AI startup Stability lays off 10% of employees after CEO exit

Emad Mostaque, founder and CEO of Stability AI, speaks during the Bloomberg Technology Summit in San Francisco, California, US, on Thursday, June 22, 2023.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Beleaguered artificial intelligence startup Stability is laying off employees after the exit of its controversial former CEO Emad Mostaque.

Stability, which is behind the popular Stable Diffusion large language model, made more than 20 of its employees redundant to “right-size” the business after a period of unsustainable growth, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC.

The company’s newly appointed co-CEOs Shan Shan Wong and Christian Laforte told employees in an email Wednesday night that the firm needed to “restructure parts of the business, which will sadly mean saying goodbye to some colleagues.”

“Those who are affected by this have been notified individually and we will be supporting them throughout this period,” Wong and Laforte, who were previously chief operating officer and chief technology officer at the company, respectively, said in the internal memo.

Stability AI’s layoffs amount to about 10% of its global headcount, according to publicly available data online which shows the firm employs around 200 people in total.

The employees affected by the measures are mostly on the operational side of the business and have been notified of their redundancies, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke with CNBC under condition of anonymity as they were not able to speak publicly on the matter.

Last month, Stability announced its former CEO, Mostaque, was leaving the company to “pursue decentralized AI,” and would be replaced by Wong and Laforte.

Mostaque’s departure follows media reports throwing doubt on his credentials.

A June 2023 Forbes report said that Mostaque misled people including his own investors about receiving a master’s degree from Oxford University, as well as the nature of a partnership with Amazon which Stability characterized as a strategic deal but was nothing more than a standard cloud computing leasing contract.

Mostaque’s response at the time was that several of Forbes’ allegations were “false accusations and misrepresentations.” He said he didn’t receive his Oxford University degree because he didn’t attend his graduation ceremony but had arranged to receive his degrees by post.

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He also doubled down on the deal with Amazon and it’s cloud computing unit Amazon Web Services by describing it as a “strategic business alliance” that saw AWS build an “incredibly rare dedicated compute cluster” completed to the requirements of Stability.

Stability AI is still searching for a permanent CEO to fill the top leadership role. The company said it continues to operate as normal and is still releasing new products, having only recently announced developer APIs, or application programming interfaces, for its Stable Diffusion 3 AI model.

You can read the full memo from co-CEOs Wong and Christian Laforte below:

Dear team,

As you know, over the past couple of weeks the Leadership team have been working hard on a strategic plan to reduce our cost-base, strengthen support with our investors and partners, and enable our teams to continue developing and releasing innovative products. 

Following a review of the global team, we have determined the need to restructure parts of the business, which will sadly mean saying goodbye to some colleagues. Those who are affected by this have been notified individually and we will be supporting them throughout this period.  

These decisions have not been taken lightly and they are intended to right-size parts of the business and focus our operations, which is critical to setting us on a more sustainable path – and to put us in the best possible position to continue developing cutting-edge models and products. Products like the Stable Diffusion 3 API strengthen our deep-tech leadership and demonstrate our unique, systemic importance to the AI ecosystem.

We will meet as planned on Thursday for our regular town hall and we encourage you to ask any questions you might have of our Leadership team in the form that will be sent out shortly. In the meantime, please feel free to discuss any concerns with your manager.

We would like to thank everyone for their dedication and contributions. We recognize the challenges we face, but we have a plan in place. Through the hard work and commitment of this team, we are making progress every day, moving us steadily in the right direction.

Best wishes,

Shan Shan & Christian