RJMetrics just announced 25 layoffs in sales and sales support - Technical.ly Philly

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Feb. 16, 2016 4:00 pm

RJMetrics just announced 25 layoffs in sales and sales support

That represents more than 20 percent of the company's workforce. CEO Bob Moore says it's about staff realignment, not a sign of trouble.

The RJMetrics team before these announced layoffs.

(Courtesy photo)

Two dozen people in sales and sales support were cut today from 115-person RJMetrics, the Center City-based business analytics company, CEO and cofounder Bob Moore confirmed to Technical.ly.

Those 25 layoffs represent about 20 percent of the staff at one of Philadelphia’s standout tech startups. The company now employs 90.

In the fall of 2014, RJMetrics announced a $16.5 million Series B investment round. “All this money is going to create jobs here,” Moore said then. What’s changed is a focus on a surging second product that the company launched at the end of 2015, which requires less client on-boarding, said Moore.

“We didn’t do the right thing for these people,” Moore said in a prepared statement. “We recruited them onto our team and, now that the situation has changed, they are losing their jobs due to circumstances they didn’t create. We’re truly sorry to everyone affected.”

Moore said RJMetrics is extending “severance, extended health insurance coverage, an extended window in which to exercise their stock options and job placement assistance.” Moore and cofounder Jake Stein, among others, are hoping to place many of those laid off with other local tech firms. (Moore asks that you email him at rmoore at rjmetrics dot com if you want to share an opening you have.) Moore named Curalate, Zonoff, Guru and Sidecar as examples.

So does this mean the RJMetrics hype, as one of the city’s strongest tech startups, is unfounded? No, Moore says. This has everything to do with an updated product pipeline and nothing to do with a company on the ropes, he argued.

“This change is about being true to our strategy and running a responsible business,” said Moore. “This was an extremely difficult decision to make, but a necessary one for building a responsible company focused on long-term success.”

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Of course, there’s another side to this — one from a frustrated bunch of people who took jobs with an exciting young startup only to see that direction change without them.

We exchanged emails and texts with at least two team members today, though neither wanted to be named in this report. Big changes at the top come with concerns below, so when new VP of Sales Shawn Brady lasted just five months some began to get anxious.

“RJMetrics has fooled many many people in the recent months,” said one of the teammates in an email. How much is that frustration and how much is that insight? Frankly, that’s hard to tell now. It’s something that Moore said pains him.

“We have to get back to doing the work,” Moore said in a phone interview with Technical.ly. (For context, another longtime employee confirms that the strategy re-focus seems like a more plausible reason for the layoffs than any company struggles, calling it “great for the company.”)

Here’s why Moore says these layoffs went down.

In the last year, the RJMetrics team has continued to grow its primary CloudBI business-optimization product, said Moore, but nowhere near as quickly as the company’s newer Pipeline offering, a way for RJ customers to consolidate various data sources into a data warehouse in the cloud. Pipeline is far more self-service, requiring less staff on-boarding. So the staffing up in sales and support proved unnecessary, Moore said.

“This year, we are on track to see 10x the sales that CloudBI generated in its first year on the market,” said Moore. “This success is changing the way we think about how we sell to and support customers, and that’s a major driver of this change.”

Moore is not particularly emotive. He’s a Princeton-made finance guy, with the analytical mannerisms that come with it (early rap stylings aside). On a phone interview this week and in years of other conversations, he doesn’t show the feelings you might expect for a still-young, first-time founder on the tech startup rocket ship announcing a very public misstep. He’s trying to make it right and get back to building a company, but he won’t wallow in it. He said he plans to speak publicly about what he’s learning from the experience — the necessity of mentors for tough decisions and the economics of high-growth companies — but it will likely be far different than, say, the gut-wrenching failure story from Bob Moul.

For one, as Moore is quick to say, this is a staff re-alignment, just a blip on the growth trajectory, he said. For example, RJMetrics is keeping its expanded office space even with these layoffs, Moore said.

Moore will also remind you that Netflix cut a third of its team in 2001Tesla let people go in 2008 and “Google had sales and marketing layoffs just like these in 2009.”

“You have to do what makes a better company,” Moore said.

Others locally are in the midst of determining what layoffs can mean for the narrative of a tech startup’s growth pattern.

Monetate, the Conshocken ecommerce-optimization company, announced its own round of layoffs in October 2014 after bringing on new CEO and tech scene veteran Lucinda Duncalfe (listed among this community’s best spokeswomen) right around when RJMetrics announced its Series B. Now Monetate, one of the region’s first big post-dot-com-bubble tech companies, is in something of an identity shift, as leadership prepares for a possible IPO.

