Yesterday was a particularly bad Friday the 13th at Spot Runner, the Los Angeles startup that is trying to Web advertising techniques to TV. The company told employees it would need to go through its third major round of layoffs in less than a year. At least 60 people were told the would be let go, the company confirms. We’ve added the 60 to our Layoff Tracker.
This is on top of the 115 employees who lost their jobs last November and the 50 more last August. Throw in natural attrition, and the company, which at one point numbered more than 500 employees, could soon be down to less than 120 people.
The layoffs supposedly triggered the WARN Act, which requires companies to give employees 60 days notice for any mass layoff—defined as 33 percent or more of the active workforce. That would suggest Spot Runner currently employs less than 180 people, and after the layoffs take effect will employ less than the 120 mentioned above. Spokesperson Rosabel Tao disputes that math, saying, “As a private company, we do not disclose employee figures but it is out of hundreds.” She also notes that the California WARN Act is more stringent than the federal one and requires notice if 50 or more employees are effected, regardless of the percentage.
Tips started coming in to us yesterday. One mentioned that Spot Runner employees were updating their Facebook statuses with references to “suite 2160,” the conference room where the last round of layoffs took place. Tao confirms that most of the layoffs will be coming from the local search and local outbound sales groups, which is the business Spot Runner got into when it acquired Weblistic a year ago. She writes in an email:
The economic environment continues to worsen, with a rebound not expected until at least late next year. Companies are pulling back their marketing spend across all types of media. Local merchants simply aren’t advertising to the degree they were before and are pulling back their budgets. Like everyone else, Spot Runner has been impacted by these changes and we are hunkering down to get through this recession. Our core focus has not changed. We are a tech platform business for video, TV and online. This is about continuing to tighten our focus and investing our capital resources in the areas where there is the most opportunity.
As I said earlier, about 60 people were given notice that their jobs would be going away in a couple of months. . . . While there will be cuts throughout the company, they are primarily in two areas – local search and outbound sales for the local platform business. It is not the entire Weblistic team, but a good number of them. Just to be clear, we are not getting out of local TV but we are going to focus on our partnerships rather than independent local merchants.
. . . Our top priority continues to be Project Malibu and we will continue to invest heavily in developing this technology. This is an all-digital platform that streamlines and enhances the process of buying and selling all forms of TV and video advertising to benefit media owners and their advertising clients. We believe this is a game changing product and that this will be a significant business for us.
Whether or not the company has a future seems to be tied to the fate of “Project Malibu,” a digital ad-buying platform for TV commercials which one former employee characterizes as its Hail Mary pass.