A top tech firm has sacked dozens of staff just weeks after being named one of the best places to work, as the CEO comes under fire for an ‘infantilising’ email he sent to all employees announcing the sackings.
Alex Zaccaria, the co-founder of Melbourne-based website aggregator Linktree, on Tuesday penned a 1,235-word open letter to employees, whom he patronisingly referred to as ‘Linkies’.
Linktree, a ‘link in bio’ profile service with about 350 million users which is popular with influencers and OnlyFans stars, was dubbed a ‘unicorn’ last year after securing a $150million raise.
But buried in the fourth paragraph of Mr Zaccaria’s mammoth email was the news that 27 per cent of staff in Australia and New Zealand – about 60 people – were being let go as the company intensifies its focus on the U.S. market.
Alex Zaccaria (pictured), co-founder of Linktree, penned a 1,235-word email to staff, whom he collectively called ‘Linkies’, announcing that over a quarter of them were being let go
Buried in the fourth paragraph of Mr Zaccaria’s email (mock-up seen here) was the news 27 per cent of staff in Australia – or 60 people – were being let go as the company focuses on the U.S.
The company was founded by brothers Anthony and Alex Zaccaria and their business partner Nick Humphreys in 2016.
Just last month, the firm was voted the best place to work in tech by the Australian Financial Review.
It was heralded for its employee benefits, which reportedly include $6,000 for each employee to spend on their health and development – or for helping others.
Mr Zaccaria said shedding over a quarter of the workforce was a ‘hard but essential operational decision’.
‘To be able to hire for those roles and further our growth in the U.S., we will be reducing our overall team by about 27 per cent today, primarily impacting Linkies based in Australia and New Zealand,’ he wrote.
Outgoing staff were told they would be ‘gifted’ their work laptops and offered ‘outplacement support and consultation services, as well as generous financial support beyond legal requirements’.
Included in the news of the mass sackings was the announcement that Linktree had just acquired a competitor.
‘Alongside today’s more challenging news, I also want to share a piece of significant and strategically important news – Linktree is acquiring one of the newest, most visually stunning and powerful link platforms, Bento,’ wrote Mr Zaccaria.
Linktree is popular with social media influencers, such as fitness guru Tammy Hembrow (Instagram account pictured)
Linktree allows social media users to create a single page that includes links to all of their online platforms, with the ability to accept payments (Ms Hembrow’s landing page pictured)
He later spoke of his sadness at letting go so many staff and assured them ‘your fellow Linkies care for you deeply and we will be doing everything in our power to support you’.
The tech boss acknowledged many employees would be struggling to deal with the loss of colleagues they ‘care for deeply and respect’ and the firm will hold an ‘all-hands’ meeting on Friday.
‘Friday will be a day for all Linkies to use for processing this news in whichever way works best for them – be it together with colleagues or logged off and out of the office for the day – it is up to each individual,’ he wrote.
Mr Zaccaria, who attended the prestigious Southwood Grammar School in Melbourne where fees are up to $20,000 a year, tried to spin the sackings as an opportunity for growth.
‘Whilst we will be a leaner local team, I want those of you remaining to know how important you are to our next stage of growth. I guarantee you we will not lose our roots as we expand our U.S. presence,’ he said.
He revealed they will be hiring product, engineering and marketing roles in America and are committed to having an ‘evenly distributed team between Australia and the U.S. by the end of the year’.
Despite the importance of the U.S. market, Mr Zaccaria said he and the other two co-founders would remain in Australia.
Mr Zaccaria’s LinkedIn post, which contained a link to his full email to staff, was inundated with recruiters keen to snap up the outgoing talent.
Others were more critical of his style and tone, however.
‘I’m sorry, but why are people praising this post?’ asked content manager Alice Elizabeth Allen.
‘As a business owner, you clearly don’t care about your employees. What a disgusting way to announce that you’re laying off Aussie staff, by also announcing an acquisition?’
Linktree was founded by brothers Anthony (right) and Alex Zaccaria (left) and their business partner Nick Humphreys (centre) in 2016
Mr Zaccaria shared the email in a LinkedIn post, which was quickly inundated with recruiters trying to snap up the outgoing talent. The email also drew criticism for its style and tone
Another said sarcastically: ‘Sorry, guys, we’ve laid off a quarter of our staff, but good news – we’ve acquired a competitor!’
Mark Di Stefano, the media and technology correspondent at The Australian Financial Review, savaged Mr Zaccaria’s email in a recent column.
‘For the T-shirt-and-chino class, sacking workers has become a personal branding event,’ he wrote.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Linktree for comment.
Linktree allows social media users to create a single page that includes links to all of their online platforms, with the ability to accept payments.
Mr Zaccaria’s post attracted criticism, with one senior tech figure mocking the email for announcing staff lay-offs and an acquisition at the same time
One marketing leader said his email made her ‘immediately delete my Linktree account’
For example, fitness influencer Tammy Hembrow has it linked in her Instagram account, which is followed by almost 17 million people.
Clicking to her Linktree landing page takes you to a list of 13 different links, including her Tammy Fit app and YouTube account.
Mr Zaccaria referred to its 350 million users as ‘Linkers’.
Linktree was founded in 2016 when the co-founders, who were running a digital strategy firm called Bolster in the music industry at the time, realised their clients had issues with managing and monetising their presence on different social media platforms.
They came up with the idea for one simple link where you can share everything.
The company has raised more than $200million and was last year valued at more than US$1billion.
But in August last year Linktree announced it was cutting 17 per cent of its workforce.
All ex-employees were offered incredibly generous leave packages, including 11 weeks of pay, just under three months of health insurance, mental health support and free Apple laptops.
