Startup Layoffs Stay Level Heading into 2021, But Sectors Still Hard-Hit

Layoffs at startups seem to have leveled off, according to newly updated data by layoffs.fyi. That’s great news for technologists who prefer working for smaller companies, but who don’t necessarily want to deal with instability and uncertainty.

The data available in layoffs.fyi is crowdsourced, so it’s not an entirely scientific determination of the startup market’s health. That being said, it’s clear that the biggest startups (i.e., Uber) executed their largest swaths of layoffs at the beginning of the pandemic, spiking the numbers through early summer; subsequent, more incremental cuts have largely taken place at smaller firms. Check out the chart:

Throughout 2020, the startup sector with the most layoffs has been transportation, followed by travel, finance, and retail. This makes sense, given how all of those industries depend on lots of in-person interaction. Meanwhile, sectors such as security, legal, and energy have endured relatively few layoffs, thanks in large part to business models that don’t depend on human contact.

Within the tech industry as a whole, the Q3 Dice Tech Job Report suggests that technology hiring stabilized by the third quarter. More than two-thirds of top employers  increased their job-posting volumes, and postings for senior roles gained momentum in September—a promising sign. Cybersecurity, systems and architecture are all tech segments that saw a rise in postings, suggesting that technologists with those kinds of specialized skill-sets can find opportunities. 

Moreover, hiring picked up in some of the nation’s startup hubs, most notably New York and San Francisco. If you’re interviewing at a startup, make sure that you thoroughly evaluate its culture before signing on; small companies can have unique environments that might be quite different from what you’re used to. (Even though video interviews and remote work are still standard procedure, you can still conduct a “culture audit” by asking the right questions of as many people as possible.)

Startups also move very quickly, and some might be quite cash-strapped at the moment. In other words, you’ll likely need to have mastered a range of skills to land a job at a fast-growing company, and you must be prepared to negotiate your compensation—if you really want to work for them, but they don’t have the funds to hit your desired salary number, they might be amenable to a conversation over equity and other benefits.