In late March, the scooter-sharing company Bird invited about a third of its employees to attend a thirty-minute "COVID-19 update" via Zoom. The meeting only lasted about two minutes, and it wasn't really an update. With what one employee later described as a "robotic-sounding, disembodied voice," an executive told the 406 employees they were fired. "It felt like a Black Mirror episode," the employee said. (Bird later issued an apologetic statement, saying the employees got severance pay and extended health insurance. Their CEO's salary is also supposed to get cut to zero).
The Bird layoffs are part of a widespread collapse in the startup world right now. Billions in investment dollars are drying up. Companies are going bankrupt. Thousands of workers are losing their jobs. Martin Pichinson, a Silicon Valley veteran, says the downturn caused by the coronavirus is "unwinding everything."