FTT Fridays: Keyboard Warriors; Analyzing Fintech Layoffs￼
By Ian Kar
There are a few inevitabilities if you write (or exist) on the internet for 15 years—one, you will get cyberbullied.
I’ve been cyberbullied since probably 8th grade; at 31 years old I probably should just get over it by now, but its still annoys me when I see it (whether it’s about me or someone else.)
I won’t lie—its very easy to dunk on folks on social media; there’s a lot of stupid stuff that people say, myself included. I used to try and get followers by dunking and making fun of people, mainly because people in my network did it. But honestly there was something that kinda ate away at me—it felt really shitty to be an asshole. I’m just not cut that way—it felt foreign and like I was becoming someone else for the sake of being “popular” and “cool” with a select crowd on Twitter.
As I mature (or try to, at least…shoutout to my therapist), I’ve learned its more impressive to display the self-restraint and discipline to not do that and treat people like you would as if you would when you see them IRL. Now, as we think about having kids in the near future, I want to live my life in a way that makes my future kids proud of me—bullying people directly or indirectly isn’t something I’d want my kids to do, so why would I?
I was reminded of a lot of this this week when a young woman tweeted about someone telling her her content sucked. (Apparently I was in a kerfuffle too that I got a few DM’s about but frankly dunno or care much about.)
I always advocate for people looking for advice to create content—either as a newsletter creator, on Twitter, or whatever your platform is. It’s fun, it helps build your personal brand and network, and can lead to a plethora of professional opportunities. But I never talk much about the downsides, and there are a ton. Frankly putting yourself out there and creating content on the internet also opens yourself up to a lot of harassment, hate, and just annoying shit. I’m an Indian dude with a white name so I probably get 5% of what women and people of color deal with. But even for me, it’s exhausting and distracting and makes it not worth it.
Life’s too short to be held hostage by social media. My advice now? You don’t owe anyone anything on the internet, and you should use it however you see fit. Mute people, block people, do whatever you think is necessary to cut out toxic energy from your life. (Even me! If I annoy you feel free to mute or block me here.) One thing that I do is refresh my Twitter feed by unfollowing everyone and starting fresh—over the past few weeks, this has led to dozens of people asking why I unfollow them. I also started taking a page from someone I admire a ton, who blocks almost everyone who follows them because they don’t want too many followers.
Therapy teaches you to cut toxic people out of your life, its time we do the same for our digital lives too. Trust me, life gets easier without toxic folks around.
Before I write about all the layoffs in fintech, I do wanna extend my heartfelt sympathy for everyone who’s gotten laid off. I’ve been there, and it’s sucks. If you’re looking for roles, we’re happy to help get you in front of Vol. 1 Ventures portfolio companies—feel free to email [email protected] & [email protected].
The media’s been a bit brutal around the layoffs in fintech, but there have been a lot, and across all sectors of fintech. Robinhood, Chime, Varo, Stripe, Klarna, Better, Brex, Blend…they’ve all had layoffs (for some, multiple) over the last few months.
While layoffs have hit the tech industry hard overall, why has fintech been so decimated? Here are some thoughts:
- COVID’s Growth Was An Anomaly, Not The Norm: Way too many companies have priced themselves on the assumption that growth rates during COVID/the last few years are sustainable and the “new normal” for fintech growth. That’s clearly not the case; like any economy there’s an ebb and flow to these things, and as the macro economy contracts, many companies are realizing that they’re bloated and hired too aggressively to keep up with growth that was more temporary than they expected. That will, of course, lead to more layoffs.
- Fintech Is OverIndexed On The Startup Ecosystem: Back in the day when I was starting out in fintech, a lot of folks thought Stripe would fail because they were mainly selling to the startup ecosystem—the conventional rhetoric back then was you need to get big merchants and no one in tech was doing billions in mobile or digital payments, so therefore Stripe was screwed. Obviously Stripe bucked that trend, but there was a nugget of truth there. So many VC backed startups’ initial go to market motion is “sell to startups in our ecosystem.” That can work if you’re a) the go to solution with no competitors b) the ecosystem you’re selling to is an inevitability, like more commerce moving from physical to digital. Finding a sector in fintech without competition is a fool’s errand in 2022. And if you can find a massive wave like the e-commerce industry in 2010…you should buy a lotto ticket and become a fortune teller (an answer here is “crypto” but that’s arguably more fickle than fintech.)
- Per Seat Pricing Models Will Be Hurt: Enterprise pricing is a tricky beast. A lot of companies charge “per seat,” meaning that they charge clients based on how many end users or end clients use the product; one great example of this are most payroll companies that charge based on how many employees a customer has, not a flat fee for each company on the platform. With a slew of layoffs across tech and fintech, many of these fintech companies that price per seat will be hit hard—churn wouldn’t have increased because these companies will probs still be customers but revenue may dip a lot because there are less employees to service overall. (If we assume that the rate of new company creation has dipped over the past 6-12 months, they’re probably already seeing a dip in growth too.)