Trans healthcare startup Plume lays off dozens of workers

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Plume, a startup founded to offer essential online healthcare services to trans people across the U.S., laid off more than two dozen workers in October, several sources close to the company told TechCrunch.

Transphobia is rife within the healthcare industry; it’s one reason why transgender patients struggle to access basic care. Legal barriers are also on the rise. In the U.S. alone, state lawmakers have introduced close to 150 bills this year to restrict trans healthcare.

The need to expand access to life-saving, gender-affirming therapy was apparent when Plume launched four years ago, just as it’s clear today, particularly for folks in rural areas. So it’s disconcerting to see telehealth company Plume, a rarity in the startup world for its focus on serving marginalized people, quietly lay off around one sixth of its workers. About a year ago, the startup raised a $24 million Series B.

A spokesperson confirmed that Plume laid off a portion of its staff in an email to TechCrunch. The spokesperson said the layoffs were part of a decision to accelerate the “build out” of its “fee-for-service business, which will make gender affirming care more accessible and affordable to the majority of the trans community.”

According to Plume, laid-off employees received severance and a “range of support services.”

Plume said it isn’t pulling back its offerings. Today, the startup’s website promotes a monthly membership for trans folks seeking hormone therapy, as well as a one-time fee for letters of support requested by insurers and surgeons. Down the line, it seems like Plume will expand to offer other services for a one-time fee.

One TechCrunch source, who left Plume earlier this year, said they heard about the layoffs from former colleagues. The “writing was on the wall” this summer, the source said. “They definitely squeezed people out early by creating a pretty toxic work environment for myself and other trans folks,” the source added. “It was all a really disappointing experience.”

In response, a spokesperson said the company “strives to be a thriving, supportive workplace and we celebrate diversity.” They added that a cofounder of Plume is trans, and “approximately 70 percent of the team is trans or gender diverse, and reflective of the members we serve.”

Plume cofounder Jerrica Kirkley said in August that the startup has worked with 13,000 patients across 45 states since 2019.

It’s only been about a year since Plume’s Series B. However, many companies a bit further down the VC funding path — middle-aged ones, as reporter Joanna Glasner puts it — are struggling to access funds. It’s considerably tougher this year than it was last year to secure Series C rounds in particular. The slowdown is driving many late-stage startups to “cost-cutting measures such as layoffs,” according to a Q3 Pitchbook-NVCA report. 

If you have information to share about Plume, contact this reporter via email on a personal device — harri.weber at this website dot com.

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