- Cameo laid off 87 employees on Wednesday, which was about a quarter of its staff.
- After rapidly adding users during the pandemic, the company’s growth slowed, experts said.
- The laid-off employees expressed stress and anger as they began looking for new jobs.
On Wednesday, after Cameo laid off about a quarter of its workforce, the startup’s CEO, Steven Galanis, sent a company-wide message to its remaining employees.
“I’m nearby and available all night if anyone wants to chat 1X1,” he wrote, sharing his cell phone number with staff in a
post, a copy of which was seen by Insider.
Galanis also took to Twitter and LinkedIn to reflect on the “brutal day,” tweeting that he had made “the painful decision to fire 87 beloved Cameo Fameo members” and pitching them as top employees for future employers.
The light-hearted posts did not sit well with several of the employees who had lost their jobs earlier that day.
“I’m stressed. I’m upset. I’m pretty angry,” a former staffer who was part of the firings told Insider. “He’s getting all this positive traction on LinkedIn by announcing that he’s laid off 87 people, trying to handle the bad press. It’s a mixed bag of emotions.”
This former employee, along with five others Insider spoke with, asked that their names not be used to avoid damaging professional relationships. His identities are known to Insider.
Galanis declined to comment, referring Insider to LinkedIn posts from him and Cameo’s chief people officer, Melanie Steinbach.
A second fired staff member said their ability to communicate with co-workers on Slack and email was abruptly cut off after they were told they were going to be fired, a move they felt contrasted with the “Cameo Fameo” message. that Galanis was sharing publicly. .
“It’s like you’re on the street now,” said this person. “You are no longer part of the family.”
A third former employee said there was concern among some staff members about the company spending in seemingly extravagant ways. The company has a “Cameo Villa” that it is renting in Beverly Hills, and company president Arthur Leopold mentioned on Twitter a new office in New York City. Both are apparently costs related to Cameo’s new efforts at events and Web3.
A fourth employee who was part of the most recent layoffs said that while he always thought the expression “Cameo Fameo” was “weird,” Galanis’ message didn’t bother him.
“It’s just startup jargon,” this person said. “I wasn’t personally offended.”
Cameo’s round of layoffs came during a brutal week for tech employees, in which On Deck, Mural, Mainstreet, Vise and Thrasio announced they were cutting their workforce. Last month, Robinhood cut its staff by 9%, while Fast, a once-high-end fintech startup, closed entirely. Venture investors have forecast many more layoffs as startups try to preserve cash amid a suddenly volatile fundraising environment.
“These are not the first startup layoffs we’ve seen, and I don’t think they’ll be the last,” said Mathias Schilling, co-founder of Headline, which led Cameo’s $100 million funding round in March 2021. “While We cannot neglect the human costs of layoffs, we have to recognize that the alternatives to capital efficiency are those that absolve companies.”
At Cameo, some employees saw worrying signs
Cameo’s round of layoffs, first reported by The Information’s Kaya Yurieff, came at a time when the startup seemed to be thriving.
Its funding round last year valued the company at just over $1 billion and included prominent investors such as Softbank and Kleiner Perkins, as well as venture arms Amazon, Alphabet and PayPal.
“Headline led the Cameo C Series investment because our firm recognized how the company was building a unique product that defined the market and witnessed impressive growth,” said Schilling. “We still wholeheartedly believe in Cameo’s vision and recognize the need for companies to balance costs with cash reserves.”
Cameo gained a slew of new users and fans in the entertainment industry as in-person events closed and performers moved online during the pandemic. Earlier this week, the startup even announced a new partnership with Snapchat to connect Snap advertisers with the Cameo talent pool.
But internally, there were warning signs that the company was struggling, four former employees said.
The fourth former employee compared Cameo to Instacart, which gained popularity during the shutdowns but couldn’t keep up with demand when life returned to normal.
“The reality is that the pandemic was 4.5x growth for the business,” this person said, adding that growth slowed last year. “Hiring rate outpaced growth rate.”
Executives have always prided themselves on being transparent, but in the last six weeks they stopped sharing performance metrics at weekly company meetings, three former employees said.
“I knew the company was having financial problems and to be honest I thought if it continued like this probably by the end of the year something like this could happen,” the second former employee said.
In the last six months, people who left weren’t replaced more and more and the company became much stricter about the roles they performed, according to two former employees.
The third former employee said there was also considerable internal discussion and frustration with Cameo’s decision to include “Tinder Swindler” Simon Leviev on its roster of “new and notable” talent, sparking outrage on social media.
Cameo both internally and externally defended its decision to feature Leviev, saying “customers were in control” of the platform, but the third former employee said the trial left them with the impression “this place is a mess.”
It is not the first time that Cameo has suffered massive layoffs
Cameo’s recent layoffs targeted many of its most senior executives, international employees, as well as members of its music and talent marketing team, four former employees said.
Matthew Bailey, the company’s head of UK and Ireland, asked his LinkedIn network if they had advice for “a new opportunity to sink your teeth into.” Another former executive, Sydney Hubbard, noted that her team, the music division, had been hit hard in a LinkedIn post. Other layoffs included the company’s CTO, senior vice president of marketing, chief product officer and chief personnel officer, Protocol’s Janko Roettgers first reported.
A Cameo representative told Insider that the company had awarded eight weeks of severance pay, but two employees who were laid off said they had only received one week of pay.
“I’ve been on the job hunt since yesterday afternoon,” the first former employee said Thursday, the day after they were fired.
“A lot of us have rent and mortgages to pay, kids and all that,” said the second former staff member.
Wednesday’s round of layoffs wasn’t the first time this had happened at Cameo.
Cameo laid off 22 employees in 2019, which the company said was less than 15% of its total workforce at the time. The fifth former staff member referred to that event as “The Red Wedding,” a nod to the infamous Game of Thrones episode where many characters were unexpectedly slaughtered.
“There seems to be a pattern here where they keep overhiring and then just get rid of them,” the second former employee said.