Last week’s demise of one-click checkout startup Fast did not come as a surprise to people that have been following its recent troubles. The company has been struggling to generate revenue, quickly burning through investor cash by going on a hiring spree and spending lavishly on elaborate marketing stunts.
Shortly before the announcement that it was closing up shop, we wrote about how Fast’s hiring slowdown suggested that it was faltering months ago. Its swift unraveling was a quick reversal of fortunes for the company that was only recently seen as a rising star in the fintech payments space.
Fast was founded just three years ago, quickly charming investors with its ambition to build a network of online merchants that would offer its hassle-free checkout method. The pandemic-induced e-commerce boom only helped fuel interest. The venture was able to raise over $120 million in funding, with payments giant Stripe as its primary backer.
The biggest losers from Fast’s demise are its employees. Though an agreement with Affirm guarantees most of its engineers a spot at the prominent buy now, pay later firm, many workers have found themselves jobless. And it's likely that most of them did not anticipate this outcome when signing their offer letter.
Fast lured talent with prospects of hypergrowth touted by its CEO Domm Holland and his lofty ambitions to build a product that supplants industry incumbents like Bolt and Shopify. This proved a successful strategy for recruiting individuals with experience at big name firms, like Uber and Goldman Sachs.
To sustain excitement about the company, the fully remote team was showered with perks including reimbursements for home office expenses and gourmet oatmeal on the house. The payroll expenses proved too much to handle and employees now have to plan the next stage of their careers.
As former “Fastronauts” update their Linkedin profiles, they are eager to reflect on this chapter of their professional lives and give some thought to where they want to go next. We tuned into a Twitter Spaces ‘Ask Me Anything’ session with some of Fast’s ex-employees to get an inside look into what went wrong at the company and hear their takeaways from the experience.
Given how successful Fast was at recruiting top talent, it is a small wonder that many employees praised their team and expressed regret at having to part ways with their colleagues. The central qualm with staffing decisions stemmed from the rapid pace with which Fast expanded its cadre. The company hired around 400 employees over the course of last year.
One employee described the experience as going to sleep one day and waking up three months later to find hundreds of new people added to the staff. Another employee mentioned that a fully remote environment was not conducive to adapting to such fast growth. With remote work, he lamented “you lose a little bit of that sort of tightness and closeness of the group, the group dynamic.”
Multiple engineers said that they were proud of the product they’ve built, though there was certainly space for improvement. One of them expressed discontentment at a lack of resources to successfully scale Fast’s product to serve large enterprises. While the one-click pay solution was good enough for smaller customers, big clients were less tolerant of its glitches. This may explain why the company came to rely on small merchants for a significant portion of its revenue.
Another member of the engineering team described being “stretched thin” with technical issues that arose when trying to integrate Fast’s product with merchants’ backend systems. He recalls constantly “fighting fires that we did not anticipate.”
Some workers contend that Fast management could have done more to communicate with employees about the state of affairs at the company in the past few months. One employee attributed lack of transparency as one of the biggest contributing factors to its ultimate demise.
There seemed to be a consensus among the ex-colleagues that they would like to prioritize joining a team with smart people to match their experience at Fast. However, one ex-employee said he learned that a high concentration of talent does not necessarily guarantee a company’s success.
When looking for a new employer, one worker said he plans to think more about the “leaders of [the] business,” and whether they can also drive the company forward.