This is the messy business between founding myth and corporate cruise-control.

“We are still a growing company — we’ve just restructured how we add and support new customers,” said Moore, mentioning RJ’s careers page. “We’ve made several new hires in the past few months that are not impacted by this change and you will continue to see new positions created throughout the year.”

Have any doubts? The RJMetrics team will be one of 70+ companies hiring at Technical.ly’s NET/WORK jobs fair next week.

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Christopher Wink

Christopher Wink is a cofounder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. In that capacity, he is a co-organizer of Philly Tech Week, Baltimore Innovation Week, Delaware Innovation Week and other events that bring smart people together. Previously, Wink worked for a homeless advocacy nonprofit and was a freelance reporter for a variety of publications. He writes regularly about news innovation and best business practices on his personal blog here. The bicycle commuter loves cities, urban politics and squabbling about neighborhood boundaries.

  • Bob Moul

    having been through this a few times, I feel for the folks who lost their jobs first and foremost. I am confident our community will come together to help them find new homes as quickly as possible. keeping staffing aligned to business strategy and growth in any company, much less a dynamic startup, is a difficult challenge. respect to Bob Moore for making the tough call and then standing up and taking accountability. It takes courage and leadership to do so. I have no doubt how badly he feels about this.

  • John

    Typical Bob Moore, not taking responsibility for his own actions. Everyone saw this coming but the previous VP of Sales reassured us multiple times that the company was doing amazing. In our monthly company meetings bob would say several times “we have 10 million dollars in the bank, not to worry at all!” he would share “financial data” with us which were probably made up numbers now looking at it. His reasoning for laying off 25 great people is also BS, the product Pipeline isnt doing well either and doesnt require any sales from the sales team. I wish he would just be honest with everyone and tell the truth. The company is hemorrhaging money, a lot of wasteful spending was seen by all of us. Giving everyone Mac Book Pro computers, a new 4th floor that looked empty when we moved there and now will look like a ghost town, free food weekly on Fridays, $800 standing desks, any material you needed like Apple mouse, wireless keyboards (to the point where we would take them home and they would order us even more), maybe cutting the wasteful spending would have allowed us to keep a few more people on board. Also the assistance we are getting from RJ is a joke, the HR lady doesnt care one bit or wants to be bothered by helping us, she is the one that filled us with lies about how amazing this place is, the “severance package” is done end of march and not nearly enough time to find a job and the health care is only a month long, nothing amazing about that….

    • http://zivtech.com Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

      Now I’m no expert, but I’m sure you’re correct that if they had bought fewer Apple mouses, gave them all refurbished Dells from 2009, and had people working on the floor, they could have saved enough money to save 1/4 of one of these jobs.

      OTOH- I’m very sorry you lost your job and I wish you luck as you find a new opportunity.

    • SSINTENSE

      Those things, except maybe the extra floor, don’t cost nearly as much as labor and benefits over time. Sorry for your loss..

    • Ben Garvey

      I tried not to respond to this but I can’t let this quote go since it’s been bothering me all day. “the HR lady doesnt care one bit or wants to be bothered by helping us”

      i’ve worked with her closely over the last year and a half and you couldn’t be more wrong. She cared greatly for the way you were treated when you were hired and for the way you were treated yesterday. She’s good at her job and a great person, and I’m sorry you didn’t see that.

      • John

        Keep drinking the Kool-Aid, when you get fired you’ll open your eyes. I’m sure the company will continue to do worse.

    • Nouras Haddad

      Hi “John”, I wish you had admitted to stealing keyboards from the office earlier. RJMetrics could have prevented further “wasteful spending” on your severance package and fired you for being a thief.

      • https://abstructure.net Kashif Vikaas

        lolling bro

    • matt monihan

      Like Steve said below, the market has been changing for some time. We saw this and took action well over a year ago(to reassess the market and build Pipeline). Like Kashif notes in a comment below, data science is becoming SQL-centric, and we’ve spent the last year building a product that leverages that market reality that we’ve seen coming for some time now. When we embarked on that route, we knew that a re-org would be a possibility, and it just so happened to be this week. When the market changes, how you sell and support those customers will likely change as well.

      We have a high bar set for everyone we hire, so I’m really sorry to see a bunch of very smart, funny, and staggeringly handsome people leave this place. And to “John” above, you’re understandably frustrated, no one wants to be showed the door. Reach out to me if you need help. And, thanks for reminding me to return all those keyboards I have stashed in my apartment.

