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People

Company that once shot money out of guns at Dreamforce lays off 55 workers

SalesLoft attributed the layoffs to the pandemic, which has caused sales to fall and scores of salespeople that use the company's software to lose their jobs.

People attending Dreamforce
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An Atlanta-based sales software startup that once famously shot money out of guns at Salesforce's Dreamforce conference has been forced to lay off around 55 employees, a vivid illustration of the damage the coronavirus crisis is doing to a tech industry that was flying high.

SalesLoft attributed the layoffs to the pandemic, which has caused sales to fall and scores of salespeople that use the company's software to lose their jobs. (It's worth noting that the money blasted from guns by SalesLoft was only $250 in $2 bills, so it wouldn't have saved any jobs here).

"I give Kyle Porter and the rest of the ELT a lot of credit in the way the situation was handled, as disappointing as the result may be," former SalesLoft user experience researcher Rob Solomon said of the company's CEO and executive leadership team in a post on Linkedin.

A company spokesperson confirmed it did layoffs and said, "Nearly every company would benefit from hiring SalesLoft alumni, as they are all great people."

The company, which had been one of Atlanta's fastest growing tech outfits, was most recently valued at $600 million. It's in a competitive field: San Francisco-based Groove announced Thursday that it raised $12 million from investors. Another competitor, Seattle-based unicorn Outreach, has so far avoided layoffs, while reportedly seeing mixed results — with some customers like DoorDash surging and others forced to pull back.

Protocol | Fintech

Marqeta turns to a fintech outsider

Randy Kern, a Salesforce and Microsoft veteran, is taking a plunge into the payments world.

Randy Kern is joining Marqeta after decades at Microsoft and Salesforce.

Photo: Marqeta

Marqeta has just named a new chief technology officer. And it's an eyebrow-raising choice for a critical post as the payments powerhouse faces new challenges as a public company.

Randy Kern, who joined Marqeta last month, is a tech veteran with decades of engineering and leadership experience, mainly in enterprise software. He worked on Microsoft's Azure and Bing technologies, and then went on to Salesforce where he last served as chief customer technology officer.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.


Larry Gadea

CEO and co-founder, Envoy

When it comes to hybrid work, let's be honest: People don't know what to think. Are two or three days a week in the office the sweet spot? Are five days a dealbreaker? We repeat what we hear others say or go with our gut, but how do any of us really know?

This is the first real national conversation we're having about work flexibility after one of the most catastrophic world events. Now companies are dealing with the pressure to come up with long-term plans and answers before they've had a chance to try things out and see what works. Leaders should be confessing, "We're not sure what the plan is yet," but no one wants to hear this. We need to be OK with some uncertainty and, at the same time, stay flexible for everyone.

As people return, each company should look at its data to see what's needed and what the people prefer. What I'm currently seeing based on Envoy customer usage data of around several hundred Desks-using companies is that companies are adapting their spaces, opting for open over permanent desks. They're giving folks options to book desks or meeting space when needed, and based on data of who's coming in, they're adjusting their policies.

Right now, work is getting done remotely and people are allegedly more productive than ever. But many aren't enjoying their jobs as much because they're missing a sense of community and inherent culture that'd have otherwise been automatic in an office. Proximity matters. It's important for teams to be together physically, and making that actually happen now takes intention. You need to organize people coming back into the office, in specific places and on one schedule. You need the right tools that simplify the mundane office tasks of hot desking, finding meeting rooms, managing office capacity and syncing schedules so teams can sit together, connect, get creative and, you know, bring some humanity to an otherwise day-to-day job.

Hybrid work has its logistical challenges and will look different for each company, but it keeps the culture alive and the community strong for people to do their best work.

Erin Figueroa

VP, Operations, Slack

During the pandemic, the way we work fundamentally changed — and there's no going back. Employees don't want to return to pre-pandemic office-based work culture, but they also don't want to remain fully remote. Instead, they want an entirely new working model that combines the best of both worlds. Research from Slack's Future Forum shows that 93% of knowledge workers want flexibility in when they work, while 76% want flexibility in where they work. But employees don't want flexibility at all costs. Instead, they want flexibility within a predictable framework. Two-thirds (65.6%) want a balance between full flexibility and a predictable framework.

Successfully making this transition depends on moving from office-centric infrastructure to digital-first infrastructure. Being digital-first is about meeting your employees' needs and helping them do their best work. It means empowering people to work when and where is best for them, with physical offices serving as just one of the tools available to support collaboration. For example, while Slack will always support the needs of those who require individual space, we'll be focusing the use of our physical offices on work that is team- and customer-centric.

Having employees working outside of central offices for extended periods or on hybrid schedules may be difficult because we can lose those organic, spontaneous connections that occur in passing and help foster a sense of community. But by prioritizing digital infrastructure as much as physical — leaning into digital tools like Slack and asynchronous communication to ensure workers have flexibility they need to do their best work — we can create meaningful connections and foster community for employees regardless of how or when they work.

