Updated: Sept. 23, 2022 at 12:09 p.m. EDT.
What goes up must come down.
High-flying startups with record valuations, huge hiring goals, and ambitious expansion plans are now announcing hiring slowdowns, freezes, and in some cases widespread layoffs. It’s the dot-com bust all over again — this time, without the cute sock puppet and in the midst of a global pandemic we just can’t seem to shake.
Founders and investors are preparing for what looks like an economic downturn — and perhaps even a recession. In May, Y Combinator sent an email to its portfolio founders warning them to “plan for the worst.” The startup accelerator cautioned that the downturn would likely most affect “international companies, asset heavy companies, low margin companies, hardtech, and other companies with high burn and long time to revenue."
It’s not just early-stage startups that are feeling the burn. Big tech companies including Meta, Salesforce, and Netflix have also recently announced hiring freezes or layoffs in the midst of cost-cutting pressure and rising inflation, coupled with a looming bear market and rising interest rates. Industry stalwarts (Microsoft), upstart social media companies (Snap), and crypto newbies (Coinbase) haven’t announced layoffs, but they’ve all slowed hiring after poor quarterly results. By late May, the S&P 500, dominated by tech stocks, had lost over 20% of its value since the beginning of the year.
On Blind, speculative posts about layoffs like one called “Layoff safe companies that are still hiring?” have drawn hundreds of comments. One user wrote, “No company is lay-off safe. You need to make yourself lay-off safe. Get some seniority and work hard to make yourself irreplaceable. Or at least a strong contributor.”
The bright spot? The tech industry may be under siege, but American job seekers overall still have substantial bargaining power. What we’re seeing in one sector — though a substantial one — stands in stark contrast to the rest of the economy, with U.S. employers adding 428,000 jobs in April, more than expected, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Average hourly wages are also continuing to grow (but still below the pace of inflation).
Tech companies that have laid off employees in 2022
Layoffs range from the small-scale to, in the worst cases, mass layoffs conducted via impersonal video messages that have left employees gutted and the industry asking, “Are Zoom layoffs ever OK?” In mid-May, former Employment Development Department director Michael Bernick told KTVU that tech layoffs were at their highest point since January 2021, and they’ve come for both the giants and startups. A crowdsourced tech startup layoffs tracker, Layoffs.fyi, has recorded layoffs of tens of thousands of employees at hundreds of startups in recent months. And layoffs keep coming as macroeconomic conditions continue to get rocky.
Cybersecurity firm Lacework laid off 20% of its workforce on May 25. Though it didn’t disclose the number of people this would affect, the company had previously reported having more than 1,000 employees as of March 2022. Lacework said in a blog post that the decision was part of “restructuring and modification to the company plan." Cybersecurity professionals have been in high demand, with companies like Microsoft announcing plans to help with reskilling efforts to account for the widening gap in jobs and those with the knowledge to fill them.
On-demand grocery app Gorillas cut half its corporate staff, or about 300 employees around the world, on May 24. In a message to staff, Gorillas co-founder and CEO Kagan Sumer said, "Two months ago in March, the markets turned upside down, and since then the situation has continued to worsen.”
Just weeks after laying off more than 80 employees at its San Jose headquarters, PayPal let go of additional employees in risk management and operations in Chicago, Nebraska and Arizona on May 26.
Maju Kuruvilla, the CEO of payments company Bolt, told employees that the company is undergoing “several structural changes,” and cut more than 100 staff members in order to “secure [Bolt’s] financial position” amid shaky market conditions on May 25.
Online used car dealer Carvana laid off 2,500 employees, many of them over Zoom, on May 10. The laid-off employees mostly served in operational roles and made up about 12% of the company’s workforce. Carvana said the decision was due to “macroeconomic factors” that “have pushed automotive retail into recession.”
Several employees at collaboration tool startup Mural were let go, according to LinkedIn posts from affected employees, on May 6. The exact number of employees laid off was not reported. Leah Taylor, a spokesperson for Mural, told Protocol that staffing reductions were “focused on redundancies.” On June 21, Taylor confirmed that Mural implemented a second round of layoffs.
