- Fintech firm Bolt announced layoffs last week after raising $355 million earlier this year.
- The company held an AMA Wednesday with CEO Maju Kuruvilla to address employees’ concerns.
- In screenshots viewed by Insider, employees probed the executive on the firm’s layoff strategy.
Bolt, a San Francisco-based financial-technology company that provides a one-click checkout solution, held an “ask me anything” all-hands meeting Wednesday morning in the wake of layoffs the startup recently conducted that saw it shed roughly a third of its employees.
The meeting, which lasted approximately 72 minutes, included questions about the firm’s plans for additional layoffs, customer strategy, and attrition concerns.
The firm announced layoffs on May 25, just months after raising $355 million in new funding at nearly an $11 billion valuation. The primary
channel for Bolt employees had shrunk from 900 employees in the morning to 660 midday, according to the New York Times. Insider confirmed from a current employee that the number is 657.
The tech industry boomed during the pandemic with some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names hitting record-breaking market caps, while private companies like Bolt received large funding injections from venture-capital firms brimming with cash. But now, an unsightly downturn has hit the industry with layoffs threatening even the most well-funded firms.
This series of layoffs at Bolt comes shortly after one-click checkout Fast, the firm’s closest peer, closed its doors after reports revealed the firm overhired and spent cash like “drunken sailors.”
In screenshots viewed by Insider, 80 questions were asked by employees for Bolt CEO Maju Kuruvilla. Employees could bump a question higher in the queue by upvoting it.
One of the top comments asked why Bolt founder and former CEO Ryan Breslow, who left the company in February 2022, hadn’t publically discussed the layoffs.
“Ryan has never shied away from sharing his thoughts,” the comment from an anonymous employee said. “I am surprised he has not spoken up about recent layoffs. Why haven’t we heard from him?”
Another comment questioned whether there were more cuts to come.
“We’re hearing that leadership doesn’t anticipate another round of layoffs,” a second anonymous employee wrote with 62 upvotes. “How can we have faith in this when just weeks ago, layoffs weren’t in sight?”
‘Motivational speeches’ and a lack of answers
Employees reacted to Kuruvilla’s answers in a private Slack group containing current and recently laid-off employees.
“Maju is the go big or go home type,” one former employee wrote in the group. “Well then we’re all going home,” a current employee replied. Insider was able to verify the identity of the users in the group.
Many employees criticized that Kuruvilla deflected some of the questions he was asked, using “motivational speeches” in lieu of direct answers.
“I understand the need to galvanize,” a current employee wrote in the private Slack group. “But it can’t be delusional, which is what it’s bordering on right now.”
In the AMA, one employee asked Kuruvilla if they can opt to lay themselves off in order to get a severance package, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Insider. He answered with a curt “no” before moving on.
Another employee wrote in the private Slack group that Kuruvilla said not to worry about money and that raising more funds would, in fact, be a bad thing because they don’t want to rely heavily on investors. The CEO added that he wanted Bolt to have a really big “up round,” which is when a firm raises money at a higher valuation, rather than a large down round, which is when the company raises money at a lower valuation.
In fact, Breslow had frantically e-mailed investors over a month ago, trying to raise hundreds of millions in new funding at a $14 billion valuation, according to one of the VCs who was pitched.
“He was desperate for cash and everyone said no to him,” said the VC, who doubted Bolt would even be worth half of what Breslow was seeking.
“I just don’t want to touch it,” the VC added.
“I can feel Maju is under lots of pressure right now,” a current employee wrote in the private Slack group, adding that he believes the repetitive motivational speeches from the CEO are a way to dilute the facts. “He’s not okay. It’s the first time he becomes a CEO and his reputation is on the line.”
Are you a Bolt employee with insight to share? Got a tip? Contact Kylie Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org, through secure messaging app Signal at 347-829-5826 or Twitter DM at @kyliebytes.