“In earnings, I’ve been clear about focusing on big accounts, where our AI works best and where there’s a lot of quantity,” he said. Rocket Fuel has recently made a big push to sign on large holding companies and had touted some of its successes in recent earnings calls.
Wootton added that while Rocket Fuel hasn’t yet given any 2017 guidance, the layoffs weren’t a means to achieve profitability. Rocket Fuel’s strategy, as described throughout 2016, necessitated the reorganization and the layoffs, Wootton said, not cost considerations: “The deeper understanding of how these new businesses needed to be run led us into the restructure.”
Rocket Fuel is still hiring engineers – and has 30 open positions, Wooten said. He doesn’t anticipate more layoffs.
“If we meet the plan we have in place – which is a return to growth – it should not require additional layoffs,” he said. “But the caveat is, as we get more focused on where we make our investments, there may be some positions that are laid off as we navigate those other investments.”
He said the cuts get Rocket Fuel to the right size based on its current revenue and its business structure. “It’s part of our transition as a platform company,” he said.
Wootton noted that he’s been through layoffs and restructurings before, during his previous tenures at Avenue A, Microsoft and Salesforce.
“As CEO, it’s certainly hard, but you keep employees motivated through the vision,” he said. “We’re much clearer in who we want to be in the next wave of the digital marketing industry. It’s predictive marketing. Programmatic is boring – it’s automated media buying and planning, and it describes something that’s not useful toward making marketing meaningful. We want to make marketing an accretive experience for consumers, and we’ll do that by working with agencies and brands.”