Word has reached me that the division I last worked in at 3M is being shut down. The division was rather unique for 3M in that it was quite small and built from scratch. Normally "new" divisions are made from combining divisions, dividing divisions, shuffling parts of division around or any combination of these options. In all cases, there is already an infrastructure available to some extent, including existing lab equipment and lab space, administrative personnel and all the regulatory support that is needed. This division however, was built from scratch, one researcher at a time. We moved into previously abandoned lab space and had to purchase all the equipment needed to get the lab up and running.
But it all came crashing down when the executive VP overseeing the division gathered everyone together and announced the shutdown. Some of my former colleagues are being assigned to existing divisions while others are "unassigned". One of my colleagues had for some time compared it to being in startup, although having worked for a startup (arguably two), I assured him that it was quite different. This shutdown is a perfect example of a real and significant difference between a real startup and a wannabe in a large corporation. The startup that I worked for, Envoy Medical had been in operation for 7 years without any sales prior to my joining it and it was another 7 years before it sold its first product. That is 14 years of living on angel funds, venture capital and whatever other funding sources the company could get money from. If the first investors didn't want to invest any further, the company was free to look for other investors. This is in direct opposition to 3M shutting down their division. The executive VP, the sponsor of the new division, decided to pull sponsorship and there was nothing the division could do. No one would dare ask another executive VP to sponsor them due to the great risk of ending their career right on the spot.
While I feel for my former colleagues who are unassigned, my heart really goes out to the undergraduate student that was helping me out part-time. I spoke with him last we and it still isn't clear if he will keep his job. He hasn't even graduated and may already be facing his first layoff.