It shouldn’t surprise anyone that “tech layoffs” have been on my mind, and I wrote a column for The Spectator to explain “the why of these layoffs.” An unprecedented boom in Silicon Valley that started with the once-in-a-generation convergence of three mega trends: mobile, social, and cloud computing, has peaked. It started in 2010, and it has been bananas around here for the past decade or so. The FAANG+Microsoft companies saw their revenues go from $196 billion to over $1.5 Trillion. Let that sink in. Booming stocks helped create an environment of excess like never before.
The companies got into the business of what Paul Kedrosky calls “people hoarding.” The pandemic and the resulting growth revved up the hiring machine even more. The over-hiring of talent has led to wage inflation, which had a ripple effect across the entire technology ecosystem. Technology insiders are happy to tell non-tech companies to use data and automation as tools to plan their future. It is easier to preach than practice.
Why does Google need close to 200,000 employees? Or does Microsoft need 225,000 people? Salesforce, till recently, had about 73,500 employees. Profitable as these companies have been, it is also clear that they have become sloppy and bloated. I don’t want to undermine the misfortunes of those losing jobs. A lot of the blame is on the leaders of these companies, who were asleep at the wheel. The reality is that when it comes to business, companies have to appease their investors. And right now, those investors want to see companies be more efficient, especially now that growth is becoming normal.
If you are looking for one, the silver lining is that we will soon be in a new cycle, and a new set of hype trends will converge and create opportunities. And they might not emerge in 2023 or 2024, but they surely will. By then, the industry would have put these job cuts in the rearview mirror.
February 2, 2023. San Francisco