The same week North rolled into Seattle to show off its Focals smart glasses, the company cut a substantial portion of its workforce.
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The Verge first reported that North, the maker of new smart glasses that can send and receive text messages, communicate with Amazon’s Alexa and call a ride from Uber, laid off 150 people yesterday. The company website says it has more than 400 employees, indicating more than a third of the workforce has been let go.
The Canadian company confirmed the layoffs Friday and issued a statement from co-founder and CEO Stephen Lake:
Over the past several years, we grew quickly to bring Focals to market. In the lead up to their launch, we made big bets across R&D, manufacturing, retail and more. Those risks were the right choices at the time, and helped us create a product that set a new bar in our category of everyday smartglasses.
In order to succeed long-term, we’re faced with some tough decisions. We’ve decided to lay off a number of employees yesterday in order to focus our resources and ensure we have sufficient runway to execute on our upcoming milestones over the next 18-24 months. This is a difficult decision, but a necessary one for us to make to ensure long-term success.
I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped us get to where we are, and our team will be doing everything they can to make sure any affected colleagues land on their feet.
As for what’s next – we’re proud to be headquartered and manufacturing in Kitchener-Waterloo and will continue to make it our home. We still plan to grow and build here over time.
North released Focals in November, with permanent showrooms in Toronto and New York City. Customers can only get the glasses following in-store fitting, so the company unveiled a mobile showroom that arrived in Seattle last week to help get Focals in front of more potential customers.
North, which is based in Kitchener, Ontario, about 60 miles west of Toronto, recently slashed the price of Focals, from $999 down to $599. It also just unveiled prescription versions, which cost $200 more.
Under its prior name of Thalmic Labs, the company raised $120 million in 2016, led by Amazon’s Alexa Fund, Intel Capital, and Fidelity Investments Canada. Focals were on display at CES in Las Vegas last month at Amazon’s booth, part of the growing number of third-party devices that incorporate the tech giant’s voice assistant.