Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New startup formation has slowed significantly, with fading hopes for a late 2020 rebound.

Driving the news: Carta, a startup that manages employee equity for other startups (including Axios), last week laid off 161 employees, or around 16% of its staff. The basic takeaway was tempered expectations for the number of potential new customers to sign and service.

Carta arguably is an index for startups, which makes these layoffs a major indicator.

  • Yes, many of today’s most iconic tech companies were born from the ashes of past economic crises, but this one might be different.
  • No more serendipitous meetings at parties, no more sitting down with a friend to change the world on the back of a napkin.
  • Even if you and a possible co-founder are tight, and you can get past the daunting idea of all-remote hiring, you’re in unchartered waters when it comes to customer demand and supply chain stability.
  • Even if you want to build, can you?

To its credit, Carta is treating laid-off employees about as well as a company can. They all get three months of severance and COBRA coverage through year-end. Carta also removed the one-year vesting cliff for those hired within the past 12 months, and already had a generous post-termination exercise period.

But there were still a lot of ex-employee grumbles, based on a subsequent Bloomberg report that the company was "seeking to raise" $200 million in new funding at a $3 billion valuation. Plus, it's likely that many former Carta employees were aware that this money would be on top of the $200 million that sources say Carta already had in the bank.

  • The new funding is real, per multiple sources. In fact, it's basically done, co-led by existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners. The negotiations began prior to the coronavirus outbreak, but terms never changed. The closing was delayed a bit by complications related to some overseas investors.
  • The company hasn’t yet announced the deal, although Tribe Capital did explain its thinking in a lengthy memo sent to LPs over the weekend (which it just posted here).

The bottom line: Carta is building for the future in which it hopes to thrive, while acknowledging lowered expectations for the present. Just like startup-land at large.

Go deeper

2 mins ago - Sports

Big Ten scraps fall football season due to coronavirus

Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Big Ten announced Tuesday that it has voted to postpone its 2020 fall sports season, including football, due to risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic, hoping instead to play in the spring.

Why it matters: The move from one of the most prominent conferences in college sports will almost certainly prompt other Power Five leagues to follow suit.

13 of Biden's former rivals to appear together at Democratic convention

Democratic presidential candidates at the primary debate in Charleston, SC. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In a show of unity at the Democratic National Convention, 13 of Joe Biden's former 2020 challengers will appear via video to talk about the party's vision for the country and how they'll work with Biden to get it done.

Why it matters: Coalescing around Biden and his eventual running mate will help Democrats head into the general election against President Trump with a united front — unlike what they did in 2016.

IG report: Saudi arms sales were legal but didn't weigh civilian casualties

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acted legally when he bypassed Congress to approve $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but failed to "fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties" that resulted from the deal, according to a report by the State Department inspector general.

Why it matters: The 2019 sale drew bipartisan ire among lawmakers, who worried it could lead to a pattern of the administration using "emergency declarations" to circumvent Congress to approve weapons deals. The report comes two months after former Inspector General Steve Linick testified that he was pressured by a top Pompeo aide to drop the investigation.