While you were clinging to your A/C unit over the weekend, Newark mayor and Twitter addict Cory Booker was ushering his new startup out of stealth mode. The company, called #waywire, is a media platform that combines original and syndicated videos with relevant user-generated content from young adults about what’s important to them and their perspective on issues in the news.
Wait, didn’t Al Gore have the same idea in 2005?
“Traditional news sources aren’t in any way talking to millennials,” Mr. Booker tells TechCrunch. Perhaps the site can start with whether any young adult actually wants to be labeled a “millenial”?
Around 4 p.m. on a recent Thursday, all but 14 of the employees of the members-only luxury e-commerce site Lot18 got an email asking them to report to the new conference room for an urgent meeting. The remaining employees, including the vice president of operations and director of operations, received an almost-identical note but were asked to report to the “alt” conference room instead. They were told they were being let go, asked to leave the building immediately and instructed to return on Saturday to clean out their desks.
The survivors were shocked by the layoffs, which came a day earlier than planned due to inquiries by Betabeat. Lot18, which started with private sales for wine before moving into full-price wine and epicurean deals, has raised a total of $44.5 million from investors—its latest round spearheaded in November by the highly regarded Accel Partners. Lot18 also moved into a new office over the summer that features a tasting room, mounted LCD screens that pop up a buyer’s location on a map every time Lot18 sells a bottle and a permanent DJ booth. In its one-year existence, Lot18 launched several new verticals, bought Paris-based e-commerce site Vinobest, and announced a foray into Europe.
To industry insiders, the scenario sounded familiar. Mass flash sales—deep discounts that expire usually after one to three days—had been touted as the first real innovation in e-commerce in years, and start-ups that applied the flash-sales phenomenon to the luxury market had investors salivating. But the former venture capital darlings suddenly seemed to be hemorrhaging employees. Earlier this month, another site, Boston-based Rue La La, slashed 60 of its 550 employees after months of growth.
Suddenly, the question is being asked: Could flash sales for the well-to-do wind up being more of a marketing gimmick than a business model?
Gilt Groupe’s 900-some employees can rest easy, for now. In response to questions from Betabeat, the company confirmed this afternoon that the recent spate of layoffs is over. CEO Kevin Ryan initially estimated that about 50 people would be let go, however, the total number of layoffs across Gilt Groupe’s businesses “ended at 80-90.”
In a statement, the company said, “We don’t foresee additional layoffs at this time.”
Betabeat heard word Friday that part of the restructuring would involved shutting down certain markets for Gilt City, the company’s location-based deals service that offers discounts on luxury events and experiences. In the statement, Gilt Groupe confirmed that it will be closing its offices in six secondary cities “effective immediately,” namely San Diego, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Dallas, and Atlanta. “We have not been as successful in smaller markets and the resources they require take away from growing our core business,” the company said.
Prior to this move, Gilt City operated in thirteen markets, so this represents a significant reduction. Going forward, Gilt Groupe said it will be “servicing those smaller markets through a centralized sales force.”