How It Started vs. How It’s Going: Layoffs Edition

It’s been a roller coaster year for tech 🎢.  In the month of April alone, 269 startups laid off 26,651 employees, unsure if they’d ever be able to raise money again.

Now? Fundraising and IPO markets are at their frothiest levels since the dot-com era. We end the year with just 4 recorded layoffs in December.

Even startups that cut employees earlier in the year have rebounded. Here are our Top 10 layoff comeback stories of 2020 – or, view the Tracker to catch up on all the layoffs that happened this year.

10. Hipcamp

How it started: Reportedly laid off 60% of employees in April
How it’s going: Announced in August that it bought a competitor, brought back some of its laid-off employees, and is hiring again

9. Stack Overflow

How it started: Laid off 40 employees (15%) in May
How it’s going: Raised $85 million in July at a “significant step up” from its previous valuation

8. Sonder

How it started: Laid off 400 employees (33%) in March
How it’s going: Raised $170 million in June at an increased valuation of $1.3 billion

7. Yelp

How it started: Laid off or furloughed 2,100 employees (35%) in April
How it’s going: Announced in July that it would bring back “nearly all” of its furloughed employees. Its stock price has rebounded 113% from its pandemic low

6. Skillz

How it started: Laid off 21 employees in April
How it’s going: IPO in December via SPAC, now trading at a market cap of $7 billion

5. Metromile

How it started: Laid off 100 employees (33%) in April
How it’s going: In November, announced plans to IPO in Q1 2021 via SPAC

4. Segment

How it started: Laid off 50 employees (10%) in May
How it’s going: Acquired by Twilio for $3.2 billion in November

3. Carta

How it started: Laid off 161 employees (16%) in April
How it’s going: Doubled its valuation in a $180 million funding round just one month later

2. Opendoor

How it started: Laid off 600 employees (35%) in April
How it’s going: IPO in December via SPAC, now trading at a market cap of $13 billion

1. Airbnb

How it started: Laid off 1,900 employees (25%) in May
How it’s going: IPO in December, now trading at a market cap of nearly $100 billion(!)

Honorable mentions: Lattice, Pipedrive, Grab, Parsable, Hibob, Aqua Security

Of course, not all companies have had such an unexpected reversal of fortune. Plenty of startups are still struggling, not to mention the pandemic’s continued toll on the broader economy and human lives.

Here’s hoping for a brighter and less volatile 2021 💉. Happy new year!

What are tech companies hiring for post COVID-19?

This blog post was written by intern Stephan Billingslea, a Yale student majoring in economics and statistics.

At a time when hundreds of startups have laid off employees but many others are still hiring, we wanted to explore – what’s in demand for hiring in this current environment?

To find out, we analyzed usage data from the List, which combines 80+ spreadsheets of laid-off tech employees into a single place that’s easy to filter, search, and sort. 

Thousands of recruiters and hiring managers use the List to find candidates for their open roles. How they use the site reveals some interesting takeaways about what tech employers are hiring for:

  • Engineering is the function in greatest demand – by a lot. There are 4x as many searches for laid-off engineers as there are for the next most popular function (Design).
  • The most popular locations for tech hiring are the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.
  • The most searched-for job titles (laid-off Software Engineers, Product Managers, Data Scientists, and Product Designers) are all related to product development.

Search Filters

Recruiters and hiring managers primarily use six search filters to browse the 16,000+ laid-off employees on the List.

Prior Department and Location are the filters used most often, based on the percentage of pageviews using each filter


Engineering is by far the most sought-after function, accounting for over 35% of all pageviews using the Prior Department filter. There are 4x as many searches for laid-off engineers as there are for the next most popular function (Design).


Not surprisingly, demand for tech hiring is clustered around the major startup hubs. The San Francisco Bay Area dominates the domestic search with almost 30% of all pageviews with a Location filter, followed by New York City and Boston. Internationally, Toronto, London, and India are the most searched-for locations.

Job Title

Software Engineers and Product Managers are the job titles with the highest hiring demand. In fact, the four most searched-for job titles (laid-off Software Engineers, Product Managers, Data Scientists, and Product Designers) are all related to product development.

Prior Company

Former Toast, Uber, and Airbnb employees are the most sought after on the site, suggesting that these companies have a strong reputation for attracting talented employees. 


The most searched-for skills are all related to product development. JavaScript and Python are the programming languages with the highest demand.

Final Thoughts

The world has changed drastically over the past few months, but one thing remains the same: tech companies still focus their outbound recruiting efforts on engineering.

There’s reason to believe that the coronavirus pandemic may have even amplified this trend. Our previous analysis showed that tech layoffs have affected sales and customer success roles the most, as startups face a new reality of slower customer growth. This may be allowing companies to focus more on product development initiatives instead, leading to sustained interest in hiring engineers.

Data is based on List usage between 5/8/20-6/16/20.

These tech startups received PPP bailout loans but still laid off employees

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was established by the government to incentivize small businesses to keep their workers employed during the pandemic. However, a analysis reveals that over 100 tech startups conducted layoffs despite receiving loans through the program.

