As the coronavirus pandemic continues, tossing nations into lockdown and recession, 2 of the hardest-hit sectors have been travel and events. And startups running in the space that have actually just recently raised significant funding aren’t unsusceptible to the crisis.
Pollen, the U.K.-based influencer market for travel and occasions that closed $60 million in funding in October, has axed about 31% of its personnel, almost 70 individuals, throughout the United States and Canada, TechCrunch has discovered. In addition, multiple sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say that around three dozen staff in the U.K. have been put on furlough which up to 10 U.K. contractors have actually been released.
Founded in 2014 and previously called Vigor, Pollen operates in the influencer or “word-of-mouth” marketing space. The marketplace lets buddies or “members” find and book travel, occasions and other experiences– and in turn helps promoters use word-of-mouth suggestions to sell tickets. Pollen’s backers consist of Northzone, Sienna Capital, Draper Esprit, Backed and Kindred.
Validating the North American job cuts, Pollen co-founder and CEO Callum Negus-Fancey (pictured right) informed TechCrunch that 24 team members in Las Vegas have been axed, 29 in LA, 6 in Canada, and 10 that worked remote throughout U.S. That’s a cull of roughly 31% of Pollen’s 216 personnel in general.
He likewise said that around 34 U.K. workers have been furloughed, and validated that the furloughed staff in concern are being paid 80% of their income approximately ₤ 2,500 (by means of the U.K. taxpayer), with no top up from Pollen.
We also understand from sources that U.S. personnel were offered with no extra severance, which some staff were given as low as one week’s notice. Negus-Fancey doesn’t completely challenge this, telling TechCrunch that “U.S. workers were provided 1 week severance, plus 1 week for each additional year they [were] with the company” assembled to the nearby 12 months.
The Pollen CEO also verified that U.S. staff members were not given any paid additional medical advantages beyond the month they were served notice. Each staff member laid off has the option to continue with COBRA coverage at their own cost.
Meanwhile, back in the U.K., a photo of confusion has actually emerged with regards to whether all U.K. personnel put on furlough under the Coronavirus Task Retention Scheme will have tasks to go back to.
Internal interaction seen by TechCrunch reveals Pollen management in late March talking about plans to make a group of U.K. staff redundant and then ask to go on furlough in the interim anyway i.e. in a variety of circumstances there wouldn’t be a task being maintained.
Some days later on, a series of group Zoom calls, rather than one-to-ones, were held between groups and supervisors impacted. Accounts of precisely what was gone over on those calls vary, although some individuals present said participants were “stunned,” with one attendee describing the environment as “uneasy”.
E-mails consequently sent from team supervisors to a number of specific team members appear to provide confirmation that they no longer had a role at the business however would be offered furlough from 1st of April onwards. Those staff were likewise locked out of Pollen’s systems with immediate result (Slack, emails and so on), and in some circumstances used “next actions” coaching and aid with task search.
Different emails sent to affected personnel by Pollen’s General Counsel sought “considered approval” in relation to being put on furlough, giving them simply 24 hours to raise any objections.
Asked about internal discussions with regards to redundancies and staff being informed by their supervisors that they were being released, Negus-Fancey disputes that U.K. staff put on furlough no longer have jobs to go back to. In a statement supplied to TechCrunch he said “there is a possibility for each staff member who has been placed on furlough to have their job back”.
Adds the Pollen CEO:
We believed it was suitable to inform some employees it was not likely they would get their task back– this appeared like the humane and suitable thing to do. There was so much uncertainty at the time and we were processing/managing unknown area and a lot of new information. We had no chance of understanding the answer to the concern and did not want to deceive anybody or give them a false sense of hope. This made certain that affected workers completely understood the circumstance and could plan appropriately. Some have actually searched for new long-term functions and effectively found a brand-new function and we more than happy for them. Our top goal was to put our team first and support them during this time.
The plan has been extremely effective, many workers who would have otherwise been made redundant will now keep their task. The extension of the plan has actually further increased the number of tasks which will be conserved at Pollen.
Negus-Fancey states “Frequently asked questions and other resources” were produced to assist supervisors with furlough conversations, adding that if any management “miscommunicated” to U.K. personnel that they were being let go, then this “would have been due to the fact that of a misconception”.
One concern the Pollen creator wasn’t able to answer right away was why some furloughed workers had access to the business’s systems revoked, while others did not, if they were all expected to go back to work as soon as the furlough period ended.
Negus-Fancey recommended it was so that furloughed staff wouldn’t be lured to work (under the Coronavirus Task Retention Plan, working for the business that put you on furlough is restricted).
Later, after clarifying this with members of his U.K. team, he emailed to state that “employees who were furloughed who had the greatest possibility of coming back (top of the list if tasks became available) were not locked out of some systems e.g. social tools. On top of this, anyone who asked not to be locked out, wasn’t locked out”.
Travel and events at a standstill
The turmoil at Pollen is just one example of the obstacles that travel and events-focused tech business have faced in recent weeks. With consumers practically not able to travel anywhere or converge for any in-person group occasions, companies that have developed company models around such recreation have discovered themselves scrambling to reduce their burn rate or having to more essentially change how they operate.
Airbnb is probably the most prominent example. The popular peer-to-peer accommodation and experiences platform has actually seen a halt to much of its business in the last two months, leading it to lay off 1,900 employees (25% of its worldwide workforce) and rethink its product offerings. It’s likewise seen its assessment nearly cut in half to $18 billion according to reports. Another example is TripAdvisor, which announced it was laying off 900 people, or 25% of staff.
In the case of event-based business (occasions being an essential part of Pollen’s organisation model), there is an argument to be made that even before the coronavirus took hold, it was a difficult service design for all but the most focused and scaled efforts.
Fyre Celebration, with its own focus on exclusivity and influencer marketing, was an infamous flop; the U.K.’s Yplan eventually cost a significant loss, and Eventbrite, which is now public, has seen its stock drop drastically because mid-February, just as COVID-19 really started to take its grip on the globe. It’s not all doom and gloom– pre-coronavirus crisis, Get Your Guide had really been scaling well — however it’s a grim scenario.
Turning back to Pollen, the company says that even with the coronavirus crisis, it has actually been bringing in profits by shifting to offering experiences for 2021. Inquired about existing burn-rate, post-layoffs, Negus-Fancey stated Pollen does not reveal its money position openly. “Nevertheless, we’re comfortable from a monetary viewpoint,” he added.
Article curated by RJ Shara from Source. RJ Shara is a Bay Area Radio Host (Radio Jockey) who talks about the startup ecosystem – entrepreneurs, investments, policies and more on her show The Silicon Dreams. The show streams on Radio Zindagi 1170AM on Mondays from 3.30 PM to 4 PM.