On Wednesday, alternative lodging service WhyHotel announced major layoffs and operational changes due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cofounded in 2018 by Jason Fudin and Bao Vuong, the 2019 RealLIST Startups honoree operates pop-up hotels in new luxury apartment complexes as the building works to fill the vacancies with leased tenants. WhyHotel is headquartered in NoMa and manages pop-up hotels in four markets.
The company declined to comment on the layoffs to Technical.ly, but Fudin publicly shared the news in a LinkedIn post on April 1.
“The pain and tragedy of this hopefully once in a lifetime pandemic continue to add up and take a toll on the people we love and the businesses we trust,” the CEO wrote. “In this unprecedented and upside-down time, we must make changes to our business to adapt to the realities of this environment.”
The layoffs come at a time when unemployment claims spiked to their highest-ever one-month rate — more than 10 million in March alone — and hospitality- and travel-focused startups around the country are slashing their staffs to avoid shutting down entirely.
Fudin said in the post that “a significant portion” of the company’s pop-up hotel team were laid off. Some members of the talent team were also let go, but all parties declined to comment when reached via LinkedIn.
Team members still employed with WhyHotel will be taking pay cuts during this downturn. The company declined to comment on employee count before and after layoffs, but it reported having shy of 100 employees back in December when it raised $20 million in Series B funding.
“For us, both professionally and personally, it is tragic to be losing such incredible and passionate people in this moment to something as unforeseeable as a global pandemic,” Fudin wrote. “We have tried to be fair in our team members’ exits, although we recognize there is nothing fair or just about losing your job when you are incredible at what you do.”
As of this month, WhyHotel will pivot to only allowing minimum 14-day stays for any guests at its pop-up hotels in an effort to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation to practice social distancing. The company’s core team will now refocus on WhyHotel’s Hospitality Living business, the real estate development arm of the company that’s based in San Francisco. Under Hospitality Living, WhyHotel hopes to have its first high-rise residential building on the market by 2022.
If your company is hiring in the region, Fudin said, you can reach out to him or Vuong on LinkedIn for recommendations. WhyHotel said it plans to resume its normal operation when it’s safe to do so again.
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