On Monday, the government released the names of all companies that received loans greater than $150,000. Among the tech startups on the list: Getaround (laid off 100 on 3/27, received $5-10 mm loan on 4/28), Metromile (laid off 100 on 4/6, received $5-10 mm loan on 4/7), Lever (laid off 86 on 4/8, received $2-5 mm loan on 4/27), and Mixpanel (received $5-10 mm loan on 4/13, laid off 65 on 5/12).

Some companies have disputed the list’s accuracy, claiming they never received a PPP loan. It’s also worth noting that most of these companies laid off employees before getting the loan.

PPP loans carry a 1% interest rate and a 2 or 5-year term, making them an extremely attractive financing option for startups. The loan can even be forgiven if the company uses at least 60% for payroll costs and doesn’t reduce headcount, among other requirements.

Here’s a list of startups that reportedly received a PPP loan and laid off employees during the pandemic (our Tracker has a complete list of all tech layoffs).

Many venture-backed startups struggled to decide whether to apply for a PPP loan, fearing they’d be taking money that could’ve gone to needier small businesses. Those that received a loan and laid off employees may endure additional scrutiny since the loan didn’t accomplish its intended purpose.

At the same time, PPP loans may have prevented these startups from laying off even more staff or shutting down altogether. 72% of the companies listed above conducted their layoff before receiving the loan, suggesting that the money was used to avoid further business damage.

While companies must retain their employees to qualify for loan forgiveness, there’s no such requirement to take out a PPP loan in the first place. Businesses are also allowed to use the loans for expenses beyond payroll.

Thanks to intern Stephan Billingslea for helping with the research.

Introducing: the Severance Tracker

The cumulative damage of startup layoffs has been severe: 500 tech companies have now laid off 64,000+ employees during the pandemic. I wanted to find out — what have these companies been doing to mitigate the impact on laid-off employees?

I’m excited to announce the new Severance Tracker, which tracks all known details of the severance packages offered, compiled from media reports and company announcements. You can see how much each company gave in severance pay and healthcare coverage, whether they made any adjustments to employee stock options, and more. You can also see which CEOs pledged to take a pay cut to show solidarity.

On the whole, the severance packages in COVID-19 layoffs have been more generous than in a typical employee termination, given that it was caused by reasons out of their control. 21 startups have offered over 8 weeks of severance pay, much more than the 2-week standard. Kitty Hawk tops the charts with a whopping 20 weeks of severance.

Many startups have also gone above and beyond in extending healthcare coverage, perhaps recognizing that in this environment, it will take longer than usual to find a new job. Insurance typically lasts through the end of the month of an employee’s termination, but 16 startups offered to extend benefits by at least 4 additional months. Airbnb and GoSpotCheck lead the pack with a full 12 months of extended healthcare benefits.

Other assistance commonly offered include outplacement services, help with resume preparation, and allowing employees to keep their company-issued laptop. As has been highlighting, companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Samsara have also been launching official alumni talent directories to promote their ex-employees.

Which startups have been the most generous to laid-off employees? Of the 500 startups with layoffs, 10 of them offered more than 8 weeks of severance pay and more than 4 months of extended healthcare coverage: Kitty Hawk, Kickstarter, Airbnb, TrueCar, Carta, Glassdoor, Uber, Greenhouse, Brex, and Opendoor. Airbnb and Carta have also been praised for the transparency and empathy displayed in their layoff communication.

CompanySeverance PayHealthcare CoverageLayoff Date
Kitty Hawk20 weeksThrough 20206/3/20
Kickstarter4 months4-6 months5/13/20
AirbnbAt least 14 weeks12 months5/5/20
TrueCar13 weeks plus 1 week for every year of serviceThrough 20205/28/20
Carta3 monthsThrough 20204/15/20
Glassdoor3 monthsThrough 20205/7/20
Uber10 weeksThrough 20205/18/20
Greenhouse 8 weeksThrough 20204/17/20
Brex8 weeksThrough 20205/29/20
Opendoor8 weeks16 weeks4/15/20

There’s no denying the financial and psychological devastation felt by someone who suddenly loses their job. It’s nice to see that, at least in some cases, startup employers are trying to cushion the blow.

Check out the Severance Tracker for full details of severance packages offered by company. Have info about a severance package? Let us know!

Startup layoffs decline to lowest level since mid-March

After peaking in mid-May, the number of new employees laid off from tech startups has declined to its lowest level since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

2,803 employees were laid off from tech startups during the week of 5/27-6/2. This represents the lowest weekly number since the week of 3/18-3/24, and is 68% lower than the pandemic peak 2 weeks ago.

The number of startups cutting jobs continues to fall as well. Only 16 startups conducted layoffs during the week of 5/27-6/2. There’s now been a clear downward trend over the past 8 weeks, ever since a whooping 100 startups cut jobs during the week of 4/1-4/7.

Although both the number of layoffs and the number of employees laid off have been falling, the average layoff has gotten bigger. Of the 10 biggest tech layoffs since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, 6 of them have occurred in the past month. Stitch Fix laid off 1,400 workers just last Monday.

