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

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

Trending on Xconomy