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As spend management space heats up, Brex and Rho turn to AI startups to help power new products on August 2, 2023 at 12:00 am

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The competition in the spend management space continues to intensify.

Brex and Rho today each announced AI-powered/enabled accounts payables offerings.

Their announcements coincidentally came out the same day competitor Ramp announced it had expanded into procurement — further evidence that the companies in the space are clamoring to not only meet customer demand but presumably attempt to outdo each other in terms of what they can offer their customers to help control spend.

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Specifically, Brex today revealed Payables, its AI-enabled Accounts Payable (AP) offering, while Rho announced new AI-powered Accounts Payable automation capabilities. Brex’s offering is live today while Rho said its new capabilities will be live later this month.

Via email, Brex co-CEO and co-founder Henrique Dubugras told TechCrunch that launching the new product had been “in the works” since the startup started building Empower, its spend management platform, over a year ago.

He noted that while Brex has used artificial intelligence for years in various capacities such as customer support and underwriting, what is new now is that it partnered with “multiple” machine learning companies such as Scale AI and Photon “to drive the highest accuracy of information extracted from invoices.”

Prior to this launch, Dubugras said that Brex offered a lighter version of bill pay that gave customers the ability to send scheduled and recurring payments. Now, he said they will “have even more advanced spend controls with multi-level approvals.” 

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For its part, Rho said it is offering AI-powered invoice and bill processing to its clients. Specifically, invoices sent to a designated AP inbox will “undergo automatic digitization” powered by generative AI technology.

In a statement, the company said the process “transforms the invoice into a bill and creates a corresponding liability in the client’s integrated ERP system. Clients can then authorize bill payments through Rho one by one or in bulk, with liabilities automatically marked as paid in the ERP.”

Rho CEO Everett Cook told TechCrunch via email that the new capabilities had been in the works for nearly a year, building on the company’s initial accounts payable release in 2021. Rho has partnered with OpenAI — a portfolio company of Rho investor DFJ Growth.

With the new product, he claims, customers will be able to “configure one-click workflows that help finance teams process thousands of payables in seconds.”

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“Our position on generative AI is that it is only useful if it is grounded in tangible business value,” said Rishav Chopra, SVP of product & design at Rho. 

Large opportunity

Besides wanting to better compete, both Brex and Rho expect their new offerings to increase revenue for their respective companies. 

Dubugras said the new payables product should increase the percentage of customers’ spend processed via Brex.

As a result, some of that spend will be on their Brex card, one way in which Brex earns revenue,” he told TechCrunch. “Plus, using a Brex business account for bill pay, another way in which Brex earns revenue, allows customers to send payments faster, eliminating ACH delays while also earning passive yield.”

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Brex claims that it is unique relative to other companies in the market in that it is “the only player” with its own business account that can earn revenue in this way, allowing the company to offer payables for free. (TechCrunch has not independently verified this claim.)

Meanwhile, Rho’s Cook believes that while the “timing is pretty coincidental” with Brex’s announcement, he supposes each of their customers were telling them “the same things” — that “they’re fed up with their legacy AP providers and want a modern solution that’s directly integrated with the rest of their finance stack.”

Legacy providers include the likes of Bill.com and Concur.

Dubugras believes there is a lot of competition in the space for a very good reason, telling TechCrunch: “The spend management space is very dynamic and that is because the opportunity is so large across SaaS and payments. Beyond the noise there is still a lot of differentiation between the players.”

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Rho’s Chopra also believes that the current macro environment has led to increased pressures on the part of CFOs and finance teams “to move faster than ever and operate leaner.” This in turn has — for obvious reasons — created more demand for spend management products.

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​ The competition in the spend management space continues to intensify. Brex and Rho today each announced AI-powered/enabled accounts payables offerings. Their announcements coincidentally came out the same day competitor Ramp announced it had expanded into procurement — further evidence that the companies in the space are clamoring to not only meet customer demand but presumably 

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Business

X Opens the Door to Adult Content With New Policy

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X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has made a significant policy shift by officially permitting adult content on its platform with some restrictions and guidelines.

In an update to its rules, X stated that users can now share “consensually produced and distributed adult nudity or sexual behavior” as long as it is properly labeled and not prominently displayed in areas like profile pictures or header images.

