I did not hesitate about being transparent regarding our layoffs to adapt to the hard times but I had no idea it would create such a coverage. The NY Times has a cover story today I hear “To Survive, Net Start-Ups Slow Their Metabolism” which follows Chris Nuttall’s Financial Times Stories “Ready for Downturn 2.0” and “Valley view: Start-ups risk being ‘splatted on windshields” as well as tens of other media sources. There was mostly positive coverage and of course some negative which gravitated around “who needs Seesmic anyway, it is not a good idea”. The doomsayers that say Seesmic will fail have generally no idea about our current traffic figures and did not bother to ask so here they are: we are approaching one million visits a month in Google Analytics and 500 000 videos posted since public launch in may 2008 which I hear is not that bad compared to any online service launch. Most important, we have a very active community on Seesmic.com that is helping us go through the recession by its activity (one video posted per minute in average) and its enthusiasm.
“Slowing down our Metabolism” as Claire Miller and Brad Stone wrote is a very good way to describe what most startups are doing. Should entrepreneurs try to hide they are doing this? No. It will end up in the news anyway, so transparency in bad times is probably a good idea even though I found it obviously very tough. Who wants to be in a NY Story about lay-offs? Should I take the journalist call? Should I accept them to visit Seesmic and take pictures? I know other startups are avoiding all that coverage and refused the NY Times picture. Frankly I hesitated too and I asked my San Francisco based team if they would accept and what they thought about the idea. Everybody was not only enthusiastic but you can tell on their smiles on the pictures regardless of the sad decision and the number of their colleagues who had unfortunately to leave us that they are looking at the future. A few of the Seesmic employees I had to let go already found new job and I am worried, but confident for the rest of my former team which I help when I can.
Looking towards the future and not the past is the most important, being transparent and talking about the bad news helps digest them and keep going. Going through positive and negative cycles is just the normal life of a company, even if we would all like to be able to keep everybody on board sometimes it is just not possible. I would like to thank all my remaining team for their smile and their energy, we will go through this long recession.