February 21, 2024

chiefa professional network designed for women in leadership, today cut 14 percent of its workforce, or 43 jobs, in an email seen by TechCrunch, saying the move was a response to the economy, which is restructuring to Further focus on member experience.

The layoffs hit Chief’s US staff mainly, as the company’s newly launched UK operation is smaller. The company has approximately 262 employees. Those affected received at least 12 weeks of severance pay and continued health coverage. Chief is closing its New York office today as employees process the news.

Lead co-founders Lindsay Kaplan and Carolyn Childers wrote an email to employees explaining the decision. In addition to attributing to the “challenging macroeconomic environment” that has plagued a number of tech startups in the past year, the duo highlighted four priorities for the future of the business: more face-to-face opportunities, personalization to support members, Simplify the digital experience, and finally, go on to “integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into every aspect of the Chief experience.”

The last priority highlighted by the co-founders — building diversity into all Chief experiences — came less than a month after the New York Times published a story Investigating corporate turmoil, according to some members, felt that the Chief should have a voice on social and economic issues affecting marginalized women. Some 33 percent of Chief’s membership base identified as coming from a diverse background, down from 35 percent in October. The company recently had 20,000 members.

At last year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Chief’s co-founder talked about the “extra scrutiny” mission-driven companies receive. “For Lindsay and I, this has been at the forefront of everything we think about when we think about the team and the culture and what we want to build,” Childers said. “We actually feel more because we’re a mission-based company than because we’re female CEOs or founders.”

Kaplan added that the extra scrutiny “isn’t like a ticking time bomb. It’s us making sure we stay on track and practicing what we preach.”

Chief clearly wants employees, members and the world to know it’s focused on the experience. The layoffs come a week after the company announced it had hired another executive: HypeBeast’s former chief experience officer Sujean Lee as Chief’s first-ever chief experience officer.

The company reached a $1.1 billion valuation in three years, having last raised a $100 million Series B round led by Alphabet’s CapitalG in 2022. As with many other companies, the valuation has become increasingly difficult to defend as the market deteriorates. For example, 70% of Chief members see their membership dues top $7,900 per year, paid for by their employer. Now, those same employers are looking for ways to cut costs and lay off workers themselves.

Chief declined to comment on the layoffs and financials beyond the email.