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San Francisco startup once valued at $11B slashes nearly a third of staff

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Bolt, the unicorn payments company that made headlines with a four-day workweek, is cutting 29% of its staff. | Source: RJ Mickelson/The Standard

Bolt, the San Francisco-based e-commerce startup that was once valued at $11 billion, is laying off more than 100 employees—in another end-of-year blow to a tech industry that has dealt with a mounting wave of job cuts in 2023. 

Sources close to the company told The Standard that 29% of Bolt staff were laid off last week. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment.

The e-commerce company, which specializes in a one-click checkout system, counts retailers like Kay Jewelers, Shinola and Casper among its clients. 

Exact details about the layoff itself—including the reasons behind the layoffs, which teams were affected and what severance benefits they’ll receive—remain unclear. Bolt also has yet to file a WARN notice notifying state regulators about the status of laid-off workers.  The filing provides more context as to which parts of the company were hit hardest.

LinkedIn posts show that workers in the company’s creative team—including its head of creative—were part of the layoffs. 

Bolt garnered national headlines in 2021—a boom time for the broader tech industry—when CEO Ryan Breslow publicly touted the company’s permanent four-day workweek, becoming a darling of the broader movement for fewer working days. 

At the time, a spokesperson said that 85% of managers at the company said that their reports “hit their objectives and key results” despite less time at work. (At the time, the company also had a 4.9 out of 5 rating by its employees on Glassdoor.) 

But amid glowing coverage, Bolt weathered internal struggles in addition to wider economic challenges across the tech sector. Retail giant Authentic Brands Group, which owns the likes of Reebok, Brooks Brothers and Forever 21, sued Bolt in January 2021 for delays and a faulty rollout of its checkout system; the case was settled out of court more than 18 months later.

Breslow stepped down as CEO in February 2022 after a fiery Twitter tirade in which he ranted against “mob boss” competitor Stripe, accusing the company of impropriety and stifling other competitors within the financial technology space. Months later, the New York Times published a story alleging that Breslow overpromised on the company’s technology and its customer base to investors.

The company conducted three layoff rounds within a 12-month period. The latest took place in January, when 50 employees—around 10% of the remaining staff of roughly 500—were laid off. 

Bolt now has a much less favorable 3.2 rating on Glassdoor.

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