The Bearer of Bad News

A short list of a day Roger Lee thinks about layoffs: while waiting for someone to show up on a Zoom call. After his two young children went to bed. 5am, before the first meeting of the day.

since I started As a side project when the pandemic began, he registered nearly 450,000 tech layoffs in a public spreadsheet and updated the list whenever he had a few minutes.

Lee, 36, always reads bad news, but remains a staunch optimist when it comes to technology. He recognizes the pain layoffs cause, but believes the industry will recover “100%.”

And Lee believes it’s healthy to be outspoken about layoffs in an industry he loves. He reasoned that workers could find new jobs efficiently if people were talking openly about layoffs. is both a symptom and cause of a cultural shift towards transparency around layoffs in the tech industry. Lee never claims his site is the only driving force behind this trend, but says he’s helped workers put their layoffs in the background and helped the public understand the recession. After tech companies battled to attract top talent during the pandemic, rapidly rising interest rates caused companies to begin making heavy cuts for this year and last year.

“Having this website increases transparency,” says Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University. It’s completely gone,” he added.

Over the past three years, Lee’s site has become a valuable resource. Recruiters scour lists for talent after massive layoffs. Employees post information when they lose their jobs.

Tim Sackett, who runs an IT and engineering staffing agency, said “saves a ton of time” by finding workers who are actively looking for work. increase.

Media organizations, including The New York Times, often cite as the source for the latest tech layoffs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shares data on layoffs in various sectors, but it doesn’t track layoffs in venture capital-backed startups and tech companies in real time. So Mr. Lee can help fill that gap.

“If you have great government data on the state of technology,” Bloom said, you don’t need a site like Lee’s. “But in the absence of that data, becomes invaluable.”

“There was a complete data void” at the start of the pandemic, he added. “It’s impressive that he was so early.”

Mr. Lee did not intend this to happen. “It feels strange to give you bad news,” he said. But he kept going. He says his site gets at least a million views per month, and even more during busy periods when there are many layoffs.

Lee has been tracking layoffs in an informal way since 2015, looking for talent to hire at his previous startup. He was on maternity leave when the pandemic hit. He thought others might find his process useful. “My first motivation was to be helpful,” he said. He added that he was surprised by the large number of layoffs at the time. “Wow, he’s seven in a week, I thought wow.”

Soon, layoffs and requests for tracker updates accelerated. By April 2020, “every baby’s nap time was spent updating the site,” he said.

Lee follows a set of informal, self-imposed rules about when to post about which companies. He makes decisions about whether a company is considered “technology”— Buzzfeed: Yes. Disney: No;—and sometimes we stick with information until it’s reported in the news media.

“We don’t want to be the place employees find us,” Lee said. “I get these ‘scoops’ but I don’t try to speed up the news.”

“I don’t think these are hard and fast rules,” he added. But so far, he says, he’s been able to provide useful information to people without accidentally causing panic.

Lee runs as a hobby and spends his money on it. In addition to his time, he estimates that he spends about $200 a month on server costs. He said he was approached but declined to run the ad.

However, the site’s popularity helped give him ideas for new companies. Comprehensive.iowith public listings, to track compensation for technical jobs.

He sees as the opposite of “If it weren’t for the former, I wouldn’t have come up with the latter,” he said.

Teddy Sherrill, Lee’s longtime friend and founder of, said, “What gave him the intuition that people would find the wage transparency data interesting was that people were looking at layoffs. It depends on how interesting you find the data,” he said. about a dozen people.

Lee hasn’t turned 40 yet, but he has a long-term view of technology. It helps that he’s spent about half his life building websites.

When an advertiser first contacted Lee asking if he could place ads on the site he built as an adolescent, he said he didn’t want to talk on the phone.

“I was afraid that if I spoke to them, they would know I was 13,” he said.

By 2002, Lee and his childhood friend were running some of the most popular teen sites, according to Nielsen data released at the time.

One of the companies he co-founded was SubProfile, a social media service built on AOL’s instant messenger platform. By his sophomore year of high school, the site was generating “six-figure revenue,” and he was getting at least seven million unique users per month, he said. (He said nothing he’s done has exceeded that traffic since.)

He got his first paycheck from an advertiser at his parents’ house in the New York suburbs.

“It was a really surreal experience,” Lee said of his teenage entrepreneurial days. “That’s when I first fell in love with the internet.”

Lee sold another company, Study Guide Sites, while at Harvard.

After graduating, he co-founded an Internet advertising sales startup called PaperG in New Haven, Connecticut. Mr. Lee worked for the company for about seven years before it was renamed Thunder and sold to Walmart.

Krystal Benitez was hired to Lee’s operations team at PaperG in 2012. At that point, the firm and her Ms. Lee had moved to San Francisco. Benitez said Lee frequently gave informal financial advice to staff, including lunchtime lectures on investments and retirement planning. Her personal finance “is a very close and important topic to his mind,” she said, and indeed Lee soon founded her 401(k) startup called Human Interest. valued at $1 billion 2021 years.

“There can be no better way to influence people’s economic lives than through employment and payment methods,” Lee said. He added that his interest in personal finance has fueled his career, from Human Interest to his to his work at

Lee’s early fascination with the web (and early success) continues to fuel his optimism about the industry and his view that technology can improve lives.

“The economy has gone through two boom-bust cycles that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “In both cases, technology is stronger than ever.”

“I know it has its downsides,” he said of the internet. However, he added, “The good side is very positive.” He believes that human traits, including our highest impulses, are magnified online.

“You might think the person behind is a cynical person,” said Lee’s college classmate, who was PaperG’s first employee and has since invested in his company. Tyler Bosmeny said. But Mr. Lee is “the most optimistic person I know.” He added that Lee often sees thorny problems as data problems that can be solved with technology.

“The most hysterical one,” added Bosmeny.

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