Eons Announces Big Layoffs as Company Refocuses on Social Networking: “It Was Kind of Like Survivor.”

9/12/07Follow @bbuderi

It was a dramatic, sobering, but ultimately healthy and air-clearing scene on Monday when Eons founder Jeff Taylor called together his remaining staff and engaged in a moment of remembrance for the 24 colleagues he had just laid off.

That was the word from one of those present, a person who still has his or her job. And, according to the source, rather than demoralizing the remaining staff, as many layoffs do, Taylor’s one-fell-swoop cull of roughly a third of Eons’ employees is being taken as a positive sign. The perception is that the company—bloated in staff, with too many projects taking too many resources—is finally “focusing in on what works and jettisoning all the stuff that didn’t work,” according to our source.

Boston-based Eons is an Internet portal dedicated to “celebrating life on the flipside of 50,” as its trademarked slogan goes. Founded by Taylor, who also founded Monster.com, it was launched in 2006 and has attracted $32 million in two rounds of venture capital funding led by Cambridge’s General Catalyst and Sequoia Capital of Menlo Park, CA. The latest was a $22 million Series B round that closed this March.

As far as we can determine the layoff story was first reported on Tuesday in Mass High Tech. Senior vice president of strategic development Linda Natansohn last night confirmed the layoffs and also confirmed that the cutbacks were intended to help Eons focus its efforts on the areas of greatest traffic, mostly its social-networking and community-building activities.

In addition to the 24 laid-off staffers, according to our source, another dozen people “found different opportunities and chose this time to move on.” If correct, that would bring the total reductions to 36 staffers and might mean the ultimate cutbacks will be closer to half the company than a third. Eons officials declined to comment on our query about the additional 12 staffers.

When the layoffs were made on Monday, “it was kind of like Survivor,” says our source, who notes that staffers were privately told of “big changes going on at Eons today….If you don’t see somebody here, they’re gone.”

In a meeting that lasted more than an hour, the remaining staff was addressed by CEO Taylor and President and Chief Operating Officer Lee Goss. The two laid things out in straight-forward fashion, fielding questions candidly. The group was asked to celebrate their colleagues, and assured that both Eons and its venture capital partners were going to do all they could to ensure the former staffers found good jobs.

Despite any trauma of the layoffs, the retrenching seems to have been a much-needed move. Both General Catalyst and Sequoia reportedly pressed for the changes, saying the company was too big and unfocused.

Eons’ site right now has nine major categories: people, fun, love, money, body, lifepath, obits, games, and travel. According to the company and our source, it will no longer pursue areas like obits (offering online obits was a core premise of Eons at its founding) and travel, which are time consuming and costly to keep updated with fresh content. “Obits and travel, they’re just probably going to be spun off,” the source said. “They really need more investment, more concentrated focus.”

Going forward, Eons will focus on the community-building and social-networking aspects of the site, found mainly in its people section, which among other things hosts a collection of blogs and user groups dedicated to topics like games, romance, health, and investing. While Eons as a whole has been struggling, “The community is thriving,” our source says.

“A lot of really good people lost jobs,” the source says. At the same time, “we’re the right size company now for what we’re trying to do, assuming that we do in fact excise these parts of the site that are costing us, or have traditionally cost us, lots of extra energy.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • http://anoneons.com anon

    coming from one of the people laid off … most of this article is bullshit. i’ll bet my iphone 3/4 of those quotes are fabricated …

  • Robert Buderi

    Dear anon,

    I can assure you nothing is fabricated–we don’t work that way here. Maybe for the same reasons you want to be anonymous our source wanted to stay unnamed.

    We are very interested in learning more, and if you would care to talk, please email me at: editors@xconomy.com

    Bob Buderi

  • Mike B

    I bet sequoia is having fun watching their investment go up in smoke. And how about those “awesome” Eons commercials?

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=HhA97pJ8lcg&mode=related&search=

    This is worse than pets.com in 1999.

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  • http://www.thesavvyboomer.com The Savvy Boomer

    The only surprise here is that Eons is the first to wobble given their deep pockets compared to all the other sites that have entered this space in the last few months.
    We boomers don’t need or want our own social networking sites. I posted a rant on my blog about this a few weeks ago if you’re interested in getting a boomer’s perspective.
    http://www.thesavvyboomer.com/the_savvy_boomer/2007/08/another-new-boo.html

  • http://none from the inside

    Obits – as a feature although a good concept – leading to user interaction, driveing page views, building community.. the execution lackluster at best, thin content, poor design, a scattered non-cohesive user experience. It could have been done well.

