Joist lays off 60 employees as company relocates to San Francisco

Joist team

Toronto-based Joist is relocating to San Francisco. While approximately 30 employees have or will soon be making the move to the Bay Area, the remaining two-thirds of the company (approximately 60 employees) have been laid off.

BetaKit was able to confirm the decision with Joist CEO and co-founder Justin Kathan in a phone interview. The Winnipeg native, who relocated the project management platform for contractors to Toronto following the close of seed funding in early 2014, said that the layoffs were due to the significantly larger market size in the United States, as well as employees’ ability to transition to the company’s new location.

UPDATE: BetaKit has continued to report on Joist’s layoffs. Our article providing the employees’ perspective can be found here – Joist’s former employees share their side of the story

“We had to let go of a number of people that were phenomenal people – top talent,” Kathan said. “We had to make the hard decision, based on prior conversation, between who are the people who would be able to make this move with us.”

“To achieve our vision for Joist, we need the best talent in the world. And we just kept running up against barrier after barrier.”
– Justin Kathan

Kathan explained that some of those were unable to make the move due to personal and family reasons, while the rest were due to immigration limitations or the high cost of relocation. Kathan said that only certain classes of employees, or those with the requisite amount of experience are eligible for visas. While the “vast majority” of the engineering and product teams can get visas, as well as the senior leadership team, many other customer-facing roles required years of experience, which was too high a barrier for some of Joist’s staff.

Joist had recently moved into a new 13,000 square foot office on King street, in the heart of Toronto’s startup core, following the close of a second round. “The hard part is that we really believed in the tech ecosystem of Toronto,” Kathan said. “We had long-term plans to build in Toronto.” The CEO indicated that Joist is currently in conversations with locals in the tech community to repurpose the location as a startup and co-working space.

Joist team

“I would come back to Toronto in a heartbeat.”

Kathan also wanted to make it clear that all outgoing employees were receiving significant severance packages, while the company’s HR team was “working directly with them to help figure out the next step.”

The news, however, begs the question of exactly why Joist is relocating to San Francisco. Kathan gave two reasons: senior talent and customers.

“We believed the people on our team are phenomenal team members,” Kathan said, but “to achieve our vision for Joist, we need the best talent in the world. And we just kept running up against barrier after barrier.”

Kathan told BetaKit that the “incredible difficulty” of acquiring senior-level talent in Toronto, precipitated a “hard look” at the company’s options during a recent quarterly meeting. In addition, immigrating the global talent the company was looking to attract was no easier, as Joist struggled with work visas, delays, and remote workers (Joist had recently pinched Shawn Kernes, StubHub’s CTO and VP of Technology, Patrick McCarthy, Red Beacon’s Director of Marketing, amongst others) – a familiar refrain we’ve heard from some of Canada’s most notable entrepreneurs.

With 90 percent of Joist’s customers also located in the United States, Kathan eventually realized that doubling down on a move south made the most sense for the company’s long-term growth. “The U.S. has ten times as many homeowners as Canada, so moving our headquarters was the clear choice for Joist,” Kathan continued, adding that “relocating the San Francisco will enable us to attract more top talent.”

That said, the CEO was also clear that he would “come back to Toronto in a heartbeat,” and looked forward to taking advantage of the available engineering talent here once the company is of a size capable of sustaining multiple offices.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

  • John

    Former employee here…

    The challenge wasn’t the city, it was the leadership team.

    The talent exists in Toronto, people just weren’t applying. Take a hard look as to why and the leadership team will answer a lot of their own questions.

    • anon

      yup, had an interview there and it felt like a frat.. never went back. not surprised they had trouble attracting ‘top’ anything.

    • ShwetaSays

      Such a shame. Toronto has a great start-up community, Shopify, TopHat, Freshbooks, Flipp (where I work) and the strength of each helps the others and the entire community from a talent perspective. I believe there is plenty of top talent in Toronto. AND if Trump wins, many ex-pats will want to come back!

