Humane Lays Off 4 Percent of Employees Before Releasing Its AI Pin

Alex Heath, reporting for The Verge:

Humane laid off 4 percent of employees this week in a move that was described as a cost cutting measure to those who were impacted, according to sources familiar with the matter. Employees were recently told by leadership that budgets would be lowered this year, said one of the people, who requested anonymity to speak without the company’s permission.

The cuts, which numbered 10 people, come ahead of the five-year-old startup shipping its first device: a $699, screenless, AI-powered pin that is pitched as a smartphone replacement.

In a text message, Bongiorno told me that the cuts were “not communicated as a layoff” to those who were impacted, despite sources telling me that they were — both verbally and in writing. “It goes without saying that, like every company, we have a responsibility to remain prudent and proactive, ensuring we have the right roles, right people, and the right structure at every juncture,” she said.

Layoffs are never good — and layoffs before shipping the company’s first product are a particularly bad look — but 10/250 employees really does sound more like belt-tightening. But I do not think their AI Pin preorder numbers have set the world afire, nor do I think the company’s investors are interested in funding them further. (Sam Altman, Humane’s largest shareholder, is reportedly working with Jony Ive and LoveFrom on “AI hardware”. To me, that’s far more of a warning sign about Humane than their laying off 10 employees.)

Tuesday, 9 January 2024