwal wrote back in 2018. (He’s still at the company.)

What’s changed now is the world: AI has become a mainstream preoccupation, led in no small part by the advances of OpenAI and the evolution of services like ChatGPT, which let everyday people have a direct experience of how to use a computer brain to do work faster that they might have tried previously to do themselves.

And what’s also changed is that LinkedIn — which has in the past built a lot of its own AI tooling for all those back-end operations — is now leaning out. The company, which was acquired by Microsoft some years ago, is tapping tech from OpenAI and Microsoft to power a number of its new features, it confirmed to me.

OpenAI, as you know, is 49% owned now by Microsoft, which made a big investment of $13 billion in the company earlier this year. That’s been a very strategic stake, which has seen Microsoft infuse a number of its own products with OpenAI tech. While VP of engineering Erran Berger tells me that the company will continue to evaluate what tech it uses, and whether it will build its own Large Language Models and other AI products, for now LinkedIn is going to tap its parent company and its parent’s prime investment.

Here is a quick rundown of all that is new:

Recruiter 2024 is a new AI-assisted recruiting experience, LinkedIn says. It will use generative AI to help recruitment professionals come up with better search strings to surface stronger candidate lists. Specifically, as you have seen in searches like ChatGPT, recruiters will now be able to use more conversational language to hone in on who they hope to find. It will also mean that search results will also have more suggestions outside of what recruiters might think they are looking for.

LinkedIn Learning will be incorporating AI in the form of a “learning coach” that is essentially built as a chatbot. Initially the advice that it will give will be trained on suggestions and tips, and it will be firmly in the camp of soft skills. One example: “How can I delegate tasks and responsibility effectively?” The coach might suggest actual courses, but more importantly, it will actually also provide information, and advice, to users. LinkedIn itself has a giant catalogue of learning videos, covering both those soft skills but also actual technical skills and other knowledge needed for specific jobs. It will be interesting to see if LinkedIn extends the coach to covering that material, too.

Marketing will also be getting an AI boost, specifically with a new product called Accelerate. While marketing and marketers have increasingly taken on technical expertise, this is an interesting shift. The idea, again, will be to let people run campaigns on LinkedIn more easily bypassing that heavy lift. One drawback is that Accelerate is limited to campaigns and data from within the LinkedIn walled garden. Given that marketing campaigns typically extend across multiple platforms and audiences, users might find the impact of the new tool limited.

Lastly, Inside Sales and selling to B2B audiences is also getting the AI treatment. This is a somewhat emerging area on LinkedIn, where sales people who are focused on B2B selling leverage LinkedIn to find new customers or to connect more tightly with those that are already in their networks. The new AI feature will be a search function to help find those potential connections then more easily and enter conversations with those leads. Given that AI sales of this kind are well established in the world at large — I’ve even heard VCs complain that they can’t consider “yet another AI sales startup” — this seems somewhat overdue for LinkedIn to add.



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Grifin’s new model can automatically invest your money as you shop

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Investing app Grifin today officially launched its anticipated investing model called “Adaptive Investing,” which enables you to automatically invest in your favorite brands that you frequently shop from.

Grifin was founded in 2017 with the hope of making investing less intimidating and normalizing it for people who aren’t that financially savvy. To date, Grifin has raised more than $11 million from a notable list of investors, including TTV Capital, Rise of the Rest, Gaingels, NevCaut Ventures, Mana Ventures, Sidecut Ventures, Miami Angels and Playtap Media Ventures, along with Witz Ventures co-founder Austin Hankwitz and GGV Capital managing partner Hans Tung. The company says it sees about 20,000 unique new app installs per month.

Grifin’s new patent-pending technology is an evolution of its original model, which follows the premise of “Stock Where You Shop,” giving you a chance to explore the intimidating world of investing by aligning your shopping habits with stock choices.

“Investing, and even having a healthy positive relationship with money, is an incredibly difficult thing to do and achieve,” co-founder Aaron Froug tells TechCrunch. “The current system simply isn’t geared towards the individual, even with mobile access and 0% commission apps claiming to ‘open up’ investing to all. It still requires a lot of emotional energy, confidence and an understanding of how investing works. Most people still don’t feel like they have enough money to get started and even the most financially adept people I know don’t know what is inside most ETFs [exchange traded funds]. All of it is cloudy and complicated. None of it is centered around the individual.”

Image Credits: Grifin

The Adaptive Investing model aims to give users more flexibility by integrating new functionality into the app, including the ability to pause automatic payments, increase/decrease how much you want to spend and manually invest more money in a company. It also introduces a “Secret Cash” function, allowing for non-public purchases and putting more money away as cash for their future.

“This patent-pending technology builds on the original premise by integrating new functionality to allow for a more intuitive and adaptive approach to investing, centered not just around people’s daily spending habits, but how much they want to invest,” Froug adds.

