CEO's 'Cold' Zoom Call: 'I Come to You With Not Great News'

Better.com's Vishal Garg laid off 900 employees in video conference right before holidays
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2021 7:24 AM CST
Startup CEO Lays Off Hundreds on Zoom Right Before Holidays
Vishal Garg in the Zoom call that ended hundreds of workers' employment.   (Twitter)

(Newser) – Mortgage lender startup Better.com markets itself as combining technology with a human touch to help make the homeownership process "friendly and enjoyable," but that's not how most employees would describe the Zoom call they attended with the company's billionaire CEO last Thursday. In what Forbes calls a "cold one-way video announcement," a "visibly uncomfortable" Vishal Garg let 900 or so workers on the call know that they were laid off, just days after the company with a valuation of $7 billion received a $750 million cash infusion, and right before the holidays.

"I come to you with not great news," Garg says in the video now circulating on social media. "The market has changed, as you know, and we have to move with it in order to survive." He noted this was the second time that he's had to do such a thing and "I do not, do not want to do this. The last time I did it I cried. This time I hope to be stronger." He then lowered the hammer, announcing he was laying off about 15% of the company—the people included on the Zoom meeting. "If you are on this call, you are part of the unlucky group. ... Your employment here is terminated effective immediately."

One person on the call can be heard saying, "F--- you, dude" after Garg broke the bad news. In a statement after the announcement, Better.com CFO Kevin Ryan clarified Garg's numbers, noting that only 9% of the company's workforce was being laid off in this "gut-wrenching" way, adding that "a fortress balance sheet and a reduced and focused workforce together set us up to play offense going into a radically evolving homeownership market." The Sacramento Bee notes Better.com has employees in California's San Francisco and Orange counties and in Charlotte, NC, as well as in New York City, Texas, and India.

In September, Insider profiled the company, which had hired 7,000 people during the pandemic, and noted that it had just been recognized by LinkedIn as the top US startup for the second year straight. "The only way to make sure that all [our employees] treat our customers well is to make sure that they're treated well," Garg said at the time. Meanwhile, the Daily Beast published a piece in August asking "a lot of questions" on how Garg—who once threatened an ex-business partner (also the best man at his wedding), telling him he was "going to staple him against a f---ing wall and burn him alive"—got to where he is in the business world today. Much more on that here. (Read more layoffs stories.)

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