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WillowTree lays off 12% of workforce

Charlottesville-based tech company WillowTree laid off roughly 12% of its workforce on Wednesday, bringing an end to years of rapid growth.

The full-service app and digital product consultancy, which has laid off about 120 of its more than 1,000 employees, is reorganizing its team for “success,” WillowTree President Tobias Dengel told The Daily Progress.

WillowTree is providing its former employees with a “comprehensive separation package” that includes severance pay, outplacement assistance and health insurance continuation, Dengel said on Wednesday.

“Today, as part of our company’s commitment to continuous improvement and to better leverage emerging technologies to best serve our clients, WillowTree is restructuring its team to be optimally positioned for long-term growth and success,” Dengel said in a statement. “This will further enable us to sharpen our focus on marketing and creative services, digital product development and product delivery, as well as data & AI solutions and consulting. Our company is confident that this evolution will result in a stronger company, optimized for operational agility and velocity.”

A bartender at Jack Brown’s restaurant and bar on the Downtown Mall — a popular hangout for WillowTree employees — told The Daily Progress that she learned of the layoffs through “word of mouth” on Wednesday, prompting the business to throw up a sign reading, “WillowTree Consultation Center—commiserate within.”

Founded by Michael Prichard in 2007, WillowTree’s company size and revenue have grown exponentially in recent years, bring on such clients as Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCare, the NBA, GE, Valpak, Harvard Business Publishing, AOL as well as Charlottesville’s own University of Virginia.

What started as a three-person team grew by the hundreds over the years. The company announced in 2018 it would be adding even more employees and consolidating offices and workers spread throughout Charlottesville into one complex at the Wool Factory.

In 2022, Adweek recognized WillowTree as one of the fastest growing digital agencies in the country.

WillowTree fell under new ownership in January, when Telus International, a Canadian technology company whose 70,000 employees provide IT services to global clients in 28 countries, acquired the company for $1.26 billion, which included $210 million of assumed debt, of which $125 million was settled in Telus subordinate voting shares, according to a story in Virginia Business.

“The intention is to continue to grow their business even more quickly than they already have. And by the way, their business has been growing pretty darn fast already. But with access to our customer base, and our balance sheet, and our technology and our capabilities, we think they can grow even more quickly than they have done in the past, which means more jobs, not less jobs,” Telus International CEO Jeffrey Puritt told NBC29 in January.

WillowTree did not respond to requests for comment about the size of the remaining employees in Charlottesville.

On Wednesday afternoon, a job posting for a principal product strategist position in Charlottesville appeared on the Greenhouse platform. WillowTree also has a job posting for a chief product delivery officer in Charlottesville.

Additionally, WillowTree is hiring a product designer in Durham, North Carolina, and a vice president of program management and product architecture in Vancouver.


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