In February 2020, Roger Lee found himself out of a job. He had stepped down as CEO of Human Interest, the 401K startup he co-founded in 2015, to spend time with his newborn daughter on an extended paternity leave. Within a few months, he found he was not alone: Thousands of other tech workers were also suddenly unemployed, as the pandemic capsized the economy and tech companies like Uber, Airbnb and Expedia began catastrophic layoffs.
Lee, who was still adjusting to the domestic demands of new parenthood, decided he needed a project. So he threw together an online spreadsheet to track the industry carnage, naming the database Layoffs.fyi. Three years later, the site has become the de facto clearinghouse for information about tech layoffs, which affected over 1,000 companies and more than 150,000 employees in 2022, and an additional 23,550 workers in the first two weeks of 2023. The free, site now receives more than a million visitors each month, and Lee has become the media’s chosen expert to analyze the tumult in the tech economy.
If Layoffs.fyi is like a cemetery for tech jobs, Lee wears the role of undertaker uneasily. “It’s been very weird,” he told me this week at Tartine Bakery near his home in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset. Lee, who has the soft, sunny disposition of Mr. Rogers, was not prepared to become the face of mass unemployment. “Sometimes I feel like the doom-and-gloom guy. My wife pointed out to me 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.’”
Now, after three years as the bearer of bad news, Lee has launched another database—this one with substantially more room for optimism. His new project, Comprehensive.io, tracks salaries across the tech industry, giving both employers and employees a better sense of what tech talent costs.