Its device hasn’t even shipped yet.
Startup Humane made a big splash just a few months ago when it announced its “AI Pin,” a headscratcher of a consumer tech product that promises to serve as an AI-powered assistant without relying on a screen.
Now the company, which was founded in 2018 but stayed out of the limelight for years, announced that it’s laying off ten people, roughly four percent of its workforce, this week — months before the AI Pin is even set to start shipping to customers.
As The Verge reports, leaders reportedly told employees that budgets would be slashed this year.
While the company says it’s part of a wider restructuring, such a layoff isn’t exactly confidence-inducing, especially given the confusion and doubt with which the company’s main product was greeted following its unveiling last year.
Humane is fighting the “layoffs” narrative, and claims it’s simply trying to redirect its efforts while still actively hiring.
In a lengthy LinkedIn post, co-founder Bethany Bongiorno detailed a “wider refresh of our organizational structure,” and extended “our sincere gratitude to ten members of the team who we’ve parted ways with at Humane.”
In a text message to The Verge‘s Alex Heath, Bongiorno claimed that the cuts were “not communicated as a layoff.” Heath’s other sources, however, confirmed in writing that they were in fact layoffs.
“It goes without saying that, like every company, we have a responsibility to remain prudent and proactive, ensuring we have the right roles, right people, and the right structure at every juncture,” Bongiorno wrote in the text message.
In short, only time will tell if Humane, a company that raised a whopping $200 million in funding, will have a winner on its hands with its AI Pin. But given the radical departure of the tiny device’s design and some considerable trade-offs, it’s anything but a certainty.