Saturday, June 25

Fintech Unicorn Bolt Laid Off Workers As The Tech Bubble Is Slowly Bursting


Layoffs Announced At Fintech Unicorn Bolt

Maju Kuruvilla, the CEO of Bolt, a fast-growing tech company offering one-click checkout, wrote on the corporate blog saying that there will be layoffs. His statement by him danced around the topic, writing, “It’s no secret that the market conditions across our industry and the tech sector are changing, and against the macro challenges, we’ve been taking measures to adapt our business.”

Kuruvilla took over the reins from the outspoken founder Ryan Breslow. He added, “In an effort to ensure Bolt owns his own destiny, the leadership team and I have made the decision to secure our financial position, extend our runway, and reach profitability with the money we have already raised.” Translated from corporate-speak, Kuruvilla will lay off workers.

The New York Post reported that roughly “one-third of the company is being laid off,” which impacts about “130 US and Canada staffers who were axed Wednesday, plus more than 100 European employees whose jobs will be eliminated in the coming days.”

I Know This Will Be Difficult

Kuruvilla said in the post, “I know this will be difficult for us all, so I want to provide clarity on what will happen next. For those directly impacted in the US and Canada, our goal is to inform you within the next 30 minutes when you will receive a calendar invite for an individual or small sub-team “Bolt Restructuring” meeting. For those of you who are staying on the Bolt team, later this morning you will receive an invite to a Town Hall at 1pm PST.”

Reminiscent of the early months of the pandemic, a spreadsheet with the names and contact information of those who were slated for termination, was made and passed around to help them gain notice and obtain leads for new jobs. Bolt is not alone in downsizing. Thursday I reported that “Klarna, a Sweden-based fintech company in the buy-now-pay-later space, announced plans to lay off about 10% of its global workforce, in a pre-recorded video message Monday.”

The Tech Sector Is Enacting Hiring Freezes And Layoffs

There have been an uncomfortably increasing number of tech companies that enacted hiring freezes and layoffs. Previously, Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, told his team via email that he is tapping the brakes on adding a new headcount at the ridesharing app company. He perceived bringing aboard new people would be considered “a privilege” in light of the “seismic shift” in the economy and tech sector.

Meta stated that it would reduce hiring for mid-level and senior roles at the social media company, and mortgage startup Better.com, best known for the CEO who fired people via a oneway Zoom video and called employees “dumb dolphins,” laid off approximately 4,000 people.

Robinhood, the trading app that gained notoriety and popularity during the pandemic as young novice investors stuck at home started aggressively trading meme stocks and cryptocurrencies, announced it will let go of around 9% of its workforce. The company dramatically increased its headcount from about 700 employees in 2019 to nearly 4,000 by 2021. CEO Vlad Tenev wrote about the layoffs, “While the decision to undertake this action wasn’t easy, it is a deliberate step to ensure we are able to continue to deliver on our strategic goals and furthering our mission to democratize finance.”

Netflix provided pink slips on April 28, to the team at its Tudum fan-focused site. Netflix, another beneficiary of the stay-at-home era, lost $54.4 billion in market capitalization overnight, representing the “largest, single-day decline in its history.”

Breslow Asks, “What If We Worked Like Lions?”

I previously interviewed Breslow, the young founder of the fast-growing fintech unicorn, about his four-day workweek initiative. The gregarious Stanford University dropout said he was on a mission towards “changing the world of e-commerce by fixing a spot with the most headaches: checkout.” Breslow, heading a multibillion-dollar tech company, was betting on his belief that by taking good care of his team and offering an abbreviated workweek, they’ll happily outperform.

I have rhetorically posed the question, “What if we worked like lions?” These ferocious creatures exhibit “short bursts of energy, high intensity and then rest and recover for the next sprint.” With a four-day workweek, Breslow contended that people will have enhanced energy and become more productive. “With a four-day workweek, we can feel confident going all-in on those four days. We can truly give it our all.”

Breslow Can’t Help Causing Controversy

Breslow’s penchant for speaking, or tweeting, his mind, created some controversy. He drew attention and headlines back in January when he tweeted allegations against his competitor Stripe and well-established Silicon Valley venture capitalists including Sequoia and Y Combinator. He accused these and other entities of attempting to bring him down. After his tweetstorms abbated, Breslow handed off the CEO title to Kuruvilla, and Breslow became the chairman of Bolt’s board.

Allegations Against Bolt

A blistering New York Times investigation piece stated that Breslow may have over-inflated numbers, metrics and technological prowess to gain more customers and a higher valuation. The eCommerce startup skyrocketed to an astounding $11 billion valuation in January.

Bolt is now being sued by Authentic Brands Group, a large client that owns numerous brands such as Brooks Brothers and Forever 21. The company alleged that Bolt did not live up to their promises, to the detriment of the Authentic Brands. Bolt has disputed the accusations.

Be Mindful And Caring For Your Colleagues

Kuruvilla closed out his post by stating, “There’s no good way to share news of a restructure but it’s in our culture to be committed to candor and care, today and always. I can’t thank you enough for all of your past, present, and future dedication to make Bolt what it is. We have an incredible team, great product, and the market needs us more than ever before. But today, my focus is on our people. Please be mindful and caring for your colleagues and yourself.”


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