Productivity app ClickUp laid off 7% of its staff in an unexpected move on May 24. CEO Zeb Evans told Protocol the goal was to ensure ClickUp’s profitability and efficiency in the future, saying it puts the company “in a position to accelerate our timeline to profitability and ultimately achieve our goal of going public.”
"Buy now, pay later" company Klarna laid off 10% of its workforce on May 23 as it has reportedly been looking for more funding, potentially at a lower valuation. Klarna has about 5,000 employees, according to its website. In a prerecorded message to the entire staff, Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the company set its business plans last year in “a very different world than the one we are in today.” On Sept. 23, Klarna cut an undisclosed number of additional staff as its losses continued to widen.
Celebrity video greetings startup Cameo laid off 87 staff members on May 4, affecting some of Cameo’s most senior executives, including CTO Rob Post, top marketing executive Emily Boschwitz, CPO Nundu Janakiram, and chief people officer Melanie Steinbach. CEO Steven Galanis pointed to pandemic-fueled hiring as a reason for the cuts, as “market conditions have rapidly changed.”
Trading app Robinhood laid off roughly 9% of its full-time workforce on April 26. Following a period of "hypergrowth," the company cut down on duplicate roles and job functions as a way to mitigate "more layers and complexity than are optimal," CEO Vlad Tenev said in a blog post. And on Aug. 2, the company cut an even larger amount of staff, laying off 23% of its workforce. Together, both layoffs affected more than 1,000 employees.
Netflix first laid off a number of journalists working for the company’s entertainment site Tudum in late April. The company laid off an additional 150 employees in mid-May, then cut an additional 300 in late June. Following the company’s less-than-stellar Q1 earnings report, Netflix CFO Spencer Neumann said that the company would be pulling back on some of its spending to get costs under control.
Enterprise video messaging company Loom laid off 34 employees across product and operations teams on June 1, representing 14% of its staff, according to TechCrunch. In a statement, CEO Joe Thomas said that the decision was made in order to ensure that the company is able to "move forward sustainably."
Gemini, the crypto exchange run by brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, announced its
cutting 10% of its staff on June 2. Gemini did not disclose how many total jobs were cut, but the company employs just over 1,000 people. The Winklevoss brothers said in a memo to staff that the crypto industry is "in the contraction phase that is settling into a period of stasis."
Seven weeks later on July 18, news leaked that Gemini laid off more staff. The company did not communicate the layoffs publicly, though a source close to the company told TechCrunch that 68 members, or 7% of staff, were removed from the company's Slack channels that morning.
Cybersecurity firm Cybereason disclosed layoffs affecting 100 employees, or about 10% of its staff, the company told Protocol in early June. Venture-backed Cybereason cited its inability to go public in the near term as the driver for the cutbacks. With the tech IPO market now “essentially closed, companies like us must now exercise more strict financial discipline,” the company said in a statement.
Social media startup IRL laid off around 20 employees, The Information reported in early June. The company is backed by SoftBank, and had around 100 employees prior to layoffs.
Insurtech company Policygenius laid off 25% of its staff, Axios reported June 6. Though the number of affected employees was not confirmed, reportedly 170 were laid off. The company had raised $125 million in Series E funding in March. CEO Jennifer Fitzgerald said in a statement that the "sudden and dramatic shift in the economy has forced us to adapt our strategy."
Tesla announced it was cutting about 10% of
salaried workers on June 3, or an overall 3.5% reduction of its head count. Musk told fellow executives he had a "super bad feeling" about the economy, and told CNBC that the company has "become overstaffed in many areas." The layoffs don't apply to anyone "actually building cars," said Musk, and follows the CEO calling both Tesla and SpaceX employees back to the office for 40 hours a week. The company then reportedly laid off around 200 employees on its Autopilot team on June 28.
British online used car dealer Cazoo announced June 7 that it is cutting 15% of its staff amid the rising risk of a recession in the U.K., the company said. Cazoo employs around 3,500 people.
