Textio lays off 30 amid COVID-19; Seattle startup hopes its AI writing tech will aid all job seekers

Textio’s Seattle office. (Textio Photo)

Textio, the Seattle startup whose augmented writing platform helps companies use language that attracts the right job candidates, laid off 30 employees on Friday, or 20 percent of its team.

Co-founder and CEO Kieran Snyder told GeekWire that the reduction was a result of the uncertainty that lies ahead in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The cuts leave the company with about 120 employees.

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“As we think about what the year ahead looks like, I think there’s a broad shift for us,” Snyder said. “Obviously we make software that helps organizations hire and I’d say that hiring in many places is very, very active and in several other places is slowing down, just in response to the COVID-19.”

Snyder referenced the record 3.3 million Americans who filed for unemployment last week and said that part of the 6-year-old startup’s ability to wrap its head around the entire situation will be understanding what it can do to help talented people find jobs.

“We’re in a position where we see that we have some technology that can help with the other side of the equation. We’ve been supporting employers for such a long time, there’s some opportunity to support job seekers in this environment,” Snyder said of the desire to quickly implement new features in Textio’s AI-powered natural language processing technology.

Job seekers using Textio would be encouraged to better understand how language they use best represents them, their skills and their interests in the job market. It’s about making an effective case personally, in a way that Snyder said companies have had to do for the last five years.

Snyder elaborated more in a string of Tweets on Friday:

The desire to act fast, not just to help her own team members, is the right thing to do, Snyder said. But it doesn’t lessen the pain of what she was dealing with on Friday as a company leader.

CEO Kieran Snyder and some of the Textio team on stage at the 2019 GeekWire Awards in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

“It’s painful. How could it be anything other than painful?” she said. “You build a group of people who are passionate about language and culture and impact and improving the state of the world. And those relationships aren’t just about work, people joined Textio because they believed in what Textio was creating.

“I think for a lot of people on the team, it isn’t just a job and for me as a leader, they’re not just people on the team,” she added.

Snyder and co-founder Jensen Harris launched Textio in 2014 after working on productivity tools at Microsoft. The company raised a $20 million Series B investment round in 2017 and SEC filing from earlier this month noted that the company was raising new funding.

Textio was among the startups featured in a recent GeekWire story about how Seattle companies are adjusting to remote work amid the COVID-19 outbreak. And this week they released new features aimed at addressing language bias related to ageism and ableism.

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