    • Micky C

      Yeah there are a lot of companies doing great work in Toronto. I work at a tech company called Unata as a developer and it is an awesome place to work.
      Hiring quality people is challenging anywhere you go. Toronto has its challenges to attract talented people given a relatively small talent pool compared to SF, but it isn’t so easy to do it in SF either when you are competing with so many big name organizations that have huge salaries and perks.

  • Derek DeHaan

    I gotta tell you that I am saddened by this move. As a joist user AND a San Franciscan the decision to come here is wreck less at best and could be just plain mean. The last thing the non tech SF community needs is another tech company snatching up real estate. Don’t you people read the papers? It’s a sizable slap in the face particularly the photos of brats wearing tool belts. Have any of these people ever even had to take a bath? I love joist but I’m not using it much longer.

  • joesmoe

    They must be flush with funding because they just increased their per-employee costs by $50k or more. If you think it’s hard to find senior talent in Canada just wait until you try to compete with other companies in San Francisco.

  • Jeff

    This article is all lies. Joist perpetually lies. As a Joister, this entire article is a slap in the face, did they think we would not see this? I have never seen a company so poorly mismanaged and treats their employees so poorly. They can try to spin the news however they like, the fundamentals are broken, their motives are broken and the people who pushed for this San Francisco plan are down right evil human beings. The team in Toronto would die for Joist to say the talent was’t here, they should be ashamed to be Canadian. They never planned to stay in Toronto for the long term, they used the home base advantage to crook up numbers for Series A and blind side investors. They have no intention to return to Toronto. Period.

  • james Barrie

    Terrible company with terrible management. Former employee here.. this company treated us terribly with bad motives and just greedy. Glad I left before the layoffs.

  • John

    Would love to hear opinions from some of the #joist60 who were laid off yesterday, rather than just a one-sided statement from the CEO.

    • James

      They’re fighting for survival. None of the people who survived are allowed to talk to the press or former workers. They realize the bad press can destroy any chances they have of a successful SF launch, they’ve hired a PR firm to manage the fallout. a sham is a sham, PR can’t change facts.

  • Dave

    I’ve heard from some, and it was not as neat and pretty a picture as this very Jr. ‘CEO’ paints. I know that they pride themselves on culture and cutting edge employee engagement, but it has more of a cult feel.

  • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

    Sad to see #startup job leave Toronto, particularly in the light of TechCrunch’s story on how Toronto is emerging as a startup force.

    • http://www.socialhrcamp.com Jeff Waldman

      Agree on the first part to your comment. I read the TechCrunch article and while I loved hearing how great Toronto is the article was incredibly flawed as it was based entirely on 1 positive experience with a Toronto-based start-up and 1 conversation with a Toronto-based entrepreneur. Hardly the type of supporting evidence you would need for a credible article.

  • Talvi

    One of the #joist60 but more like #joist80 here. We all saw these layoffs coming – no transparency and secret meetings popping up in everyone’s calendars had us all on edge the last few weeks. What I can say is this: everything will come out in the wash. Moving to SF won’t fix this company, even if they plan on pivoting and changing the model. There are fundamental problems here and they weren’t fooling anyone.

  • Johny

    Ex employee here – The number was actually closer to 80 people. Moving to SF and keeping most of the key decision makes will not fix their problems. The CEO and his management team are very weak and quite deceptive. I think the only reason they are moving is because they rightfully will never be able to hire again. I will give Justin kudos as he is very good at building a house of cards, but unfortunately the house has now tumbled.

  • Jason Cham

    This Article is so biased its unbelievable. As one of the “60” to be laid off (Much more then that almost double) the way this management handled it was cut throat they made us believe this company was in a good state and healthy which we all believed in and reason most of us that were laid off had signed leases on condos or moved from abroad to come work for this company. When asked about the health of the company at a Town Hall where questions are answered on the spot normally the CEO took over 3 weeks providing a answer and now we know why. They do a great job of being fake day in and day out. Lastly, the managers that they kept ( CEO’s Close Friends) should have had the courage to face their team rather then ask for their laptops to be delivered outside of the building morning of. Ever since they brought on Mr Kearnes all he has been trying to do was make this Canadian company not Canadian anymore which he and the other Americans at the Canadian office were successful in doing so.

