UPDATE Dec 19: 8i has now confirmed it will lay make deep job cuts.
In a statement to Variety, which picked up on NBR's exclusive last week, the Kiwi-American VR hologram company says up to half of its staff will go in a restructure (8i told the Hollywood trade title it has 70 staff; it told NBR 80).
Consultation continues. The redundancies are due to be finalised mid-way through next week.
EARLIER Dec 13: Staff brace for restructure at 8i
About 80 staff at virtual reality software startup 8i are bracing for a restructure, which is expected to be finalised early next week.
NBR understands layoffs are on the cards at the company's offices, which are split across LA and Wellington, as 8i repositions.
The company’s vice-president of engineering, Owen Evans, announced his departure on social media overnight.
Mr Evans would not comment, referring queries to 8i’s head of communications, who also declined to comment.
Sources say the shape of the restructure is yet to be finalised – but cuts could run deep.
The three-year-old company raised $US27 million ($NZ37.6 million) earlier this year in a Series B round supported by Time Warner and a number of celebrity investors, including actor Ashton Kutcher and Madonna's manager, Guy Oseary.
That took its total funding to $US41 million following a Series A round in 2015 that included RRE Ventures, Founders Fund Science, Horizons Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Dolby Family Ventures, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Sound Ventures, Signia Venture Partners, Inevitable Ventures, Freelands and Advancit Capital. Earlier seed investors included Ice Angels.
8i’s technology allows a customer to create a “hologram” or 3D volumetric representation of a person so, when you’re wearing augmented reality or virtual reality goggles, it feels as if they’re in the same room.
The company has big ambitions but, at the moment, like other VR/AR startups, it faces a market that’s been relatively slow to adopt VR and AR headsets that allow its software to be viewed.
A falling out between 8i co-founders Linc Gasking and Sebastian Marino has also complicated matters.
Mr Gasking alleged Mr Marino stole confidential information and breached a non-compete clause when he left to found Uncorporeal Systems in 2015.
Mr Marino – who argued 8i can’t penalise him because the company itself is in breach of contract for failing to pay him money he says is due – gained the upper hand in a preliminary Employment Court hearing in June, setting the stage for the case to go to a full hearing.
This morning, Mr Marino said he could not comment. NBR understands the case has now been resolved amicably.
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