Several thousand Canadians employed in the technology sector have been laid off this year, as a brief post-Pandemic surge has quickly soured into a global downturn.
Several from the BC region have also been hammered. Through August, roughly 1,000 employees have been laid off from technology companies across the province, a serious dent to a sector used to steady growth. And based on current market volatility plus a possible “VC winter,” more layoffs should be expected.
For now, here are BC’s most notable tech workforce reductions of 2022.
Two weeks after being named the new CEO of Zymeworks in January, Kenneth Galbraith announced major leadership changes and said the clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company will lay off at least 25% of its staff this year.
“As an initial step, we have reset and focused the Company’s operations around our core activities and most promising R&D opportunities—these measures, including the reduction in our workforce announced today, provide opportunities to reduce our future planned expenditures while continuing to fund our key priorities for 2022 and 2023,” stated Galbraith in January.
Vancouver’s Thinkific announced in March that they are reducing their workforce to better reflect the areas of focus and growth at the company.
“We have grown from 270 at the end of Q1 2021 to 499 today and have concluded, following a rigorous review of our organizational structure, that with a reduction of 100 in our workforce, we could increase efficiency and lower costs without impacting our growth trajectory,” stated CEO Greg Smith.
Thinkific went public last year on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol TSX:THNC with shares rising as high as $19.47 in 2021, giving Thinkific a peak market capitalization of over $2 billion. Thinkific currently trades around roughly $3 per share.
“Today is a very difficult day at Article,” CEO Aamir Baig wrote in a memo. “This is my fault.”
Baig let go of more than 200 “Particles,” as team members are often referred to—nearly one-fifth of the company’s total headcount. He says it was a first for Article.
The 11-year-old BC e-commerce firm has been rapidly growing for several years now—in 2019 it was named Canada’s fastest-growing business by Canadian Business, and just this year saw major revenue growth. But Baig fell for a similar trap as fellow e-commerce entrepreneur Tobi Lütke of Shopify did.
“Like many e-commerce companies, we benefited tremendously from the demand increase from Covid,” he explains. “We anticipated the trend to online purchasing would be sustained.”
The cofounder says Article has now been resized “to restore our position of financial strength.”
From launching its “next phase of growth” to trimming staff within two months: Unbounce faced sudden layoffs.
“Today we said goodbye to 47 talented people as part of a company-wide restructure across the Unbounce and LeadsRx teams,” wrote chief executive officer Felicia Bochicchio on LinkedIn, an amount equalling roughly 20% of the Vancouver-based firm’s headcount. (LeadsRx was acquired by Unbounce late last year.)
Bochicchio says Unbounce has experienced “headwinds” this year, a term shared by Andrew D’Souza and Dragon’s Den investor Michele Romanow, whose Toronto fintech Clearco trimmed a quarter of its workforce despite hiring as recently as a couple of months ago. “Significant headwinds” were cited as a cause.
In May, Unbounce welcomed three new executives to its team to support what it described as its “next phase of growth.” However, things don’t always go according to plan.
“We have had to make adjustments to our business and invest with greater discipline and focus,” Bochicchio stated. “As difficult as this decision was to make, it was necessary in order to support Unbounce’s purpose and strategy.”
Our recently published Succinct Record of Hootsuite ended the timeline with the Vancouver anchor’s all-new rebrand and “bold, social-first vision.” We even praised their cautious approach to hiring.
However, it was already too late: just days following the rebrand, Hootsuite announced the deepest cut to BC tech yet, slashing 30% of its workforce in the face of market realities.
“It is indicative of a change to our business that realigns our strategies with the positions we need to be successful,” CEO Tom Keiser said in a statement. “We need to refocus our strategies to drive efficiency, growth and financial sustainability.”
Software-as-a-service startup Dooly is another victim of the market downturn. The Vancouver-based SaaS firm, which uses AI to help salespeople, let go of a dozen of their 100-strong team in August.
Kris Hartvigsen, who founded Dooly in 2014, expressed his sentiment surrounding the decision in a post on LinkedIn.
“We might be a SaaS company where most of our work is delivered to your screen, but it’s the people who chose to work here that manufactured our success and who helped make salespeople around the world successful,” he stated. “I have a sense of great sadness, admiration of, and appreciation for the 12 great humans at Dooly that we parted company with today.”
State of Workforce in Tech
Despite the layoffs, there are reasons for optimism.
We know that not every investment firm in Canada intends to subscribe to the “VC winter.” And that Canadian companies such as Calgary’s ZayZoon and Toronto’s Properly are still raising capital in August.
We also know that firms like Thomson Reuters and Givex are actively adapting their work policies to create better environments for staff, in order to restore some balance of wellbeing. And that these companies, alongside many others, are actively hiring in 2022.
Some days it feels like we are watching tech talent drop like flies. Yet the momentum of tech growth in Canada is so strong that it seems these anecdotal tragedies are not enough to stall out the sector as a whole.
Net tech employment in Canada reached more than 1.2 million workers at the end of 2021, according to research published by the Computing Technology Industry Association, an increase of 9% over 2020. And while we cannot expect such robust growth, CompTIA projects tech-related work will grow by 1.5% this year—the creation of more than 19,000 net new jobs.
Gordon Pelosse, senior vice president for employer engagement at CompTIA, says “technology is [essential] to every business and industry.”
Whether you’re recently laid off or just entering the market, take advantage of free resources like the Tech Talent Canada Job Board for opportunities.