    Manitoba must be so proud…..

  • Alex

    This article is insulting, everyone at that office bled for Joist, they kept telling us everything is great. What remains is the frat house they’ve always wanted. I don’t even know how the remaining people can still work for a company that ruthlessly fired their friends unethically, then lies to the media and will spin this to their investors. Joist is the greatest start up joke story ever told, its a massive house of cards.

  • Dave

    Whats up guys, SF employee here, could one of you do me a solid and hook me up with the WIFI password?

    Saturday night drinks if anyone is keen? the usual spot.

    • Justin Ginkathan

      Ice cream is on me, first round is on you Dave lol

  • http://www.untether.tv/ Douglas tr0n Soltys

    Any former Joist employee that would like to speak to BetaKit: tips@betakit.com

  • yuduo

    I am a new employee in the engineering team, and I resigned, turned down another offer, moved from Waterloo to Toronto to work for Joist. I was told on my very first day that I was terminated. No one have ever told me anything about this move during the hiring process. Wow… I was looking forward to starting at Joist yesterday, and then I suddenly became unemployed today. Wordless, guys……

    • gggg

      Wow. Just wow.

      Check out #joist60 on Twitter and get another job! Tons of offers from other places are being posted. Good luck!

      • yuduo

        Thanks man.

        • makingBankWithoutJoist

          I’d also recommend getting in contact with some tech recruiters/agencies. There are some really good ones that can find strong roles to fill.

          I got scouted and am in a pretty lucrative position in Mississauga right now

          • yuduo

            Yup. Working on it now.

          • phil

            Shoot me an email; phil@pumpup.com , hiring a bunch of tech roles here!

          • Mark Sterling

            Hi Yuduo,

            Tough break – I work with a lot of clients who are looking for Engineering candidates like you. Feel free to send me an email at msterling@michaelpage.ca if you’re looking for your next opportunity!

    • Adam Guay-Mosey

      If any Joist employees are intersted in another gig in tech space, just across the street, shoot an email to aguaymosey@konradgroup.com. Happy to chat!

    • ShwetaSays

      I’m so sorry to hear that! But remember when 1 door closes….. Feel free to contact us at Flipp. We are growing! talent@flipp.com

    • Allen Lau

      yuduo, Wattpad is hiring. Shoot me an email allen@wattpad.com if you want to chat!

    • Bohdan Zabawskyj

      yuduo, I’m aware of several companies who are looking for great talent (including Mercatus). I’m not a recruiter – I just like connecting people depending on what they are looking for. Reach out to me at bohdan@mercatus.com.

    • Elliot Brenchley

      Hey, if you’re interested in staying in KW, give us a shout. We’re expanding our full stack and front end teams at the moment. holly.kegel@greenbricklabs.com (HR coordinator). Good luck!

    • yuduo

      Hi Guys,
      I was hired as a Salesforce Engineer at Joist, which is kind of rare in the job market. Is anyone interested in hiring a Salesforce Developer?

      Thanks

  • Mark Sterling

    Definitely a tough blow for a lot of great candidates. Please feel free to contact me at msterling@michaelpage.ca. I do a lot of recruitment work in the Tech space for a lot of great Start-Ups.

    Looking forward to hearing from all of you!

  • Randy Ai

    I am an employment lawyer practicing in downtown Toronto. I am very sorry to hear about the news. If you have questions with respect to your legal rights upon termination, feel free to email me at Randy@Randyai.com Thank you. Sincerely, Randy Ai, Barrister and Solicitor, Randy Ai Law Office, Labour & Employment Lawyers.

    • InsiderInfo

      They were given only ESA 8 weeks. No bonus, no good will, no equity pay out, and told they have to sign their agreements by Friday. Very fishy and you should post some tips for them to help fight.

      • James

        Half the team were employees in every legal definition of what makes an employee (they deducted and punished “independent contractors” which you can only do with employees” – as the case was with Uber and they settled) but were categorized as “Independent Contractors” until April, they were forced to sign new contracts saying they employees but were under “probation” for another 3 months, so until the end of June. They planned this from the beginning, so they didn’t have to have a lawsuit when they did this and say “hey you signed a contract” …. forced signed, they changed the pay structure in May without a change in contract either. These employees only got 2 weeks, despite being a week and a half away from passing probation.

