Remote Year, which helps you work while traveling the world, lays off 50% of staff

Natasha Mascarenhas

Remote Year wants to help people travel around the world and keep their job while doing so. The Chicago startup relies on the idea that “great work can be done anywhere.” And to prove it, it brings people to 12 cities in 12 months, all while they’re working full-time jobs. Think co-working spaces in Ljubljana, code from bungalows in Thailand and workshops from rooftops in Istanbul.

Needless to say, Remote Year’s core business relies on wanderlust, disposable income and the ability to travel. 

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, founder Greg Caplan told TechCrunch that Remote Year has laid off 50% of its staff. The layoff impacted roughly 50 roles on the sales, marketing and product side, and comes less than six months after the company raised a $5 million capital investment from LightBank, which brought its total funding to $17 million, according to Crunchbase data

“The borders sort of froze up with the virus and a lot of our folks decided not to travel and go home,” Caplan told TechCrunch. “Half of our revenue dried off in a couple of days, and there’s no end in sight when this situation may change.”

The startup says it still has runway from its last capital investment. Layoffs are expected to more largely hit the tech travel industry due to the global pandemic and people staying inside. Earlier this week, travel savings startup Service shut down operations, citing the pandemic and economic downturn. 

Remote Year charges between $2,000 and $3,000 a month for its travel programs per person. This includes travel to and between destinations, private rooms and activities. Caplan said that Remote Year staff has always been a distributed team, and by nature of industry, it was “monitoring” COVID-19 for over a month before the onslaught of cancellations and news.

“But monitoring it and talking about it was very different [from] what has unfolded in the last seven days,” Caplan said. 

To help the employees that were laid off, Caplan looked inward. Remote Year has always had a three-person team that connects people to remote jobs. That team will be helping its former colleagues through 1:1 coaching, resume interviews, interview preparation and contract negotiations. He urges other founders to do whatever they can to “humanize this” global pandemic, and reach out if needed. 

“We’ve actually heard from a couple other companies that want our help finding remote jobs for employees,” Caplan said. “We’re not sure what that means for our business, but we’re going to think about how we can help.”