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“We recognize that many of our users are adults who want to freely express themselves by sharing legal adult content,” said an X spokesperson. “At the same time, we have a responsibility to protect minors and prevent exposure to explicit material without proper labeling.”

Under the new guidelines, users who “regularly post” adult content must adjust their settings to automatically mark images and videos as sensitive content, which blurs or hides the media by default. By default, users under 18 or who haven’t entered their birth date cannot view this sensitive adult content.

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The policy prohibits content “promoting exploitation, nonconsent, objectification, sexualization or harm to minors, and obscene behaviors.” It applies to all adult content, whether photographic, animated, or AI-generated.

X has stated that it will monitor user-generated content and adjust account settings for those who fail to properly mark pornographic posts. Similar rules and enforcement will apply to violent content as well.

The move aligns X with Apple’s app store guidelines, which allow apps with adult content as long as it is hidden by default and behind proper age gates and content warnings.

While adult content was already present on X, this policy update officially permits and regulates it, aiming to balance freedom of expression for consenting adults with protecting minors from exposure to explicit material.

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However, enforcing these rules consistently may prove challenging for X’s reduced content moderation teams following recent layoffs and cost-cutting measures.

The policy shift has drawn mixed reactions, with some praising X for embracing adult expression while others raise concerns about the potential for the platform to become inundated with pornographic content despite the restrictions.

As X navigates this new territory, the effectiveness of its labeling requirements, age verification measures, and content moderation efforts will be closely watched by users, regulators, and advocacy groups alike.

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Trump’s Conviction Raises Stakes for 2024 Election

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In a stunning fall from grace, Donald Trump has been convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment made to conceal an alleged affair during the 2016 campaign. While Trump has vowed to appeal, the guilty verdict represents an unprecedented legal rebuke of the former president and frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The question now is whether this first-ever criminal conviction of a former U.S. president will derail Trump’s increasingly plausible path back to the White House. The answer likely hinges on a narrow but potentially decisive sliver of persuadable voters in battleground states.

For Trump’s ardent base of supporters, the conviction seems to matter little. They have remained stubbornly loyal through past scandals, impeachments, and investigations. Many have already shrugged off the guilty verdict as an expected outcome from a “witch hunt” prosecution. In their eyes, Trump is the victim of a politicized injustice system rigged against him.

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But for the moderate Republicans, independents, and suburban swing voters who abandoned Trump in 2020, this criminal conviction could prove a bridge too far. The idea of reinstalling a convicted felon in the Oval Office may be unpalatable, even for those underwhelmed by President Biden’s leadership.

Trump’s ability to win back these key voting blocs in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin will likely decide if the conviction is a fatal blow or a mere speed bump on his return to power. A small but decisive number of alienated moderates could make the difference in another nail-bitingly close Electoral College finish.

Of course, Trump has repeatedly defied conventional wisdom and political norms throughout his improbable rise. His supporters point to examples like Eugene Debs garnering over 900,000 votes while campaigning from prison in 1920 as proof a conviction does not disqualify a candidate.

And Trump will surely leverage the conviction to his advantage, stoking grievances and portraying himself as a martyr persecuted by the “deep state.” His rallying cry will be that the American people, not corrupt prosecutors, should decide his political fate.

Ultimately, the impact of Trump’s conviction may come down to the sentencing and outcome of appeals. A lengthy prison term would be a near-impossible hurdle. But if he avoids incarceration, the stain of being a convicted felon on the campaign trail is a heavy burden.

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In a nation deeply divided over Trump’s legacy, voters in 2024 will judge whether his norm-shattering presidency warrants a norm-shattering return to power as a convicted criminal defendant. The stakes for American democracy have never been higher.

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Trump is Found Guilty by Jury

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The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has reached a verdict after deliberating for less than two days. The 12 jurors will return to the courtroom shortly to announce their decision on the 34 counts of falsifying business records that Trump faced related to the $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Trump has been present in the courtroom awaiting the verdict.  The jury had requested to rehear portions of testimony from key witnesses David Pecker and Michael Cohen during their deliberations, suggesting they closely scrutinized the evidence around the alleged hush money scheme.

A guilty verdict would represent a significant legal setback for Trump as he campaigns for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. An acquittal would be a boost for his campaign efforts. The high-profile trial has garnered immense attention, with the testimony providing insight into the alleged cover-up of the payment to Daniels.

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