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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

1 min ago - World

COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming

Recreated from Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

South Africa alerted the world to the Omicron variant. Now data out of South Africa may serve as a warning of what we're facing.

Driving the news: South Africa recorded 11,535 new cases Thursday with 22.4% of tests coming back positive — up from an average of about 300 new cases, with a 2% test positivity rate 10 days earlier. The country's top public health officials expect that exponential rise to continue as Omicron rapidly becomes the dominant variant.

BuzzFeed to go public, after shareholders approve SPAC deal

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is set to become publicly traded on Monday, after shareholders of a SPAC called 890 Fifth Avenue Partners voted to approve a previously-announced merger.

Yes, but: The vast majority of the money the SPAC raised in January was yanked, a signal that investors aren't very optimistic about BuzzFeed's future prospects.

Omicron cases confirmed in 4 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant were detected in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, making New York the fourth state with confirmed cases.

The latest: In addition to New York, the variant has been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.