Scooter startup Bird slashed 23% of its staff, affecting a range of positions from new hires to senior staff. Bird told TechCrunch on June 7 that "macro economic trends impacting everyone have resulted in an acceleration of our path to profitability." Bird has around 600 employees.
Security software company OneTrust laid off 25% of its staff on June 9, affecting around 950 employees. CEO Kabir Barday said in a blog post the move was a response to the shift in sentiment in the capital markets.
BlockFi cut 20% of its staff on June 13. The crypto lender said it must respond to a "dramatic shift in macroeconomic conditions worldwide." The company has a head count of around 850, meaning the layoffs will affect roughly 170 staff members.
Coinbase laid off 18% of its staff "to ensure we stay healthy during this economic downturn," CEO Brian Armstrong said June 14. The company first slowed, then froze, hiring and rescinded offers on June 2 as it looked to "reprioritize our hiring needs against our highest-priority business goals," COO Emilie Choi said. The company later created a database of laid-off employees to help them find new work.
Real estate tech company Redfin laid off about 470 employees, TechCrunch reported June 14. The company cited low demand for home buying as mortgage interest rates surge.
Real estate company Compass laid off 10% of its staff, or about 450 people. A company spokesperson told TechCrunch on June 14 that the staffing cuts were due to "clear signals of slowing economic growth."
Online notarization company Notarize laid off 110 employees, or 25% of staff, the Boston Business Journal reported June 15. The cuts trimmed its workforce down to 325 employees.
Celebrity education tech company MasterClass cut 20% of its staff on June 22, or around 120 employees. The company said the move would "strengthen our position both financially and strategically."
Investment firm Backstage Capital, which funds startups led by underrepresented founders, cut all of its operation staff on June 27 due to fundraising challenges, according to its founder Arlan Hamilton. The firm cut 75% of its staff, going from a dozen employees to three. It is still seeking to raise a $30 million opportunity fund.
Fintech company Amount, which reached a valuation of more than $1 billion last year, laid off 18% of its workforce on June 27. CEO Adam Hughes blamed "the current macro-economic environment." The company did not say the number of employees affected.
Gaming company Niantic cut around 8% of its staff on June 29, affecting around 85 to 90 employees. The company also canceled four projects as it is “facing a time of economic turmoil” CEO John Hanke said in an email viewed by Bloomberg.
Newsletter company Substack laid off 13 employees, or roughly 14% of its workforce, on June 29. CEO Chris Best said in a letter reported by Axios that the company's goal is to survive tough market conditions without "relying on raising money." The cuts were made across HR, support, and operations departments.
Game development tools provider Unity laid off more than 200 employees, approximately 4% of its staff, on June 29. The company said in a statement to Protocol that it "decided to realign some of our resources to better drive focus and support our long-term growth."
Crypto lender Celsius cut around 150 employees, or a quarter of its staff, on July 3. The company blamed "extreme market conditions" after pausing withdrawals three weeks prior.
Online brokerage eToro laid off 100 employees, or 6% of its total workforce, on July 5. The company also canceled its SPAC merger with blank-check company FinTech Acquisition Corp.
Twitter reportedly laid off 30% of its talent acquisition team on July 7. Prior to this, then-CEO Parag Agrawal announced in a memo that it would freeze hiring and pull back spending. Two key leaders, Kayvon Beykpour and Bruce Falck, left the company. Agrawal said the company made these decisions after struggling to meet audience and revenue growth goals, though the company has faced some internal turmoil amid Elon Musk’s takeover deal. It’s also been reported that Twitter started rescinding job offers.
Ford-backed driverless car startup Argo AI cut 150 employees, or around 6% of its staff, on July 8. A spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the company needed to correct an aggressive period of hiring and make "prudent adjustments" to its business plan.
Grocery delivery company GoPuff told investors July 12 that its cutting 10% of its workforce, affecting 1,500 employees. It will also close 76 of warehouses. The company had cut 3% of staff in March and put its plans to go public on hold. GoPuff co-CEOs Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev said in a memo that the cuts are "not only accelerating our timeline to profitability, they are taking us back to our roots of keeping profitability at the core of every decision."
