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March 5 2024

Bird cuts jobs due to AI efficiency

In a striking development that underscores the relentless march of technological advancement, Bird, formerly known as Messagebird, an Amsterdam-based tech powerhouse, has recently made headlines by laying off 20 percent of its workforce. This bold move, affecting 90 of its 450 employees, was announced by the company's CEO, Robert Vis, citing automation and artificial intelligence (AI) as the driving forces enabling the company to achieve more with fewer people.

Founded in 2011 by Vis and Adriaan Mol (also the founder of Mollie, another Amsterdam-based payment company), Bird has rapidly ascended to the ranks of the most valuable Dutch tech companies, with a valuation soaring over 3 billion euros after a funding round of 830 million euros in 2021. Despite its profitability, with last year's revenues hitting 582 million euros, Bird has seen its workforce more than halved since 2022, a trend reflective of the broader tech industry's response to economic pressures and the transformative potential of AI.

The recent layoffs at Bird highlight a crucial turning point, not only for the company but for the tech industry at large. As businesses increasingly turn to AI to streamline operations and cut costs, the implications for the workforce are profound. Robert Vis attributes this strategic shift to the "promising results" with AI, suggesting a future where technology can significantly augment or even replace human labor in certain tasks.

Moreover, Bird's decision to slash prices for its communication services by 40 to 90 percent, thanks to AI-driven efficiencies, indicates a broader ambition to stay competitive and possibly prepare for future acquisitions. The mention of a potential move to acquire its larger American rival, Twilio, points to Bird's aggressive growth strategy and the pivotal role AI plays in its execution.

This scenario presents a rich ground for discussion about the role of AI in reshaping the future of work, the ethical considerations of automation, and how companies like Bird are navigating the delicate balance between innovation and employment. As AI continues to evolve, its impact on job markets, business models, and competitive strategies will undoubtedly remain a topic of keen interest and debate among industry watchers, policymakers, and the workforce alike.


The text in this article has been published in a different format on NRC.nl