In February 2020, Roger Lee lost his job. He stepped down as CEO of Human Interest, his 401K startup he co-founded in 2015, and extended his paternity leave to spend time with his newborn daughter. Within months, he realized he was not alone. As the pandemic roiled the economy and tech companies like Uber, Airbnb and Expedia began devastating layoffs, thousands of other tech workers were suddenly out of work, too.
Still adjusting to the demands of her home as a new parent, Lee decided she needed a project. So he created his spreadsheet online to track industry carnage, a database he named Layoffs.fyi. Three years later, the site says that in 2022 he will affect more than 1,000 companies and his more than 150,000 employees, and in his first two weeks in 2023 he will reach a further 23,550 employees. It has become the de facto clearinghouse for information about tech layoffs. The free site now has over one million monthly visitors, making Lee the media’s choice expert for analyzing the turmoil in the tech economy.
If Layoffs.fyi is something of a tech graveyard, Lee is anxiously taking on the role of the mortician. This week, he told me at Tartine Bakery near his home in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset. Like Rogers, Lee was not prepared to be the face of the mass unemployed. “Sometimes I feel like a pessimist guy. My wife pointed out pretty early on that all the news I was posting was negative. I said, ‘Well, I can’t help it.It’s a site about layoffs.”
After three years as a bearer of bad news, Lee has launched another database. There is considerable room for optimism in this database. His new project, Comprehensive.io, tracks salaries across the tech industry, giving both employers and employees a more accurate picture of the cost of tech talent.