  • http://greenteaicecream.co.uk Michael Clarke

    Can’t help wondering whether a company with 60 or 70 staff that has a “Senior Vice President of Strategic Development” isn’t in deep trouble before from the very beginning.

  • Nancy

    Eons was settin itself up to sell travel which is fine but as they said very time consuming and hard to keep fresh and updated.

    There are a slew of people who offer trips, travel opportunities who are actual members connecting with other members. Of course there are those who are pushing the MLM type of travel but they won’t last long.

    I hope the downsizing will be the ticket for this company. I have met some wonderful people on the site and enjoy the interaction with others.

    Every company reorganizes and changes this is just a correction in this fun & needed website. Thanks Eons

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  • http://egenerations.com Nathaniel Adam Briggs

    “The toy that 50+ built, but didn’t get to play with..until now.” – this is the internet, and as the author of both eGenerations.com and SeniorsGrandCentral.com I can tell you there is 50+ life on the internet.

    The difference in Facebook, MySpace, eGenerations, and Eons is that every other mention on TV is about Facebook this or MySpace that. Marketing like that pushes crowds.

    The second difference is something I read on another blog is the lack of sex. All one has to do is look at the success of erectile dysfunction drugs, and senior sex studies to see human kinds favorite pasttime is alive and well.

    The fact is that the 50+ demo is 3 times larger than teens, commands between 67% to 80% of the US wealth, and spends more. This equals opportunity…a lot of it.

    Everyone knows that a video showcasing someone ingesting a condiment through the nostrils will draw large 15-30 year old crowds… the question is how do you draw large crowds of experienced adults (50+ give or take).

    The answer lies in trying things. Most likely won’t work. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution (or many), it just means it has not yet been discovered.

    If you look back over the history of the internet’s success stories, many have been rediculous and/or lacking in true value to human kind (good ones out there too, don’t bite my head off here). However the Experience Generations have kinda’ “been there / seen that”, and/or have little interest in much of the rediculousness…es. So a combination of quality, value, and natural attraction is likely the form of the solution – That’s my 12 month theory.

    eGenerations.com is my venture, and on many levels has proved that $300.00 and a years worth of around the clock sweat equity of 1 can produce amazing results. (VC Guys feel free to ring me up – I’m lean and don’t need much).

    Still however, there is much to be done, and even more to be learned.

    That’s my 2 cents!

    Nathaniel Adam Briggs, CEO/Founder, eGenerations.com
    A Worldwide 50+ Online Destination

  • http://www.seniorocity.com Jeremiah J

    Interesting. I just joined a site, Seniorocity (www.seniorocity.com) that has apparently has no outside investment, but they “get it” when it comes to building a community.

    It doesn’t take $ to build a community, it takes listening and responding.

  • everett baker

    They arent trying to niche to save the site they just opened it up to all ages they are going to drive the boomers away because they don’t want to be harassed online, by marketers and people selling sex sites like the problems you have with yahoo games and other chat room environments.

  • http://Eons Sher

    Many members feel that Eons pulled a ‘bait-and-switch’ game when advertising this as a site for those on the “Flip side of 50,” a place for “Boomers: over 50, etc. As of two days ago, it is now a site for those 13 years old and up.

    Reading the information here, and reading the overwhelming disappointment of the members, I still wonder why?

  • P.Nolin

    Already since Eons opened the doors to 13+ they have lost several thousands to other boomer sites.

    Seniorocity.com has gained 950+ members in just a few days.

    Fights have broken out on Eons because the teens are mouthing off and the young girls are hitting on the older guys for money.

    It’s turned into a angry community and I for one have gone to Seniorocity and am very happy there.

  • Cyndy D

    I joined eons in Sept 2007 I have had nothing but good experiences. Sure based on the comments from other users when eons decided to open up the age limit I was concerned and dissapointed like everyone else.Since then I have peeked at other groups and found the younger members very intelligent, highly articulate and a clear understanding of the current issues, they have taught me. I feel better about America’s future. I haven’t really witnessed or heard from others regarding mouthy,bratty kids.

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