NFT marketplace OpenSea cut 20% of its staff, CEO and co-founder Devin Finzer said in a tweet on July 14. In a memo to staff, Finzer said the company has entered "an unprecedented combination of crypto winter and broad macroeconomic instability, and we need to prepare the company for the possibility of a prolonged downturn."
TikTok reportedly started laying employees off on July 18 as part of a global restructuring plan. It's unconfirmed how many people were affected, but a TikTok staffer told Wired that fewer than 100 people would be cut.
Lyft cut around 60 employees, or about 2% of total staff, on July 20 as it consolidates global operations. The company also cut its in-house car rental service, which was running in five locations. Lyft’s layoffs reportedly mainly affected its operations teams.
Neobank Varo cut 75 staff members, or 10% of its workforce, it said July 20. CEO Colin Walsh wrote in a blog post that the company "must make some difficult decisions to ensure that Varo has sufficient capital to execute on our strategy and path to profitability."
Crypto exchange Blockchain.com cut 25% of its staff, affecting around 150 people, citing harsh financial conditions. The company is dealing with a $270 million loss from lending to Three Arrows Capital.
Shopify is cutting 10% of its staff, or around 1,000 employees, CEO Tobias Lütke said in a memo on July 26. Then company mostly laid off recruiting, support, and sales roles. Lütke said the company needed to correct overhiring done to meet the rapid growth of ecommerce demand in the early pandemic. In August, it cut an additional 70 employees to further reduce costs.
Rivian laid off 840 employees, or 6% of its workforce, on July 27. CEO RJ Scaringe said in an email to staff the company needed to adjust to a world that’s “dramatically changed."
Online petition service Change.org laid off 19% of its team on July 28. Nick Allardice, CEO, said the move was a part of the company’s goal to “sharpen our focus.”
Ed tech company Career Karma conducted layoffs. Though the company did not confirm the number involved, TechCrunch reported on July 28 that a third of the staff was cut, and top executives weren't affected.
Crypto exchange CoinFlex cut a “significant number” of staff across all departments and geographies, the company announced July 29. The company said the cuts would reduce its cost base by 50% to 60%.
Indian transportation company Ola laid off 1,000 employees, according to The Economic Times, with the goal of focusing efforts on its electric mobility business. The company is also reportedly eyeing a merger with Uber. On Sept. 19, it cut an additional 200 software engineers as part of a major restructuring plan.
Delivery startup Imperfect Foods cut 50 jobs and shut down its 38,000-square-foot San Francisco warehouse in late July. The company cited “shifting market dynamics" in a memo to employees.
Music streaming app SoundCloud slashed 20% of its workforce. In an email to employees in early August, the company reportedly said the cuts were “necessary given the challenging economic climate and financial market headwinds.”
iRobot announced plans to cut 10% of its staff, or 140 people, in a filing on Aug. 5. The layoffs were announced the same day Amazon announced its plans to acquire the Roomba maker.
Digital coupon company Groupon laid off more than 500 employees, or 15% of its head count, the week of Aug. 8, according to TechCrunch. Affected departments include merchant development, sales, recruiting, engineering, product, and marketing.
LinkTree cut 17% of its staff, or roughly 50 employees, on Aug. 9, CEO Alex Zaccaria announced in a LinkedIn post. Zaccaria said the company made the decision "in order to emerge stronger from the economic downturn."
Social media marketing platform Hootsuite laid off 30% of its workforce, or roughly 400 employees, on Aug. 9. CEO Tom Keiser said the company needed to “refocus” on financial sustainability.
Fitness tech company Peloton is cutting nearly 800 jobs and closing a number of its retail locations. The company also said it is exiting logistics by closing its warehouses and using third-party providers for delivery.
E-commerce company Wayfair cut 17% of jobs, or 870 employees, on Aug. 19, with the goal of cutting back operating expenses. The cuts would cost Wayfair $30 to $40 million in severance and benefits, Reuters reported.
