Atlas Informatics cuts staff as Napster co-founder’s startup sharpens focus on universal search engine

Credit: geekwire.com

Atlas Informatics CEO Jordan Ritter. Photo via Atlas.

Atlas Informatics has cut nearly a third of its staff.


Atlas CEO Jordan Ritter, who was previously a co-founder of Napster, confirmed the layoffs in an email to GeekWire on Monday. The Seattle-based startup now employs 23 people, down from 34 this past November when it raised a $20.7 million investment round.


The company’s software acts as a personal search engine, running in the background on users’ computers to capture an encrypted record of their activity across different apps and services. The idea is to help users quickly locate information within files, emails, and other personal data.


Atlas came out of stealth mode in November 2015 as the first company spun out of Seattle startup innovation studio Ivy Softworks, also started by Ritter. The idea for Ivy Softworks was to create an “innovation studio” — not an accelerator or incubator — that keeps the same employees together to work on product after product.


As Ritter explained to GeekWire in 2014, in his view, it was inefficient to spend time recruiting a whole new set of A-team players or finding new office space every time a new business idea emerges.


When Atlas first spun out of Ivy Softworks, all of the employees from Ivy Softworks shifted to work for Atlas. Last year, Ritter said that Softworks “has been put on pause for now, but the business continues to exist.”


Now, Ritter says its “full focus is on Atlas.” Here is his statement.


As you know, we’ve been in a transition from a product-oriented innovation studio to a lean, business-focused startup. To complete the transition we let go 10 of our valued colleagues, whose dedication and efforts I’m tremendously thankful for. Our recruiter is working with them to find their next role, many of whom will be securing opportunities in the next week. Our full focus is on Atlas, which we launched in open beta into November, and we have since received a strong reception from users, media and the market. This positive feedback has validated our approach to personal search, and accelerated our development of contextual suggestions, a new kind of technology that intelligently suggests what you need in the moment and proactively organizes your digital life for you.


A web archive from January shows 11 employees who are no longer listed on Atlas’ “about” page, including several engineers and a product designer who had been at Atlas for more than three years. The company has no open positions on its jobs page.


This past November, Atlas raised $20.7 million from Microsoft, Aspect Ventures, and Nathan Myhrvold, the Intellectual Ventures co-founder and former Microsoft CTO. Microsoft invested on behalf of the company itself, not its Microsoft Ventures arm.


At the time, Atlas also released its first product, Atlas Recall, in open beta for Mac users, along with an iOS companion app. The company is also working on a Windows 10 version of the product.


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