Lyft hired 99 engineers from the embattled startup Juno as part of its deal with Gett. They’re all in Belarus. (LYFT)
Category : entrepreneur
- Lyft on Monday announced a deal with Europe’s Gett that involved the shuttering of its ride-hailing business Juno, a small but fiercely loved competitor in New York.
- Ninety-nine members of the engineering team in Belarus will join Lyft as part of the agreement, but another roughly 100 support and operations staff have been laid off in New York, Portland, and Israel.
- Former employees said they were disappointed to see things end this way, but are proud of the work they did with a small team and limited capital.
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Ninety-nine members of Juno’s engineering team in Minsk, Belarus, will be joining Lyft as part of a deal between the company and Juno’s parent, Gett, according to current and former employees.
The agreement, announced on Monday with few details, will give Gett’s corporate customers access to Lyft in the United States. However, Gett also agreed to shutter Juno, a small but fiercely loved ride-hailing competitor in New York.
Aliaksei Minkevich, Juno’s vice president of research and development, confirmed to the Belarusian-language tech blog, dev.by, that the Minsk, Belarus-based team would be joining Lyft.
A Lyft representative confirmed the hires to Business Insider, noting that the team was a Gett team that was working on Juno’s product, and passed along the following statement:
“Lyft reached an agreement with Gett to acquire the team that powered the Juno platform following Juno’s closure. We are thrilled to welcome a skilled group of engineers and tech staff to the Lyft team.”
Despite the hires in Belarus, about 100 staff who work in support and operations roles in New York, Israel, and Portland will be laid off, the employees said.
A representative for Gett declined to comment on the record for this story.
Juno and Gett employees were told the news shortly before it was made public in a press release and in emails to riders and drivers. The announcement coincided with an all-hands meeting in Israel with Gett’s CEO Dave Waiser, an employee said.
For staff in Portland, the changes were particularly jarring given the time difference, and employees were asked to be on extra early Monday, around 7 a.m. local time, another employee said.
It’s not clear how Lyft intends to use newly acquired staff. It’s Lyft’s second European-based team after Munich, as the company chases talent regardless of geography, though executives have repeatedly said it is not looking to expand beyond North America.
The shutdown of Juno is likely a strategic move to cement Lyft’s place as the No. 2 ride-hailing company behind Uber. Financials of the deal, however, remain unclear.
Juno was desperately in need of cash even after its $200 million sale to Gett in April 2017. In the years since, Quartz and Crains reported, Juno was bleeding massive amounts of cash, and hoped to sell itself to rivals.
New rules about driver pay and empty vehicles from New York’s taxi regulator earlier this year didn’t help either. Those new restrictions made it harder for smaller companies to compete. Even Lyft, which is still much smaller than Uber, said in a lawsuit against the Taxi and Limousine Commission at the time — which was later tossed out by a judge — that the rules made it easier for Uber to compete thanks to its larger scale.
Despite this, news of Monday’s shut down hit Juno employees in Israel particularly hard.
“We’ve all hoped for an acquisition to come or a Gett IPO to stream fresh funds into the business and have things take off again like they did just a year ago,” one of the now-former employees told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the deal.
“We knew shutdown was an option but thought it’ll be a bit further down the road,” they said.
Former chief executive Ronen Ben-David departed Juno for an operations role at Wix.com about four months ago, he confirmed to Business Insider. He offered no further comment on Monday’s news.
All told, Juno amassed an incredibly popular following among New York customers through its driver-centric focus while raising less than $300 million, according to PitchBook data. That same friendly focus also meshes with Lyft’s positioning as a socially-conscious competitor to Uber.
“With a handful of people we’ve done what hundreds of employees do at Uber and Lyft and at a fraction of the price,” one of the employees said. “Honestly a shame, it was a great mission that many of us really believed in.”
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