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Tellme cuts 10 percent in strategy shift

The voice portal cuts 29 workers as part of a reorganization plan to focus on business customers rather than consumers.

Voice portal Tellme Networks cut close to 10 percent of its staff as part of a reorganization plan to focus on business and telecommunications carrier customers rather than consumers.

A spokeswoman said the layoffs, a total of 29 workers, were not related to financial difficulties at the company. Tellme has "lots of money in the bank," or enough to take the company to profitability in two or three years, she said.

The company has received significant financing in the last year, including a $125 million funding round last October. Recently, Tellme signed AT&T Wireless as a customer for its service.

The company is "reorganizing around new revenue opportunities that we see as strong for us," the spokeswoman said. The company also is adding jobs in new areas, making the net loss of positions near zero, the spokeswoman said.

Tellme, like BeVocal, Quack.com and other "voice portal" companies, provides basic Internet-style information such as news headlines, sports scores and traffic information over the telephone. Using voice-activated commands, customers browse through the information given as they would online.

Tellme's executive staff and investor ranks are drawn in large part from Netscape Communications and Excite@Home veterans. The company's advisory board includes venture capitalist John Doerr and Netscape co-founder Jim Barksdale. CEO Mike McCue also hails from Netscape.

Tellme's service is still operating, but the company has spent much of the last few months selling its services to big companies and telecommunications carriers. Competitors have also moved in a similar direction: BeVocal has concentrated on winning telephone company customers in recent months, and AOL Time Warner acquired Quack.com.

Most of Tellme's layoffs were in areas associated with the consumer portal, such as voice advertising services, the spokeswoman said.