  • Jay Wilk

    I interviewed last week and something seemed fishy and very disorganized. Sad for people I know losing their jobs, told it was more like 80 though not 60 and packages are not great.

  • Rick

    yeah — I interviewed with Justin, he seemed more interested in going home, than investing in Toronto. Good luck asshole.

  • Chantelle

    I relocated to Toronto SPECIFICALLY to work for Joist, exactly one week ago. I was laid off along with everyone else within 6 days of working for them! Prior to that I was working in the USA for a few years; I’m now in a position where I have to figure out next steps with regards to my career :/ I’m still unsure why they hired me and brought me down here? I’m also hoping that they pay me for my time there (I worked my hardest to impress them, albeit only a week!)

    • ShwetaSays

      Wow. I am so very sorry! If you want to stay in Toronto I’m happy to chat about Flipp. If you are going back to the US I can connect you with some of my former colleagues. Let me know how I can help!

      • Chantelle

        Hi Shweta! I’m loving this city and it’s flourishing tech community! I’d love to connect with you to discuss opportunities at Flipp!

      • Chantelle

        Schweta, what’s the best means of contact to connect with you?

    • Elliot Brenchley

      Hey Chantelle, oh no! Don’t let a bad experience colour the awesome potential this region has to offer. Give our HR coodinator, Holly, a shout (holly.kegel@greenbricklabs.com). Good luck!

    • yuduo

      I was terminated on my first day at the office lol Just leased a condo for 1 year.

      • Devon Wright

        hey, dont worry. youll find work – lots of great businesses here.

        shoot me an email at devon@getturnstyle.com. we are hiring.

  • Tom Whitaker

    We’re a startup making health & safety easier for construction companies. I’d love to talk to salespeople, developers, and customer support people affected by these horrible tactics by Joist. tom@harnessup.com

  • SFC

    Because hiring is so easy in San Francisco? Seriously, living in SF and being involved in a company and a couple of non-profits, we have to work super hard to hire people and end up being forced to allow remote for super strong candidates.

  • Quietus

    Is there any wonder why cost of living keeps on skyrocketing in SF? Carpetbagger CEOs betraying their own cities, causing brain drain in their own countries, coming to the Bay Area and supersaturating the region further. Have fun recruiting senior-level talent stuffed into 300 sq. foot apartments in the Mission and dealing with the traffic.

  • Casper Wong

    Financeit is hiring, feel free to send an email to casper@financeit.io

  • Jonathan

    What don’t these losers understand. CEO always talked about extreme ownership: no such thing as bad teams only bad leaders. What a phony. A company with shitty senior leadership who are never around are going to build a shitty company. Doesn’t matter what city you move to. Majority of layoffs were done in group setting organized by last name. Unbelievable. Other teams weren’t even aware. Ended up being informed by seeing people leaving the building. Inflated salaries, wreckless spending on booze (thousands every week), CEO getting carried out of bars by bouncers. Company nevery stood a chance.

    CEO slipped at townhall in February and told us only had 16 month run rate. Probably when this scheme was put into place. Hired a new VP of Sales from Utah. He was going to be our savior. Turns out he is going to be running a new call center out of Salt Lake city. Ten are being relocated and all personal friends of Kathan, Sedo, and Kernes.

    So gutty.

    • Elliot Brenchley

      Hey Jonathan, crappy to hear about what’s going on over there. Take solace in the fact that if you’re good, you’ll get snapped up. Any questions, give our HR coordinator a shout, holly.kegel@greenbricklabs.com. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

  • Gary

    HR is now strong arming people into signing the release papers. Essentially not replying to anyone’s emails until you’ve signed.

  • Katrina

    Saddened to hear of these layoffs just up the street. Former Joist team members: Nulogy is hiring for a number of roles, especially in client-facing teams. Drop me a line at katrinak@nulogy.com if you would like to learn more.

