NEW YORK – In late February, Bertrand Yeung, like many of his coworkers, took to social media to celebrate his firm's recently closed Series A funding round.
"Very excited to announce that we at Spatial Genomics closed a $56M Series A, which will help us achieve commercialization of our proprietary seqFISH technology platform," he wrote in a LinkedIn post. "So excited to be part [of] a great team at such a pivotal moment in the company's history!"
But less than a week later, Yeung — who was the company's director of strategic partnerships — and at least eight of his colleagues found themselves out of work and looking for new jobs. The layoffs included several scientists and even commercial executives, including VP of Marketing Brian Fritz and VP of Operations Nicholas Scheidler.
"Four days after the funding came in, my entire San Diego worksite was laid off because of a unilateral decision from our CEO," Ali Divan, formerly a staff scientist at Spatial Genomics, wrote in a LinkedIn post on Monday.
Scheidler confirmed he was laid off, but otherwise declined to comment. Other former employees did not respond to requests for comment.
Spatial Genomics CEO Kirsten Frieda declined to comment on the discrepancy between the layoffs and the company's statement last week that it planned to use the new funding to "aggressively expand" its workforce in R&D, engineering, manufacturing, sales, marketing, customer support, and commercial operations.
"To respect team confidentiality and privacy, I don't think it's appropriate to comment on specific organizational changes made at the company," she said in an email. "As with any startup, Spatial Genomics must continually review its strategy and the corresponding organizational structure as the company evolves. Sometimes, these evolutions require layoffs."
"Every CEO will tell you these are the hardest decisions to make. At Spatial Genomics, we make these decisions with great deliberation, and always with consideration to all stakeholders — employees, investors, and customers," Frieda wrote. "We are actively growing our team and are laser-focused in delivering on our mission to reveal biology with spatial genomics."
According to LinkedIn data, the company had at least 30 employees — possibly including the laid-off staff members — and grew by approximately 50 percent in the last six months.
The company, which has locations in Pasadena, California, and San Diego, is commercializing spatial gene expression analysis methods developed at the California Institute of Technology. Fulgent Genetics led the Series A round, joined by 12 West Capital and other investors.
"My teammates and I often worked long hours, came in on weekends, and because of the work we did we raised $56M in Series A funding," Divan wrote on LinkedIn. He went on to allege that "we were let go before any of us could be vested to benefit from stock options, even though we built the technology that enabled the company to be successful." He noted that he had been employed at Spatial Genomics since December 2021.
Fritz had been with the company since April 2021 and Scheidler since May 2021.
Spatial Genomics currently has 13 job advertisements on LinkedIn, including a listing for a head of human resources, which has been open for a month.