After struggling to meet earnings estimates, Snap announced that it would hit the brakes on hiring through the end of the year. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel denied both layoffs and a hiring freeze. The company pointed to a few reasons for the slowdown: rising inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain problems, the war in Ukraine and Apple’s new ad-tracking policies. On Aug. 30, the company began cuts affecting 20% of its 6,400 employees, or nearly 1,300 people, The Verge reported.
Medium cut around 25% of its staff on Sept. 6, including those in creator relations, design, legal IT, and marketing departments, Lauren Newton, Medium's head of people, said in a LinkedIn post.
Twilio cut 11% of its staff, or at least 800 employees, on Sept. 14. The company made the layoffs as it aims to become profitable in 2023. "We ultimately found that some investments no longer make sense and identified areas where we can be more efficient," CEO Jeff Lawson said in an internal letter to employees.
Patreon cut 17% of its staff on Sept. 13, or roughly 80 employees. The cuts include staffers from operations, finance, go-to-market, and HR teams. CEO Jack Conte said the pandemic caused "volatility" in the market.
Tech companies that have slowed or frozen hiring
Though major companies haven’t had to make drastic cuts, several are slowing down or freezing hiring, citing disappointing earnings and a battered tech sector, but continue to reassure staff that job cuts aren’t imminent. A lot of these hiring slowdowns, like at Microsoft, are contained to specific departments rather than companywide.
Microsoft slowed hiring for its Windows, Office, and Teams software groups in late May. The slowdown is specific to those teams, as they've expanded recently. A spokesperson for the company told Bloomberg that Microsoft is “making sure the right resources are aligned to the right opportunity” as the new fiscal year approaches. On July 20, the company cut a slew of job listings, including in its cloud and security business units.
Nvidia will slow hiring later this year, the company said in its earnings call in May. Nvidia told Protocol that the move is "to focus our budget on taking care of existing employees as inflation persists.”
Lyft announced in May it was slowing hiring to focus on critical open roles. President John Zimmer told staff in a memo that the company would be cutting costs in response to "an economic slowdown and the dramatic change in investor sentiment."
Uber is cutting back on hiring and other costs to address a "seismic shift" in the market, according to an email that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent to staff. Khosrowshahi said hiring should be treated as a "privilege,” and that the company would scale back on the "least efficient" marketing and incentive costs. It closed its office in Vilnius, Lithuania, in mid-September.
Per an internal memo, Salesforce slowed hiring and cut back on other expenses in May, including corporate travel and some upcoming off-sites. The company didn’t provide a reason for the cutbacks. Salesforce’s stock price had plunged almost 50% in the previous six months.
Meta is perhaps the biggest company to have announced a hiring freeze for certain roles as it works to control its spending amid an “industry-wide downturn.” Mark Zuckerberg assured employees at an internal all-hands that job cuts aren’t planned. The hiring cutbacks will hit “almost every team across the company" and will last for the rest of the year. On June 30, Zuckerberg reportedly told employees that the company is slashing its hiring goals for engineers by at least 30% this year, and told them to brace for "one of the worst downturns that we’ve seen in recent history.”
Intel is freezing hiring for at least two weeks in its division responsible for desktop and laptop chips, according to Reuters. The company is "pausing all hiring and placing all job requisitions on hold" for the divisions with the goal of cutting down costs. The company is doing this while it reevaluates its hiring priorities, but all current job offers will be honored.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in an email to employees that it would slow its hiring targets by 25%. Prior to this, CFO Paul Vogel said at the company’s investor day that it is "clearly aware of the increasing uncertainty regarding the global economy" and would evaluate head count in the near term.
Alphabet-owned Google announced to staff on July 20 that it's pausing hiring for two weeks, The Information reported, following news that it would slow hiring and spending through the rest of the year. Senior VP Prabhakar Raghavan said the pause would not affect offers that have already been made, but that the company isn't making any new offers until the pause ends.
This story was updated on May 31, 2022, to correct the audience of Klarna's prerecorded message.