Only two months after it unveiled its much anticipated “AI Pin,” flashy startup Humane laid off four percent of its staff, according to a report from The Verge Tuesday. The layoffs, which will affect 10 people, come as a wave of cuts are impacting workers at other, larger companies in the tech industry.
CEO and co-founder Bethany Bongiorno framed the staff losses in a LinkedIn post as a restructuring of the company designed to take it from a stealth AI startup to a more customer-facing firm. She says this phase of the company’s development requires “new skills & perspectives,” including those relevant to “Ai application development, & working with 3rd party developers.” In other words: The company also claims to be hiring new people, even as it lets some go.
Bongiorno says this pivot will help the company focus on building its multi-modal AI platform, which developers have promised will fundamentally shift humanity’s relationship to computing.
“These evolutions of growth can sadly also mean making difficult decisions for some, in this case we want to extend our sincere gratitude to 10 members of the team who we’ve parted ways with at Humane,” she said, of the layoffs.
As part of the restructuring, Humane’s longtime Chief Technology Officer, Patrick Gates, will be transitioning to an “advisor” role, Bongiorno also shared. Gates is doing this so he can “spend more time with his family,” the CEO said.
Despite Humane’s framing of the job losses as repositioning, a source told The Verge that staffers had been told the layoffs were part of a “cost-cutting” effort. The source also said that staff had been told company budgets would be “lower” this year.
Gizmodo reached out to Humane for more details on the layoffs and will update this story if the company responds.
Layoffs, even with only a small number of people, are not a great start to the new year for a company that has promised to change the world. Indeed, Humane’s AI pin has been sold as a “revolutionary” product by its creators. The purpose of the pin, execs say, is to usher in a new generation of AI wearables that will help humanity move past its smartphone addiction and get back in touch with the physical world. The pin, which is screen-less and features a GPT-4 LLM integration, is built to function as both a communication device and a portal to the internet.
Since the product launched in November, Humane has weirdly avoided courting the press. The firm’s executives haven’t done many interviews, with the exception of one unfortunate appearance on MSNBC’s Squawk Box that was widely criticized for being awkward.