  • Alex

    HR is forcing people to sign these ridiculous release papers now. They’re not answering calls, emails and are being evasive with answers. COMPLETELY AN UNETHICAL COMPANY. I’m singing these papers because I’m desperate, but I am pretty sure I am signing away my rights. What a joke. I hate this company.

    • Mike

      Don’t do it….. deep breath…. that’s what they want

      • Alex

        What I’m I suppose to do, they refuse to answer calls, and emails, other people are getting open ended answers that don’t mean anything. I hope the Ministry of Labour investigates them. So fraudulent.

  • Brendan Callaghan

    Sorry to hear this happened to so many people…. I’m hiring sales people…If you are looking for a home based gig I can talk with you….. brendan@orangehrm.com. …

  • TC

    Saddened to hear about all the affected people, hope they get a job soon in our community. On a side note, wonder how much of their funding has been burned with their new swanky 13000 sq ft office / thousand of dollars spent on booze / supposedly ‘inflated’ salaries and now the move to SF to attract top talent? Sounds like a never ending continuous burn of $$$ till you run out.. Wonder what investors are thinking right now?

  • http://www.untether.tv/ Douglas tr0n Soltys

    Hi all following this comments thread. Just a heads-up that we’ve published a follow-up story providing the employees’ perspective. It can be found here: http://betakit.com/joists-former-employees-share-their-side-of-the-story/

  • C

    I interviewed with Joist and the CEO a couple years ago for an engineering role – around 2014. I don’t buy the “can’t find the talent” in Toronto argument. We have incredibly smart people in Toronto. The problem for them is finding good engineering talent that buys their vision. I never bought their vision – and their path to revenue was not clear. I wasn’t sold. After the first interview I never continued on with the hiring process. Startups are hard, they have to make tough decisions, however, making false claims about tech talent in Toronto is inappropriate just because they are unable to sell tech talent on why they should work for the company.

  • James

    Hi Everyone,

    A little late to the discussion here – Simply terrible news – and a real slap in the face to Torontonians. Both Torontonians who (were) employed by Joist in how they’ve been treated, and those who were not and deemed to not be “senior-level talent” in this city. I think its ridiculous to broadly paint the people of Toronto like that…As others have said, maybe it was something to do with the atmosphere.

    I really feel for each of the people that find themselves without a job today.

    I have been researching Joist for the last number of months and was about to embark on the preliminary steps of entering into a partnership with them – no longer. When one door closes another door opens. I will now be pursuing this venture “on my own”. That is to say, if any former Joist employee is interested in discussing and working on a new opportunity, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at forgetjoist@gmail.com

    Beyond that, I wish you all the best of luck – it is just shocking.

    • David

      Sad news indeed James. You’re correct of course in many of your observations. Personally experience tells me, if you cannot find talent” in Toronto, you’re not attempting to look for it. I remember one of their mottos being “pedigree shmedigree”. Sort of puts many things into perspective no?

  • Str8 to the bank

    The only people that shouldn’t have seen this coming were the people that were fired after a few days in the job. Everybody else saw their co-workers being treated poorly even throughout the whole of last year including myself and they continued to work there. Should’ve planned a way out a long time ago as this was the only was it was going to end. Good thing I forced them to fire me by robbing them of 2K in fake leads and if given the chance I would do it again.

    • James

      You were probably terrible at your job, and hence why you got fired. I wouldn’t hire you again.

      • Str8 to the bank

        you were also clearly terrible at your job and hence why you got fired. You didn’t hire me either

        • James

          Joist was fundamentally broken and was a stupid company, so I didn’t get fired; you actually were fired. and I don’t think you “forced them” to fire you, nobody steals money and then “forces” their employer, its more like your an idiot and got caught, because your an idiot. Not many people got fired from Joist, so the ones that did should have never been hired in the first place. HAHA.

  • Nima Nassirian

    Wow. Senior-level talent? Toronto has no shortage of talent. Canada has no shortage of talent. It’s one thing to take away Canadian jobs to the USA, it’s another thing to disrespect Canada and Toronto in the process. As a Canadian, this story bothers me on many levels. Shame.