Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Sketch Layoffs

Pieter Omvlee and Emanuel Sá:

Today is a very tough day for everyone at Sketch. In response to challenging market conditions and with a desire to keep our product-first strategy, we’ve taken the difficult decision to reduce our team by just over 80 people. This will mostly impact Operations and Marketing, who have done great work in the recent weeks and months. Our Product team remains well-equipped, with a core team continuing to drive things forward.

John Gruber:

That’s about one-third of their headcount, from my understanding. I sure am rooting for Sketch — it’s a such a great product.

Christian Tietze:

This doesn’t mean your or my app will perform worse and that somethings wrong with the Mac; Sketch’s layoffs are just an indicator of how Bohemian Coding, the company behind Sketch, performs, and how they anticipate to make ends meet. (Taking care of almost 300 employees is a tough job I imagine!)

I don’t even necessarily think it means that Sketch the product is performing poorly. Lots of people still use it and like it, and it has a sustainable business model. That it can’t sustain a staff of 280 employees doesn’t mean it can’t have a bright future. For comparison, The Omni Group currently lists a staff of 19. They develop more apps and support more platforms, with 1/10th the number of (post-layoff) people. I’m guessing that Serif, which also supports more apps and platforms, is closer in size to Omni. If Bohemian Coding hadn’t taken VC, they likely would never have hired so many people in the first place.

Instead of despairing from the news, let’s help our fellow devs to find a new role.

Some amazing ex-Sketch folks who are for hire now, that I’ve found thus far[…]

Matt Birchler:

I like the speed of Sketch and that it can both create cloud docs and local docs, both of which are useful to me depending on the situation.

However, Figma is exponentially more powerful and has a more vibrant community around it that makes it even better. And as Nathan says, the fact you must be 100% committed to Macs in your organization (at least in product and design) for Sketch to be at all practical, and most orgs just aren’t.


Update (2022-10-17): Jesús Botella:

Many awesome colleagues were laid off, and their talents are among the best in the industry.

Here’s an alumni list if your company is hiring. Don’t miss out.

Update (2022-11-01): Core Intuition:

Manton and Daniel talk about recent layoffs at Sketch, and what it means for the app’s future. They consider the difficulty for native apps when it comes to competing specifically in the realm of collaboration features. Finally, they take an optimistic view of Sketch’s future as an underdog in the design industry.

8 Comments RSS · Twitter

Whoa, you're right, Omni now only lists 19 staff. I hope that simply means they don't list everyone any more. In 2020 they had almost 70 people listed on that page. I know they had a layoff (when Brent Simmons was let go) but it was supposed to be about 10%, not 70%. If their staff really is down to 19 that seems like worse news for the Mac market than this Sketch layoff. Or, they've just learned how to be way more productive!

I don't think you can continue to develop four complex applications with a team of 19, only about a quarter of whom are actual Mac devs. Mac-first productivity software companies aren't doing well, and that isn't a surprise.

Sketch should have switched to a web-first approach the moment they realized that they wanted to target enterprise customers. Omni should have done it the moment it became feasible to port something like OmniGraffle to the web.

@Jim My recollection is that it was more like 40 down to 30, which seems to be what the archive shows. I don’t know when it got down to 19. They are betting big on SwiftUI, which in theory will help a smaller team manage multiple platforms. I hope it works out.

@mjtsai I went back a bit further and it appears that they peaked at 56 around the beginning of 2018. So I guess I had my dates and numbers a bit off, and apparently nobody noticed they were letting people go until they were named Brent Simmons. I always looked up to Ken and Omni as the leading example of how far a Mac indie company could go. I could swear once I counted 67 on their staff page (I was amazed, and even 56 is amazing), but my memory must be off. I could be wrong, but I don't think they've ever taken any VC money. Not surprising that they are betting big on SwiftUI - they started by betting big on NeXT in the early 90s, I think Ken is always going to bet on new technology, and good for him (as you say, I hope).

Gods, reading through Figmas and Sketchs respective "Why pick us over the other" pages was heavy cringe. Excellent examples of bad faith arguments. I'd say Sketches is the worst offender by far.

Omni: 5 software engineers, 1 designer. 13 others. So Omni spends one third of its effort making software. I wonder what it does with the other two thirds.

@OUG I’m not sure how much titles mean at a smaller company. Probably, their CTO writes code, the product managers help with design and QA, the Web developers and sysadmin work on the Web version and server backend for OmniFocus, etc. Documentation is part of the software. It’s arguably almost all “making software” except for the support people, who are obviously essential, too.

Old Unix Geek

@Michael: I'd be less surprised if the ratio were 2 software developers to 1 other.

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