The 'Undertaker Of Silicon Valley' Stays Busy As Startups Lay Off Thousands The coronavirus pandemic has gutted many tech startups. Tens of thousands of workers are now unemployed, and companies are shutting down.
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The 'Undertaker Of Silicon Valley' Stays Busy As Startups Lay Off Thousands

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The 'Undertaker Of Silicon Valley' Stays Busy As Startups Lay Off Thousands

The 'Undertaker Of Silicon Valley' Stays Busy As Startups Lay Off Thousands

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The coronavirus spares no industry. More than 21,000 tech workers in Silicon Valley have been laid off in recent weeks. And while that is a small number compared to the millions who have lost jobs nationwide, the pandemic is expected to dramatically change startup culture. NPR's Bobby Allyn reports for this week's All Tech Considered.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Martin Pichinson's business is booming. He's known as the undertaker of Silicon Valley. He helps shut down companies for a living.

MARTIN PICHINSON: Well, we used to do two to three or four a week. Now we're two to five a day.

ALLYN: Pichinson runs Sherwood Partners. If his firm gets involved, the startup world knows there's trouble.

PICHINSON: This is the great unwinding. We don't know what's happening, but we do know everything we believed in is changing. Everything we thought to be true may not be true.

ALLYN: Startups seek to grow relentlessly. Now their cash flow has dried up, and investors have stopped writing checks. Pichinson says that money doesn't just fuel America's technology pioneers. It enables the country's ability to innovate.

PICHINSON: It's building futures at hyper-speed. It's building companies at hyper-speed.

ALLYN: Pichinson doesn't reveal what businesses he's closing right now, but startups that rely on people leaving their homes are being clobbered. The list of companies laying off and furloughing thousands include restaurant review app Yelp, daily deals company Groupon and scooter startup Bird. Startups in food delivery, remote conferencing and telemedicine are on an upswing. That's the exception, though.

PAUL CONDRA: A lot of startups that are only a couple years old and their business has just evaporated in the last couple months and could be gone for the next six months - they're going to have a really tough road ahead.

ALLYN: That's PitchBook technology analyst Paul Condra. He says many tech jobs will never come back in the post-pandemic world, and companies are going to emerge leaner.

CONDRA: And companies will be used to operating on a shoestring, also, so they'll have found ways to potentially automate things or do something with fewer employees. And those practices will linger because it's all about efficiency.

ALLYN: In Austin, software engineer Dan Munro found out that he was laid off during a recent all-staff Zoom call with his firm. Munro worked at the artificial intelligence company Alegion for six years. Sales collapsed when the coronavirus struck. On the video chat, the founders announced that a third of the startup's Austin-based employees would be terminated. Munro was one of them.

DAN MUNRO: No one enjoyed it. It was pretty rough for everyone 'cause we're a pretty small company, and everyone knows each other really well.

ALLYN: Munro is selling his home. He's also looking for a new job, and he let the world know by changing his Twitter handle to Dan is interviewing. He's hoping it catches the attention of companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook because while the startup world is being shaken, the tech giants are still hiring.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News, San Francisco.

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