Company# Laid Off%IndustryDate
Uber6,70025%Transportation5/6, 5/18
Stitch Fix1,40018%Retail6/1
Magic Leap1,00050%Consumer4/22

In total, 490+ startups have now laid off 63,000+ employees during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Tracker.

Though the cumulative damage has been severe, there are signs that the worst may be behind us. Mirroring the trend in tech layoffs, nationwide unemployment filings also recently reached its lowest weekly level since mid-March. And the overall unemployment rate unexpectedly fell last week, a major surprise compared to prior forecasts.

As states ease months-long lockdown restrictions, the tech sectors hit hardest by layoffs (like transportation, travel, and retail) may finally be recovering. Yesterday, Airbnb reported a surge in domestic rental bookings following months of pent-up demand. And Lyft announced that rides booked grew 26% in May compared to April.

Though recent signs look promising, people are still tempering their expectations. “I had a rule that even in our darkest of hours I wouldn’t get too low because that’s just a moment in time,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told Bloomberg. “And if I can’t get too low, then I can’t get too up.”

Startup layoffs slowing down, but more employees laid off on average

Finally, some long-awaited good news: the number of newly-reported startup layoffs has been steadily declining for the past 5 weeks, today’s Uber layoff not withstanding. After a coronavirus record of 99 startups conducted layoffs in the first week of April, this past week saw only 22 startups cut jobs, a decline of 78%.

Unfortunately, the number of employees laid off has not benefited from a similar trend. During that same 5-week period, the number of new employees laid off per week dropped from 7,692 to 6,562, a decline of just 15%.

Part of the reason is that even though fewer startups are laying off, the average layoff has gotten bigger. Last week, Stone laid off 1,300 employees and Deliv laid off 669 employees. The week before, Airbnb laid off 1,900, and Juul laid off 900. Including today’s layoff, Uber has cut 6,700 employees in May alone.

In fact, 4 of the 10 biggest tech layoffs since COVID-19 have occurred in just the past two weeks.

Company# Laid Off%IndustryDate
Uber6,70025%Transportation5/6, 5/18
Magic Leap1,00050%Consumer4/22

In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, smaller cash-strapped startups were the first to conduct layoffs to avoid going out of business. Later-stage startups and recently-public tech companies had more buffer to hold off on layoffs due to their larger cash reserves. At the time, smaller travel startups like Lola, Remote Year, and WanderJaunt were laying off dozens of employees each even though the likes of Airbnb and TripAdvisor hadn’t yet cut staff.

Two months into nationwide lockdowns, these bigger tech companies couldn’t keep holding off. They’ve now also had enough time to properly budget, plan, and execute their layoffs, something that takes longer at a 4,000-person company than a 40-person one. Small wonder that in the first half of May, it’s felt like dominoes falling when it comes to late-stage startup layoffs.

The media has also started selectively covering only the bigger startup layoffs, as layoffs have gotten too frequent to keep up. We’re still trying, though! The Tracker has counted 430+ startups that have laid off 50,000+ employees since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, though there are hundreds more layoffs that haven’t been reported publicly.

Uber just announced another mass layoff today, and WeWork expects to continue performing rolling layoffs through the end of the month. But once the smoke clears from those layoffs, will we finally see some ecosystem renewal? Here’s hoping.

Uber and Airbnb’s layoffs rank as two of the biggest in tech since COVID-19

This morning, Uber announced it was laying off 3,700 employees (14%) in its customer support and recruiting teams. The CEO’s letter to staff strongly hints that more cuts are coming in the next two weeks. As many as 5,400 employees are expected to ultimately be laid off.

Yesterday, Airbnb laid off 1,900 employees (25%) across all teams. It expects revenue to fall by more than half in 2020 as global travel stays frozen.

This means that in the past two days alone, we’ve seen two of three biggest tech layoffs since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic on March 11:

Company# Laid Off%IndustryDate
Magic Leap1,00050%Consumer4/22

Not surprisingly, nearly all of these mass layoffs — including Uber’s and Airbnb’s — can be attributed to shelter-in-place orders. Our previous analysis showed that 2/3 of startup employees laid off have come from industries directly affected by shelter-in-place, such as transportation, travel, real estate, food, and fitness. The layoffs have hurt sales and customer success roles most.

Unfortunately, more big layoffs are still to come. Juul is reportedly planning to lay off 800 to 950 employees, roughly one-third of staff. WeWork, which has already cut thousands of employees across multiple rounds of layoffs, expects to continue making cuts through the end of May. Square has managed to avoid a layoff so far, but remains exposed to small business customers in food and retail that have been shutting down en masse.

Our live Layoffs Tracker is tracking all startup layoffs, and has now tallied over 42,000 employees laid off across 374 companies. Best wishes to those affected and here’s hoping that we reach the bottom soon.

Will the startup you work at need to do a layoff?

277 startup layoffs since COVID-19. Those who have been following know that layoffs have felt like almost an hourly occurrence.

One month into the coronavirus pandemic, I decided to analyze the data to better understand: what factors make a layoff more likely? Can you predict whether a startup will need to do a layoff?

Read more to find out how you can evaluate the likelihood of a startup layoff: