Rocket Fuel is the primary emblem of this trend. After telling investors in Q1 that it would seek more efficiency in its operations, the company conducted a big round of layoffs this week, dismissing 129 employees or about 11% of its staff in a bid to shave annual operating costs by $30 million. The headcount reduction followed a wave of exec departures, including CEO George John, EVP John Nardone and VP of global partnerships David Skinner.
Meanwhile DSP Triggit, a much smaller company than either Turn or Rocket Fuel, sold to Gravity4 last month after burning through the last of its cash with no financing prospects in sight. It's a very different situation, but points to the same basic market reality.
"If you're an investor, you've been in this thing a long time and are still losing a lot of money," said one investment banker source with knowledge of the company's circumstances. "It's a reflection of the industry."
Turn disputes this narrative, saying it still has a substantial chunk of the money it raised 14 months ago and has achieved its growth projections for the first quarter. And it recently hired Wendy McGregor as chief revenue officer, its first c-level sales hire.
But meeting growth projections may not be enough in the current environment.
"Gravity is reasserting itself here," said a second investment banker source. "A few people have gotten struck by the Oracle/Google lightning bolt, but realization is setting in among all the others that they have to deliver profitability."