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‘We got shafted’: Bolt employees vent frustrations after $11 billion tech startup axes jobs

May 26, 2022, 11:33 AM UTC

Check-out payments startup Bolt Financial is shedding around a third of its workforce, or around 250 employees, as the tech sector continues its turn for the worst.

The news of layoffs comes just months after investors valued the San Francisco–headquartered payment company at $11 billion and Bolt was handing out pay raises to some of its employees in annual reviews.

“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,” Bolt chief executive Maju Kuruvilla wrote in a note posted on the company’s blog on Wednesday.

“In order to secure Bolt’s financial position, extend its runway, and reach profitability with the money it has in hand, the company has decided to reduce the size of its workforce,” Kuruvilla added.

Soon after announcing the layoffs on Wednesday morning, the company began holding meetings with employees, and by midday, the main Slack channel for Bolt employees had gone from 900 employees in the morning to 660, according to the New York Times.

spreadsheet containing contact information for more than 100 laid-off Bolt employees circulated on Twitter, and laid-off employees have taken to corporate message board Blind to vent their frustrations.  

“It’s a tough day for Bolt as many of us were impacted by layoffs,” one employee wrote.

“Over the past few weeks it became increasingly obvious that it was coming but it’s hard to swallow all the same.” 

“We got shafted,” another posted.

Trouble at the startup

At the start of the year when Bolt was at its peak valuation, the company offered to provide loans to its employees to purchase more shares in the fintech startup through a scheme that the chief executive at the time, Ryan Breslow, called the “most employee-friendly stock option program possible.”

Breslow at the time issued a warning with the plan, tweeting: “There is a risk to the employee; they now have a real loan outstanding and 100% personal recourse, so if the common stock becomes [worth] less than the exercise price, their personal assets are on the hook.”

Breslow has since stepped down from his chief executive role, instead remaining on as executive chairman, but that still leaves his employees who have taken out loans in a precarious position.

The number of employees who have been laid off and had also taken out loans is “in the single digits,” a Bolt spokesperson told Bloomberg, and the value of their combined loans was less than $200,000.

Bolt has also run into more trouble lately, as the company is embroiled in a lawsuit from its most prominent customer, Authentic Brand Group—the owner of Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, and Reebok—which claimed its technology did not work as promised.

But while Bolt is navigating its own headwinds, it isn’t the only startup scaling back operations as the pandemic highs finally come to an end.

Netflix, PayPal, Klarna, Getir, and Gorillas have all started cutting employees in recent weeks as warnings of recessions get louder and tech ventures face more trouble raising money in an increasingly brutal market.