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Google and Meta over-hired thousands of employees who do 'fake work,' says PayPal Mafia's Keith Rabois

Keith Rabois standing in a library.
The venture capitalist Keith Rabois said he blamed recent layoffs on Big Tech's pursuit of vanity metrics like head count.Keith Rabois
  • Silicon Valley VC Keith Rabois says mass layoffs are due to hiring becoming a vanity metric in tech.

  • Rabois told an Evercore-hosted event that firms like Meta over-hired by thousands of staff.

  • "There's nothing for these people to do ... It's all fake work," Rabois said.

Thousands of tech staffers at Meta and Google do "fake work" and were brought on to fulfill the "vanity metric" of hiring, according to the outspoken investor and tech veteran Keith Rabois.

Rabois is chief executive of OpenStore, which finances merchants selling with Shopify, and a general partner at venture capital firm Founders Fund. He is also known as one of the "PayPal Mafia", having worked as an executive at the payments firm in the early 2000s.

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Speaking remotely from Miami at an event hosted by banking firm Evercore, Rabois said that major tech firms were responsible for over-hiring and that the sector's current mass shedding of jobs to rein in costs was overdue.

"All these people were extraneous, this has been true for a long time, the vanity metric of hiring employees was this false god in some ways," he said.

Later on the call, he estimated that Alphabet's Google and Facebook owner Meta had thousands of employees who don't do anything.

"There's nothing for these people to do — they're really — it's all fake work," he said. "Now that's being exposed, what do these people actually do, they go to meetings."

Google, he continued, had intentionally over-hired engineers and tech talent to stop them from moving to other companies, a strategy he described as "pretty coherent." But, he added, that meant engineers had been happy to "be entitled, sit at their desks, and do nothing."

Rabois' view is shared by other Silicon Valley figures such as Marc Andreessen, the Andreessen Horowitz general partner who has criticized a managerial "laptop class", and likewise thinks firms are overstaffed.

 

Rabois said that he expects the industry's focus to shift away from a growth-at-all-costs model to focus on profitability metrics such as the revenue generated per employee. Rabois noted that cutting head count was one of the best ways to preserve and generate free-cash flow.

The comments come as soaring interest rates and inflation in recent months have led tech companies across the industry to take an ax to their workforces in a bid to manage costs and weather the economic storm. In 2022, more than 1,000 companies laid off more than 160,000 staff, according to the layoffs tracking site Layoffs.fyi. — that figure has already surpassed 100,000 for 2023 so far, according to the site.

The job losses mark the first major contraction for the tech sector after a decade of growth that supercharged several of the major firms to market capitalizations above $1 trillion  — and kept talent from smaller companies and industries.

Despite already reducing head counts, some firms are set to make more cuts. Meta, which laid off more than 11,000 workers in November, could be preparing to ax thousands more jobs this week, according to Bloomberg.

Rabois was full of praise for Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who is estimated to have cut roughly half of the social-media company's workforce a month after taking charge in October.

"People are watching Elon and Twitter and he's clearly setting an example — maybe it's an extreme example," Rabois said, adding later that he wouldn't bet against the Tesla mogul.

Not everyone agrees with Musk's methods, and his drastic cuts have occasionally come back to bite him. Twitter has experienced safety and security issues since Musk took over, including a major outage earlier this week. He is also under fire for trolling laid-off Twitter employee Haraldur Thorleifsson and accusing him of using his disability as an "excuse" not to do work — the Twitter CEO has since apologized for his comments and said that Thorleifsson "is considering remaining at Twitter."

Read the original article on Business Insider