Focals creator and Waterloo startup North lays off 150 employees

North only just started shipping its Focals smart glasses to customers a few weeks ago

North Focals

Just after dropping the price of its Focals smart glasses to $799 CAD, Waterloo-based North has announced that it is cutting its workforce by 150 employees.

North initially priced its smart glasses at $999 USD (approximately $1330 CAD at the time of writing). They only recently started shipping to consumers.

In total, North has over 400 employees, which means this cut amounts 37.5 percent of the company’s entire workforce. Prior to releasing Focals, North, then known as Thamic, released Myo, its muscle-sensing wearable.

When the company dropped the price of its Focals glasses last week, it stated that the price shift had nothing to do with poor sales.

North raised $130 million USD to launch its smart glasses, including investment from Amazon, Intel and a variety of venture capitalists.

In a press statement, North co-founder Stephen Lake said that the layoffs are linked to the company’s “long-term” future.

“In order to succeed long-term, we’re faced with some tough decisions,” said Lake. “We decided to lay off a number of employees yesterday in order to focus our resources and ensure we have sufficient runway to execute on our upcoming milestones over the next 18-24 months. This was a difficult decision, but a necessary one to ensure long-term success.”

A now-deleted Reddit post in r/waterloo stated that most of the layoffs at the company are in its manufacturing department.

I spent a brief amount of time testing out North’s Focals at CES this year. While I was impressed with the smart glasses’ ability to deliver at-a-glance notifications, I questioned if they would be able to find an audience.

Update 02/28/2019: The Canadian Federal government has halted investment payments to North.

“We are concerned and disappointed by the announcement of layoffs at North, and our thoughts are with the workers and their families,” said Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains in a recent statement to the CBC.

Back in November of 2018 North received $24 million CAD from the federal government to create 230 jobs.

Source: Reddit