Linktree came under further pressure last month when Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg announced Instagram users would be allowed five links in their profiles after previously allowing them only one.
The decision appeared to make Linktree redundant.
At the time, however, Mr Zaccaria rejected this and said on Twitter that users still wanted a separate site to collate all their links.
‘Creators and brands need a space that is both independent of platforms and unifies them; a place where their relationship with their audience is theirs to own,’ he tweeted.
Read the open letter Linktree boss sent to staff revealing lay-offs
I am inspired by the momentum we see from our community each day on Linktree. What started as a small platform to help creators unify their digital identities, turned into the creation of an entire category with more than 35 million Linkers worldwide and 40,000 sign ups a day, growing faster than ever. Our unwavering dedication to our community placed our product in the spotlight, enabling us to transition from a humble co-working space in Collingwood, Melbourne, to a renowned global brand with teams dispersed around the world. It is all of you who have helped this business take centre stage.
We all believe everyone should be able to own their digital identity, grow their community, and make a living from their passions. To empower anyone to curate and grow their digital universe is why we exist. Today we have some hard but essential operational decisions to share with you that will better position the business to continue to grow, focus and achieve its ultimate potential.
The United States is now our largest market with our largest opportunity, and the vast majority of our signups come from this region, meaning it is essential we are able to further expand the team based there. Linktree’s value, impact and rising brand awareness is taking shape in the US, recently welcoming both the White House and the Denver Nuggets to the platform through organic channels.
We have built this momentum to date with very few Linkies based in the US. We need to focus on our growth in the US and hire people with deep experience building products for this specific audience. It is for this reason we are making the decision to move certain roles from Australia to the US across our product, engineering, marketing and design teams. To be able to hire for those roles and further our growth in the US, we will be reducing our overall team by about 27% today, primarily impacting Linkies based in Australia and New Zealand.
If you are someone who is being impacted by this announcement, you will hear from us within minutes of receiving this email. Today’s announcement will impact many of our talented colleagues, and I can assure anyone directly impacted by today’s news, that your fellow Linkies care for you deeply and we will be doing everything in our power to support you.
A More Focused Team
As a business born and bred in Australia, it is difficult for us to have to make these changes. We are so grateful for our Linkies based here at home and around the world that have helped us build this together – those connections and relationships are what makes this such a hard decision.
Whilst we will be a leaner local team, I want those of you remaining to know how important you are to our next stage of growth – I guarantee you we will not lose our roots as we expand our US presence. Nicky, Anth and I will remain based in Melbourne (our home), and plan to spend more time in the States.
While the overall global Linktree team will feel a lot smaller, it will only be temporary. We will be hiring product, engineering and marketing roles with specific US market experience and are committed to an evenly distributed team between Australia and the US by the end of the year. We are also committed to ensuring development and progression opportunities for everyone across the company, regardless of geographic location.
I know not only is this significant news to process, but it is also not the first challenge we have experienced. As such, I want you to know that I am grateful for your continued faith and commitment to this amazing business that we have all built together.
A Strategic Acquisition
As we deepen our focus with a leaner and more evenly distributed team, we also remain super strategic about opportunities that can help us achieve our growth potential. Alongside today’s more challenging news, I also want to share a piece of significant and strategically important news — Linktree is acquiring one of the newest, most visually stunning and powerful link platforms, Bento.
We’ve seen a lot of competitors come and go as the category we created, and continue to lead, exploded. We look at numerous opportunities and rarely do we find a company and competitor that aligns with our strategy, cares for Linkers, and accelerates our growth and vision of empowering anyone to curate and grow their digital universe. Bento stood out above all others for a few key reasons:
Creator and Community Centric Product – creators are at the forefront of Bento, full stop. And you see it in the way they have developed, designed, built and shipped a product tailored to their needs as well as fostered an engaged community. Bento, just like Linktree, puts creators at the heart of the product and is central to its success as a platform.
Visually Powerful – they’ve built a platform based in visual expression and that vision is fully aligned with our strategy and direction as we continue to uplevel Linktree and the category we created.
A Shared Passion of our Category – the Bento team shares our same passion for building products that empower anyone to curate and own their digital identity. We have a shared vision for what our category can be and the impact we can have on creators around the world.
The Bento crew officially joins Linktree on June 19, and you’ll meet the cofounders, Sélim and Mugeeb, at an upcoming All Hands.
To those impacted, I cannot express our appreciation and gratitude for your passion, care, effort and the impact you have made upon Linktree and our Linkers. Thank you. This was not a decision taken lightly, but one that was necessary for the future success of Linktree. For context, the following principles guided our approach:
Stay true to our values
Go above and beyond for those departing
Provide as much support as we can for our remaining team
Always be transparent and open
For those impacted, Linktree will be offering outplacement support and consultation services, as well as generous financial support beyond legal requirements. The next ESOP vesting milestone will also be accelerated and vested, and each individual will be gifted their laptop.
To those remaining with Linktree, I understand it is hard to say goodbye to colleagues you care for deeply and respect. We will gather as a team this Friday AU for an All Hands where we will be diving deep into our immediate and future plans, and will allow ample time for an open Q&A. Nicky and I will also be making ourselves available to meet with both those impacted, and those remaining. Please reach out if you would like to chat.
Following our All Hands Friday morning AU time, Friday will be a day for all Linkies to use for processing this news in whichever way works best for them — be it together with colleagues or logged off and out of the office for the day — it is up to each individual.
I want to assure you the opportunity for Linktree is immense and I am more determined than ever when making tough calls like these, to make sure we make it count. We are still at day one, and the changes today put us in the best position to reach our ambitious vision.