Nellie Hayat

Head of Workplace Transformation, VergeSense

The abrupt shift to work-from-home globally in early 2020 has forced most organizations to adopt remote work. It meant providing laptops, offering allowances to set up a home office and allowing people to self-manage their schedule (to accommodate caregiving obligations and other COVID-related challenges). But what companies did not anticipate is that employees would not want to revert back to the pre-pandemic model.

Indeed, after more than 18 months, employees have adapted to the change, they have adopted new habits and they have developed a greater liking for flexibility. They've also started to voice their dissatisfaction with the rigid 9-to-5, five days a week work mode as lacking inclusion, diversity and trust.

In April 2021 alone, more than 4 million Americans quit their job. So what can companies do to retain their top performers and attract the best talent?

  1. Adopt distributed work, offer greater flexibility to teams and provide trust to individuals. According to a recent survey of 10,000 knowledge workers, Future Forum reports that flexibility is now a core benefit and it ranks second to compensation among the factors that employees value most about their jobs.
  2. Build a framework to identify signs of disengagement, burnout, health-related issues, turnover and dissatisfaction. It will allow you to make changes internally to keep employees motivated, happy and healthy.
  3. Invest in renovating existing offices to allocate more space for team work, social gatherings, company celebrations and innovation hubs. Pre-pandemic workplaces were overly designed for individualized work according to VergeSense's report on workplace usage.

Sal Mani

Global Director of Technical Security, Ripple

Remote work has increased swiftly and brought about new ways to structure organizations and workplaces. We see that people want to work from varying working environments and prefer a hybrid approach.

That said, when some people are remote and some are on-site, it becomes harder for hybrid teams to collaborate. Knowing this, companies need to prioritize changing their physical environment and defining remote work guidelines to provide the best team experience.

Now that there are fewer "water cooler" talks and informal walkovers to desks, employees need the ability to create virtual team environments easily. Companies will need to create spaces that allow for quick collaboration and decision-making. We can foster casual conversation by having more video conferencing pop-in rooms or areas that are non-bookable and first come, first served.

Companies may also need to reconfigure existing spaces based on how often they're used and changing foot traffic. Understanding space utilization and taking a data-driven approach will be essential. There may be a shift to desk hoteling or having open collaboration spaces for team gatherings. Regardless, companies will need to focus on making it easy for employees to say that they're coming into the office versus working remotely so workplace teams can plan ahead. Various tools have come to market that can help companies understand who's coming in and space usage while providing a great experience for employees.

We also need to provide learning and training on remote-friendly best practices. Companies should create a playbook and provide training to ensure successful collaboration between remote and in-office employees.

Protocol | Policy

What can’t Jonathan Kanter do?

Biden's nominee to lead the DOJ's antitrust section may face calls to remove himself from issues as weighty as cracking down on Google and Apple.

DOJ antitrust nominee Jonathan Kanter's work as a corporate lawyer may require him to recuse himself from certain cases.

Photo: New America/Flickr

Jonathan Kanter, President Joe Biden's nominee to run the Justice Department's antitrust division, has been a favorite of progressives, competitors to Big Tech companies and even some Republicans due to his longtime criticism of companies like Google.

But his prior work as a corporate lawyer going after tech giants may require him to recuse himself from some of the DOJ's marquee investigations and cases, including those involving Google and Apple.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Enterprise

Couchbase plots escape from middle of database pack with $200M IPO

The company has to prove it can beat larger rivals like MongoDB, as well as fast-growing competitors like Redis Labs, not to mention the big cloud companies.

Couchbase celebrates its initial public offering on the Nasdaq market.

Photo: Nasdaq

At first glance, Couchbase appears to be stuck in the middle of the cloud database market, flanked by competitors with more traction and buzz. But fresh off a $200 million IPO Thursday, CEO Matt Cain relished the opportunity ahead to prove why his company can beat out rivals the market considers more valuable.

The NoSQL database provider's public offering helped propel Couchbase to a $1.2 billion valuation. But unlike one of the last big data-related IPOs, market leader Snowflake's historic debut on the public markets last December, Couchbase has some work to do to differentiate itself.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

People

SPACs are so Q1 and other takeaways from a disorienting year in IPOs

Amid the frenzy of tech IPOs this year, a few surprising discoveries stand out.

Through it all, the house always wins.

Image: CSA Images/Getty Images

2021 is shaping up to be a disorienting year for tech IPOs. The first six months brought us the Alex Rodriguez SPAC, an $85 billion Coinbase debut and a mysterious delay in the Robinhood S-1 filing that was ultimately cleared up when the firm paid a token fine.

Amid the recurring frenzy, it's easy to slip into a familiar pattern of analysis: Wait for an S-1 to drop, react to the financial disclosures, then see whether the stock "pops" after its trading debut. By the time one stock starts trading, several tantalizing new S-1s are already up for inspection. The problem with this cycle is that it stops too early: A stock's opening-day pop only really reflects the extent to which a few overworked investment bankers underestimated investor demand. A pop makes for headlines. It doesn't make a company.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
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