Jaunt Lays Off "Significant" Portion of Staff in Pivot to AR

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

The company has raised $100 million from Disney, Evolution Media and other investors to create virtual reality products and content.

Disney-backed virtual reality startup Jaunt has laid off a "significant portion" of its staff as it pivots to creating augmented reality content. 

The company on Monday announced the about-face in a Medium post titled "The Future of Jaunt is AR," which described the cuts as part of plans to wind down a number of VR products and content services over the next few weeks. "We will work with our current clients to deliver our existing commitments and manage this transition smoothly and professionally," reads the post. 

A company spokesman confirmed the layoffs, but declined to say how many people had been let go beyond that it had impacted a "significant" percentage of the employee base. "Today we had to make some difficult decisions in an effort to realign Jaunt for continued success," the spokesman said in a statement. "We are restructuring the company, resulting in letting go of a significant portion of our staff. After these changes the company will be focused exclusively on Augmented Reality and our XR Capture technology, which provides a clear path forward. It was a difficult day at Jaunt as we are losing some of the most amazing talent in the industry, each of whom have individually made groundbreaking contributions to the company and the industry as a whole."

The five-year-old Jaunt launched as a technology company providing VR hardware, but over the years it has made a number of changes to its business as it has sought out the most opportunity in the still-nascent virtual reality industry. Along the way, it raised over $100 million from investors that include Disney, Evolution Media, China Media Capital and Sky. Its last round of funding was in 2015, when it raised $65 million.  

In the post, the company said the change to AR "will allow us to concentrate on driving innovation and value in products that will continue to be at the forefront of the immersive industry and drive the highest long-term company value." 

Jaunt CEO George Kliavkoff left the company earlier this month to become president of entertainment and sports at MGM Resorts, and founder Arthur van Hoff's LinkedIn says that he will stay with the company through the end of the year to help with its pivot.