By default, Grifin automatically invests $1 per transaction. For instance, when you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, the app withdraws $1 from your bank account, and you get $1 of SBUX stock. You can also manually increase the investment amount to a maximum of $99.

Image Credits: Grifin

However, just because you enjoy a certain brand, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a smart investment. Grifin now added a new “Disable Company” feature, allowing you to stop or avoid investing in certain companies. There’s also an option to pause your investments for a week.

“We are also keenly aware that just because a person spends at a specific place, they might not want to invest there… By investing in small amounts, as low as $1 at a time, the aim is to help people to learn to navigate the world of investing without incurring too many negative consequences if they don’t get it right,” Froug says.

Plus, Froug argues that Adaptive Investing reduces the impact of single-stock exposure since it encourages a diverse profile as consumers usually spend money across a wide range of companies — phone/internet bills, gas, monthly subscription services and so forth.

“I’ve been personally using our app for a little over two years and I’ve invested in 115 unique companies,” he notes.

Additionally, Grifin is planning a redesign of its app, which will include a premium version as well as an AI chatbot to help people learn how to invest.



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Google Pay takes its QR soundbox to small merchants in India after trial run

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Google said Thursday it plans to roll out the SoundPod, its portable speaker designed to instantly validate and announce successful payments, to small merchants across India over the coming months. The Google Pay expansion in India, where the company is among the mobile payment market leaders, comes even as the firm winds down some of its payments apps in the U.S.

The company, which began a limited trial of SoundPod last year, received positive feedback during the testing and helped merchants reduce the checkout time, Ambarish Kenghe, VP of Products for Google Pay, wrote in a blog post.

The miniature jukeboxes, colloquially dubbed “soundboxes” domestically, have witnessed wide adoption in India, enabling merchants to find respite upon receipt of remuneration and contest any illegitimate claims.

Financial services firm Paytm currently leads the soundbox market and PhonePe is also increasingly expanding its device. More than 20 million merchants in the country already use one of these boxes, which industry insiders estimate costs about $18 to $20 to make. (Incidentally, Paytm is currently “fighting for its survival” as it navigates regulatory clampdown.)

The soundbox was invented to serve small Indian merchants unable to afford regular point-of-sale devices but accepting of UPI payments. (UPI, a payments network built by a coalition of retail banks in India, has become the most popular way for Indians to transact.) Now more popular than Visa, Mastercard and Amex combined, the devices last year prompted the payment giants to look at ways to take advantage of their reach.

It has also evolved into a lucrative subscription model over time as various players impose subscription charges on merchants. The real allure of the soundbox, according to one industry insider, extends beyond its auditory alerts — it provides invaluable insights into merchant behaviors, facilitating the offering of loans based on this data.

Google Pay is offering the SoundPod at a minimal cost — levying a one-time fee of $18 for one year, or a one-time fee of $6.06 per day for 25 days in a month. The company said merchants who use SoundPod to process 400 payments in a month will get $1.5 in cash back.

“To be able to play a role in India’s digital payments story is a matter of deep pride for us, providing invaluable lessons on how digital transformation happens in tech-forward societies, and we continue to stay deeply invested in this journey for the long term,” added Google’s Kenghe.

Reliance, India’s largest firm by market cap, also began testing a similar device at its campus last year, TechCrunch earlier reported. The company confirmed the device in a subsequent earnings call and said it plans to soon launch it to the market.



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NASA Opens Applications For Yearlong Simulated Mars Mission; Here’s How You Can Apply

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NASA has announced an extraordinary opportunity for those seeking extreme challenges: the chance to participate in its second yearlong simulated Mars mission, the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA 2). Scheduled to commence in spring 2025, the mission will immerse four selected crew members in a 1,700-square-foot 3D-printed habitat located in Houston. Interested individuals can apply on the CHAPEA website until April 2.

Although it’s a paid position, NASA has not disclosed the compensation details.

The Mars Dune Alpha habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center mirrors the harsh conditions and limited resources future explorers may encounter on the red planet. Volunteers for CHAPEA 2 will engage in habitat maintenance, crop cultivation, and various other tasks during their tenure.

Additionally, the habitat includes a 1,200-square-foot sandbox for simulated spacewalks.

Applicants must meet specific criteria, including being US citizens aged 30-55, proficient in English, holding a master’s degree in a STEM field, possessing at least two years of professional experience, and having either a thousand hours of piloting an aircraft or two years of work toward a STEM doctoral program.

Certain types of professional experience may also qualify applicants without a master’s degree. CHAPEA 2 marks the second of three planned missions in the program, with the first launched on June 25, 2023.

SEE ALSO: Early Look At iOS 17.4: Easier Battery Monitoring, CarPlay Gets An Upgrade And More



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