Online mortgage originator Better.com has certainly seen better times. Earlier this week, the company announced that it was firing 3,000 employees in the U.S and India, representing about a third of its workforce. The company claims the firings were necessary to cope with reduced loan originations caused by volatility in the real estate market and expected interest rate hikes.
This new round of layoffs comes on top of its infamous mass firing of 900 people over a Zoom call shortly before Christmas last year. Better.com founder and CEO Vishal Garg, accused the laid-off employees of “stealing” from the company by being unproductive. Garg’s insensitive approach to the firing garnered a fierce public backlash, leading him to take a month-long hiatus from his role.
Things didn’t always look so dire for Better.com, which has been around since 2014 and is backed by Softbank. The company announced in May of last year that it intended to go public via a merger with blank check company Aurora Acquisition Corp., at the time expecting growth amid a hot real estate market and historically low interest rates.
But the company posted a net loss of $86 million in a Q2 earnings report of the same year, citing declining margins on each loan as the reason for the dip in revenues from the previous quarter. By the end of the year, Better.com decided to delay the SPAC merger and its backers infused it with $750 million to help it weather the adverse market conditions. This came as a result of the renegotiation of an existing $1.78 billion funding deal that it already had with Softbank and Aurora. The first round of firings came shortly after.
The layoffs aren’t the only sign that Better.com is going through a rough patch. Data collected by our parent company Thinknum on the company’s social media follower counts and hiring trends shows that the company is far from out of the woods yet.
Stagnating social media
Better.com has seen its social media subscribers plateau since the beginning of the year.
Over the years, the company has built a powerful social media presence with over 37,000 likes on Facebook. However, its Facebook likes, which are often used as a proxy measure for followers, have stopped growing since January 2022.
The trend is likely a manifestation of the reputational damage Better.com sustained as a result of the Zoom firing incident. The negative publicity around its toxic treatment of employees has translated into a reluctance among social media users to publicly endorse Better.com with Facebook likes or follows.
The situation is similar with the company’s Twitter followers. After a quick spike on the wave of publicity following the firing scandal, Better.com has seen its Twitter follower count stagnate.
Firing not hiring
Thinknum’s data indicates that hiring at Better.com was at its peak in May 2021, around the time that it announced its plans for a SPAC deal, judging by its open job listings. The job listings data is sourced from Greenhouse, a recruiting software used by companies to collect applications from a number of hiring platforms.
Better.com had a slump in recruitment last June, likely a result of the disappointing company performance that began during that time. Hiring started picking up speed again after that but then took a nosedive in November, an indication that trouble was brewing in the lead up to the renegotiated funding deal and the mass layoff that followed.
The company’s hiring efforts hit a nadir in the beginning of this year. Since then, hiring has been slowly creeping back up, though it remains far below where it was before the layoffs.