Indonesian travel photography startup SweetEscape cuts at least 30% of workforce

Photo by Trevor Brown on Unsplash

Indonesia-headquartered on-demand travel photography platform SweetEscape has laid off a considerable proportion of its employees as it has started to reel from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, DealStreetAsia has learnt.

The job cuts by SweetEscape, which counts Openspace Ventures, Jungle Ventures and East Ventures among its backers, is reflected in the SEAriously Awesome People List, a shared database of startup employees that have been laid off recently in Southeast Asia. Around 46 former SweetEscape employees are listed in it.

The actual number of job cuts in the company, according to one of the people recently laid off, could actually stand at around 80, representing over half of the company’s total staff of around 150 people.

Employees that survived the layoff, meanwhile, have agreed to a salary cut, the source said.

SweetEscape had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publishing.

The startup was established in 2017 to allow consumers to discover local photographers while travelling and to ensure their memories are captured by locally curated professional photographers. It has since raised a total funding of $7 million over two rounds under the leadership of founders David Soong and Emile Etienne, who were also founders of Bridestory, a wedding marketplace startup acquired last year by e-commerce giant Tokopedia.

In its latest round in July last year, SweetEscape raised a $6 million Series A round co-led by Openspace Ventures and Jungle Ventures, and joined by Burda Principal Investments, East Ventures, Beenext, Skystar Capital, and GDP Venture. The startup had then claimed that it was seeing rising traction for its services, serving thousands of customers across over 500 cities with thousands of photographers in its network.

“Its business connects customers to photographers from all around the world, so it is tightly related to travel and events. Because of the pandemic, a lot of customers have cancelled their travels and demanded refunds on their orders that had been booked well in advance,” said a person familiar with the company’s operations.

Apart from holiday pictures, SweetEscape’s website also lists other services such as photoshoots for birthdays, weddings and graduations – all of which are likely to have also been hit by the virus scare, with governments around the world urging the public to stay at home and avoid crowds and gatherings.

To survive the current crisis, our source said the company has started to focus more on its domestic sub-services such as photography services for newborn babies, products and company headshots.

The job cuts at SweetEscape come as fellow Indonesian online travel agency Traveloka has laid off over 100 staff at lower rungs.

Job terminations at companies in the travel industry had been much anticipated in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that has had a ripple effect on the industry all around the world.

In Indonesia, the government has suspended its visa-free policy and has also banned travel into the archipelago from several countries. President Joko Widodo has urged the public to stay at home and vowed to employ force to disperse crowds and large gatherings. The escalated threat has stopped people from travelling for business meetings and events.

The virus scare, however, has had a ripple effect on almost all industries in Indonesia, affecting hundreds of businesses, many of which have been forced to lay off its employees in large numbers.

According to the Ministry of Manpower data, Indonesia has seen as many as 2.8 million people either permanently or temporarily laid off as of April 13 because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.