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Google Ventures-backed ad startup Trada laying off staff, ‘restructuring’

Layoff Notice

Updated November 19 with a quote from Google Ventures

Google Ventures-backed search-advertising startup Trada appears to have laid off all staff but management, possibly in anticipation of a closure or sale, according to an industry source.

Multiple tweets on Friday indicated that the company is laying off staff:

However, CEO Niel Robertson said the layoffs were simply part of a changing business model.

Trada, which took almost $6 million from Google Ventures in 2010, provides a crowdsourced solution to search advertising. Trada connects companies that want to acquire new customers with multiple paid search experts who can set up, optimize, and manage their ad campaigns. The company makes money when it exceeds clients’ conversion goals.

“I believe the company is either for sale or in bankruptcy — i.e., this is not just a routine layoff,” my source, who wished to not be named, said.

I attempted to confirm with the company itself, but was unable to contact any representatives via Trada’s automated phone system. The company’s Twitter account has not been updated since Oct. 30, and the corporate news page has only one update in 2013 after dozens in 2012 and 2011.

Robertson did eventually reply to an e-mail send to the company’s PR contact, however, with this message:

We did lay off some folks that were part of our business model we will be changing moving forward. We are not shutting down by any means (don’t believe all the tweets you read), quite the opposite.

If the company was indeed shutting down, that would be a surprise. It has raised about $18 million in total from various investors, including $9 million last year, and $1 million from private investors this August — possibly a sign of a cash infusion from insiders. But it has also recently ranked 27th on Inc. 5000’s list of the U.S.’s fastest-growing companies, a positive sign.

Ryan Douglas, who owns a digital agency in Boulder, Colo. — where Trada is located — said in a tweet that it “sounds like everyone who isn’t servicing existing clients is gone.” In response to a follow-up question, he confirmed that the company is now a shell of its former self:

“All sales is gone but acct mgmt is still working existing accts. Dropped from ~65 heads to 11.”

Robertson confirmed that “some folks” were gone, but added in his reply to my e-mail that the company is moving in a different direction, and promised more details tomorrow.

I’ve also contacted Google Ventures for comment, and will update this post with any results. Meanwhile, other Colorado-area companies are already trying to score some newly free employees:

A Google Ventures spokesperson, Jodi Olson, emailed me that the company is currently “running as a profitable business” and simply “did a restructure.

More information:

Google Ventures is the venture capital investment arm of Google Inc. that makes financially driven investments in technology companies. Google Ventures seeks to invest in start-up companies in a variety of fields ranging from Internet,... read more »

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