Turnitin laid off staff earlier this year, after CEO forecast AI would allow it to cut headcount

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People worry that advances in AI will lead to job losses, but rarely does a company’s CEO openly admit that AI will help to reduce their headcount. Turnitin, a plagiarism detection company whose CEO Chris Caren last year warned that, in 18 months, his company would be able to reduce 20% of its headcount thanks to AI, is today confirming a small set of layoffs.

TechCrunch learned that Turnitin laid off around 15 people earlier this year, as part of broader organizational changes. While that’s nowhere near the 20% reduction Caren had forecast — Turnitin has over 900 employees, per LinkedIn and Pitchbook data — it’s a set of layoffs we’re particularly interested in, given Caren’s earlier comments.

Speaking at an event in 2023, he noted that Turnitin had a few hundred engineers, but he believed that in 18 months, “we will need 20% of those number of people,” referring to the engineering staff. “And we’ll be able to start hiring a lot of them out of high school versus four-year colleges — probably the same for sales and marketing functions,” he added. His comments were made during a discussion about how AI would impact the job market by increasing efficiencies.

Turnitin’s software leverages machine learning and AI to detect if a student’s writing is plagiarized. It sells to schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions and works with partners like Coursera, Blackboard, and others.

Already, there are some signs that AI is replacing workers. Klarna recently announced that its AI Assistant can do the job of 700 workers, shocking the industry. (Klarna later clarified that the customer service workers the AI was replacing were hired from outsourcing firms, not direct employees.)

Turnitin confirmed its layoffs in a statement to TechCrunch, but not the headcount:

“After careful consideration, late last year, we communicated to our global team our decision to make organizational changes to evolve our business strategy, streamline processes, enhance customer focus and support Turnitin’s continued growth. With gratitude for their contributions, Turnitin provided transitional support to impacted team members. Out of respect for their privacy, we decline to comment further on this internal matter.”

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