RALEIGHRepublic Wireless today confirmed it was forced to “make a tough decision” and lay off a significant slice of its workforce on Thursday.

The low-cost wireless provider’s CEO and co-founder Chris Chuang wouldn’t disclose the exact number of employees who received pink slips, but sources told WRAL TechWire that it was close to 20 percent.

“We are a close knit group and would like to be as respectful as possible to our team members by keeping such details internal,” he said.

He added that the layoffs were part of an effort “to better align our organization and resources with our growth mission.”

“It is never an easy decision to say goodbye to talented colleagues whom we care about, but these changes enable us to continue to pursue our mission on a profitable foundation.”

The firm is “working closely with affected team members to ensure they have the best transition possible.”

Republic Wireless CEO Chris Chuang.

Sales strong, shifting resources

In the meantime, he says Republic is still on track to realize annual revenues “approaching $100 million.”

Back in 2008, Chuang joined Bandwidth and eventually served in a variety of roles, including COO for more than six years. It was during that time that he co-founded Republic Wireless as a division of Bandwidth, which publicly launched in late 2011.

It was among the first providers of hybrid WiFi/cellular service calling, and by 2016 Bandwidth spun it out with a $30 million cash infusion. Its mission was simple: to provide affordable ways for families to stay in touch.

In 2018, the company rolled out a new device called Relay, a cell-based, nationwide device that operates essentially like a walkie-talkie. It’s billed as an “alternative” to the smartphone.

According to Chaung, Relay sales are not just holding strong but growing: “Revenues have grown at a strong 168 percent (current annualized rate versus 2018), and we are expecting that to increase to over 250 percent by end of year.  Those are strong growth rates by most company standards.”

So then, what’s the reason behind the layoffs?

“This move was about shifting our resources to better align with our current strategy and mission, and sometimes that requires eliminating certain roles and expense, so you can invest in other areas and ways.

“We remain committed to growing both our Republic Wireless business and our new Relay product, a smarter and safer phone for kids, which recently became available in over a thousand Target stores around the country.”

Republic Wireless-iPass deal provides access to millions of Wi-Fi hotspots