Labor trends in 2023: overwork, fatigue and hope

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welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced look at this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and co-host of Equity Natasha Mascarenhas. Subscribe here to receive it in your inbox.

If there’s one thing I can rely on every year, it’s that people will debate whether resolutions are an irrelevant, capitalist waste of time, or whether there’s something beautiful about the world that collectively wants to better itself.

Longtime readers know I’m a fan of New Year’s resolutions because of the latter. There’s nothing quite like the renewed energy you get from a few days off, ready to be focused on better, bigger goals that there just wasn’t room for in 2022. Will I be recharged after two weeks of vacation? Yes. Am I afraid the news cycle will spiral out of control in a matter of moments and take us and our hot takes? Also.

Unfortunately, that’s where we are and if you have a solution, I’m cheering for you. My journalism, in addition to working more on my writing skills and maybe getting started on this book dream that I’ve always had, is to do more sequels.

The big themes that dominated coverage in 2022 were around layoffs, labor and venture capital incentives. But how has the reality check changed the way technology works beyond one-off staff cuts? Are venture dollars getting more disciplined or was that just a feverish tweet over the last 12 months? Doom and gloom are always part of the story, but I think there is also news in reinventing and reformulating technology.

So far, if I do say so myself, I’m not doing half bad. This week I published a story about how laid-off talent is rethinking risk in today’s job market. Here’s the introduction:

Tech isn’t as collegial as it used to be. Rocketships are revealed as sputtering junk, mission-driven startups don’t feel quite as mission-focused when they respond to investor pressure, and widespread layoffs are loud reminders that jobs are fragile contracts, not sacred vows.

In recent months, thousands of employees from Meta, Twitter, Stripe, Amazon, DoorDash and countless other companies who don’t have the privilege of being household names have returned to the job market. A job market of hiring freezes, pay cuts and a general malaise that industry experts are warning of will not be over this year.

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So where does tech’s talent come from?

The answer is complicated and it is too early to have definitive employment data. VCs want to fund the latest tech mafia startups before banks do, top MBA programs want laid-off workers so eager to get involved that they waive standardized test score requirements, and the tech companies that are able to take on really want you to that does know.

Read on to see how three laid-off employees approach their careers differently in 2023. As always you can find me at Twitter, Substack and Instagram, where I post more of my words and work. In the remainder of this newsletter, we’ll talk about CES, crypto, and Katrina Lake’s return as CEO of Stitch Fix.

What your CES does in Vegas, hopefully doesn’t stay in Vegas

It’s that time of year. This week saw CES, the annual consumer electronics show featuring a slew of creative gadgets that are likely to surprise you. TBEN is on the scene to cover these products as they debut, ranging from your dog’s texts to not-so-dorky AR glasses and “a stylish hiding place for your untold stuff.”

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Here’s why this is important: According to TC’s hardware editor Brian Heater, CES is starting to take robotics more seriously. In his newsletter, Actuator, Heater gave us early impressions of the show, which is less of a spectacle compared to its pre-pandemic days.

Here’s why he thinks there were more robots roaming Vegas in the past week:

  • The pandemic has accelerated the industry in general.

  • Automakers are starting to seriously invest in and acquire robotics startups or build these technologies in-house. See: Ford’s Agility Investments, TRI’s Research and Hyundai’s Post-Acquisition of Boston Dynamics Events.

  • Big companies like Amazon have aggressively pushed consumer robotics.

Image Credits: TBEN

The latest in cryptocurrency

I’ll be honest, this subhed sounds like an obligatory moan and a not-so-subtle hangover. I know you are not interested, or really helped by a list of all the crypto stories you might have missed while enjoying Advocaat or catching up on books. Link roundups, even though they’re at the end of this newsletter, only do so much!

Here’s why it’s important: We can’t just shrug our shoulders at what happened in the last innings of 2022 and let fatigue prevail! Let’s make a deal. I’m throwing you over to my brilliant colleague Jacquelyn Melinek’s Chain Reaction newsletter for the latest and greatest on what’s happening in the world of crypto. Her latest column certainly woke me up: “Crypto rings in the new year with new lawsuits and new chaos.”

Close-up of a transparent bitcoin sign standing on a golden digital surface surrounded by a wire mesh.

Image Credits: Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Refurbish stitch

While we often report on executive departures, it’s not every day you see a founder return to their company as CEO a year and a half after stepping down. Gold star if you guess who I’m talking about: Stitch Fix founder Katrina Lake returns to the company she started as it struggled through the recession.

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Here’s why it’s important: Now that Lake is CEO again, she brings bad news. As first reported by TBEN, Lake sent a company-wide email to 1,700 salaried workers, indicating that 20% of them are being cut.

As I said in our last episode of Equity, it’s clear that the wave of tech layoffs in 2022 is no longer a wave, it’s a reality. Just look at other headlines this week:

Image Credits: Getty Images under license from David Paul Morris/Bloomberg.

A few notes

  • If you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s some of our 2022 year-end coverage
  • TBEN is coming to Boston on April 20. I will be there with my favorite colleagues to interview top experts during a one-day founder summit. Reserve your pass as soon as possible!

Seen on TBEN

Two CEOs is better than one with Brex’s Henrique Dubugras

There is now an open source alternative to ChatGPT, but good luck with it

India has set an “incredibly important precedent” by banning TikTok, says FCC commissioner

Doorstead closes at $21.5 million to ensure you always have a tenant for your rental property

Remember how this whole working thing works?

Seen on TBEN+

Will record levels of dry powder lead to a delayed explosion of startup investment?

Black founders still raised just 1% of all venture capital funds in 2022

How global turmoil will affect innovation in 2023

The year when customer experience died

Toyota stumbled when Hyundai was stealing the successful Prius playbook

oops! Is generative AI becoming a bubble yet?

With that, I’m off to Baltimore to spend some time with some of my dearest childhood friends. If you have recommendations for coffee shops, send them my way! Otherwise I’ll see you next week.

All the time,

N