Hubba faces personnel changes as company continues pivot from enterprise to independent retail


Hubba recently laid off nine members of its staff, BetaKit has learned. The layoffs took place across departments, including marketing, business development, and engineering, leaving the company now sitting at 45 people.

BetaKit confirmed the layoffs with Hubba CEO Ben Zifkin, who cited a need to re-invest in its machine learning, engineering, and data teams.

“We’re turning on our operational revenue model and as we do that, we really need a different type of structure. And that, unfortunately, meant changing around the team and realigning it, and letting some people go and reinvesting in a whole bunch of other jobs,” Zifkin told BetaKit.

CEO Ben Zifkin has been holding both the VP of product and engineering roles simultaneously while rebuilding the company’s roadmap.

According to one source familiar with the matter, developers at the company have been unhappy due to a lack of leadership. Posts on Hubba’s Glassdoor page support that claim, with one stating that since former CPO Johnathan Nightingale left the company in May, the company’s product and engineering focus has suffered (disclosure: Nightingale is one-half of a writing team that regularly contributes to BetaKit).

According to Hubba’s careers page, it is also currently seeking a VP of engineering and hiring for several developer positions. The company did not have a VP of engineering before, and this new role was confirmed about a month ago.

Zifkin told BetaKit that Hubba has not seen attrition in the developer department beyond these layoffs, but acknowledged that a lack of leadership has created challenges; Zifkin has been holding both the VP of product and engineering roles simultaneously while rebuilding the company’s product roadmap. A Hubba spokesperson confirmed today that since BetaKit first spoke with Zifkin, the company has hired at least three new employees in the engineering and development departments.

Asked why it’s taken nearly a year to find a new CPO, Zifkin said that it’s difficult to find senior talent in Toronto experienced in scaling marketplaces and building networks. The company has also been focused on changing its product offering over the last year.

When BetaKit reported on the company’s Goldman Sachs raise in December 2016, the company acted both as a platform for brands, distributors, and vendors to manage product information, and a Discovery Network that allowed smaller, independent brands to get on the radar of large retailers like PetSmart. Zifkin said that the company is now focusing on the emerging craft brand market, helping them find distribution in stores through matchmaking and developing its ability to let buyers order directly through Hubba. Shifting away from its old model, Hubba has kicked large retailers like Unilever off the platform.

“We started seeing this world of independent retail, and our brands didn’t want to necessarily get into Walmart,” Zifkin said.

The company said that it just hit product-market fit in September 2017, and has now gone back to its hunt for a CPO and VP of engineering. “Because of our network, we have the Lego building blocks of the core data, structured and unstructured. And then we have all the relationships that sit on top of that. And we’re only going to get more, so we’re at 100,000 companies now, we’re going to get close to one million companies in the next several months. It’s massive amounts of data and a huge engineering challenge,” said Zifkin.

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.