      I’ve been at the company since we were 10 engineers in one room in 2011, and I can honestly say we’re in the best place we’ve ever been in terms of alignment with the market and our customers. Building a company in a changing market is ridiculously hard, and we as a company need to make these kinds of difficult decisions to stay alive and grow.

      Onward.

    • nothingForGranted

      @disqus_IDxnc9p7rs:disqus : I understand your frustration. On that day, it wasn’t just that company taking a step back – You also likely felt a sense of failure, of being of no real value to that company. That’s a hard pill to swallow and you are probably hurting.

      The reality is that nobody and no company in this world is guaranteed continuous success. Success is something that is to be earned every single day. In this hyper competitive, post-2008 slow growth world, organizations large and small face death every day. The only thing we can do is to work smart, work hard, and hope for the best. Yahoo recently laid off a large workforce (people with families and mortgages were let go), and a simple google search on the term “layoff” will yield many results of large organizations restructuring to stay competitive. If you were old enough to remember the 2008 recession that almost ended the modern world as we know it, even banks failed. So in the context of start-ups, where business models have yet to be proven and profits yet to be realized, you are under great delusion if you think that there is anything like guaranteed success. There is only hope and an exciting adventure awaiting those that are willing to risk their time trying to make a dent in this world. So set your expectations straight next time you join a company.

      The bigger lesson here however, which I’m hopeful that you will see with time, is that you were let go because you are a replaceable commodity in the workforce, of no unique value relative to other individuals. To stay employed in this world demands adaptation and unique skillets to create a personal competitive advantage. So let me ask you: What unique value do you bring to the world? How does any organization benefit from having you as a team member? How are you different than your colleagues? Gone are the days that with a bachelor degree you could stay employed for 30 years and retire a millionaire. Even grad school and MBAs don’t translate into guaranteed employment. So stop feeling entitled, and start working to create your unique skillset. I highly recommend for you to watch this TED talk in your downtime to realize why you will fail to have a great career: https://www.ted.com/talks/larry_smith_why_you_will_fail_to_have_a_great_career?language=en

      You are still young and this is an important lesson to learn. Failure to realize this will certainly result in a repeat of history.

      • Bill Piel

        nailed it

  • https://abstructure.net Kashif Vikaas

    Big data is becoming SQL-centric again. Rjmetrics would be wise to follow this trend. also e-commerce is too narrow a focus as there are only a handful of high-revenue players who prefer to assemble their own data teams. A successful tech firm would be wise to understand that their business follows the laws of technology not the other way around

  • Steve Mayernick

    First of all, thank for you the fair and thoughtful assessment, Chris.

    It’s worth noting that Bob and Jake took total ownership of this, and that “HR Lady,” Sam, was visibly gutted. All involved were incredibly gracious, emotional, and, in my opinion, handled the aftermath as well as possible. I received a text from one of those affected by this change that stated the following regarding his new job search: “It’s very clear to me that Bob, Jake, Sam and others are REALLY helping here. Not sure what I expected, but it’s above and beyond, hopefully I’ll be somewhere else soon.”

    A few points that might help some of those outside of the bubble put some context around this whole thing.

    – We assumed we had product-market fit and had hit a repeatable model for success. The data supported this, and our executives doubled down. I, for one, am hugely encouraged that I work for an executive team that would rather swing hard and miss than bunt their way onto first.
    – The market seemingly changed overnight. The team we optimized that perceived market for was no longer viable or scalable.
    – Human capital is tough to quantify, and, once you offer it up, it’s hard to take back. We fell into the trap of hiring incredible individuals that went above and beyond for our clients, even ones whose MRR simply did not justify such support. The high-touch nature of so many of our relationships simply did not scale. As a result, we let go a number of absolutely *amazing* customer support folks.

    These above points were obvious, and we knew something had to change. Bob and Jake decided to rip the band-aid off in one fell swoop as opposed to incrementally letting people go.

    This is less about the problems we solve at RJMetrics, and more about how we went about solving those problems from an organizational standpoint. There still exists a huge market for both of our products (the newest of which I’m incredible bullish on given early customer feedback, despite “John’s” remarks), we just needed to reassess the way in which we offered to help our clients solve these problems. I can say we are definitely moving in the right direction, and this announcement is a confirmation of that, as hard as it is to swallow.

    To the Philly startup scene – I’m hoping that this flood of talent on the free agent market benefits us as a community. There are some incredible people that you have an opportunity to snatch up.

    To those affected – we miss you dearly, and we’re all here to help. If I can take anything out of this whole experience, it’s that my time at RJ has been an overwhelmingly positive one, and that is a direct reflection of the incredible culture the co-founders have established.

    • John

      Juts like the VP of Sales left and the VP of product left…onward for them and me.

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