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Eventbrite lays off half its workforce as coronavirus crushes events business

CEO Julia Hartz delivered the news in a companywide video call Wednesday morning.

CEO Julia Hartz

Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz announced Wednesday during a companywide meeting that 45% of employees were being laid off.

Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz announced Wednesday during a companywide meeting that 45% of employees were being laid off, Protocol has learned. The massive cut at the publicly traded ticketing and event management site represents one of the most dramatic blows to the live events business, which has been decimated by the novel coronavirus.

Multiple employees who attended the meeting said Hartz was emotional as she delivered the news to staff around the world via video call. Employees were notified after the call if they had lost their job. Eventbrite currently employs between 1,000 and 1,100 employees, meaning the cuts will cost as many as 500 people their jobs.

The scene internally at the company was chaotic Wednesday morning, as entire teams and employees learned their fate. An employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said that 90% of Eventbrite's once robust sales team has been laid off. "We're calling it 'Blood Orange Wednesday,'" this person said.

A spokeswoman for Eventbrite said in a statement provided to Protocol that the company would be "connecting with every employee to provide clarity around what these changes mean specifically for them and their role through 1:1 video meetings and, in some cases, small group video meetings, since we're all working remotely. We'll be continuing to communicate with employees to share additional information and address questions over the coming days."

Another employee who spoke with Protocol said the call was done over Google Hangouts, and that Hartz appeared to be reading from a prepared statement. The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes; Hartz did not take questions from employees.

"It was pretty brutal," said the employee, who found out shortly after the meeting they were being let go. "Everyone just logged on this morning and saw there was an all-hands. There's only so many ways that can go."

In addition to deep cuts on the sales team, the field operations team and customer success teams have been gutted, employees at the company said.

Eventbrite's online ticketing firm's business is built almost exclusively around live events, and as a result has seen revenue projections fall off a cliff during the COVID-19 outbreak. Eventbrite's share price has hovered around $7 most of the past month, or less than 20% of the share price when the company went public in late 2018 and the value at which many long-term employees have equity.

Even before the pandemic gripped the globe, Eventbrite was struggling, with sagging morale inside its San Francisco headquarters as investors watched executives struggle to integrate Ticketfly, an acquisition meant to help the company double down on live music events.

The pressure to expand its relatively small presence in online events has been amplified in recent days. One source familiar with this part of Eventbrite's business said virtual events accounted for less than 10% of the company's revenue in 2019.

The company spokeswoman declined to answer questions for this story, including what percentage of Eventbrite's revenue comes from virtual events today.

"This is a harsh reality to face and we are saddened to see many of our team members depart the company. We are committed to taking care of impacted employees during this already difficult time and in addition to severance, we are providing extended health benefits and dedicated job replacement support," the company said in a written statement. "This is a challenging time for communities all over the world and while we can't predict when the pandemic will pass, we are committed to providing a strong platform to help creators rebuild their businesses and enable the return of live events when it's once again safe to gather."

Eventbrite's share price rose more than 15% after Protocol broke the news of the layoffs Wednesday morning, then ended the day up 10%.

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