In February, programmers spent a week in a swanky Santa Monica rental home they dubbed the “Fairbnb,” sprinting to create a functionality that would help the Fair, a short term auto leasing company, better partner with Uber.
As they worked, a chef prepared meals. A masseuse was on hand to physically ease the tension. And some developers offered others Adderall to help the team stay focused, multiple employees who were there said.
Back then, the startup was flush with cash. It had raised $385 million in a Series B funding round two months earlier, in December 2018, led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
Painter, a serial entrepreneur described by employees as a charming visionary, appeared to be on a roll. Fair had gone from a stealth-mode startup in 2016 to an app with 40,000 active users, including a partnership with Uber, in just two years.
Today, those millions are gone. Eight months after the swanky “Fairbnb” retreat, Fair found itself needing an emergency cash injection.
SoftBank, already on edge after a tumultuous autumn dealing with WeWork, swept in last month, initiating an audit, helping the company slash headcount, and infusing an extra $25 million to keep it afloat. Painter relinquished his role as CEO to a SoftBank insider but stayed on as chairman. It’s the first time SoftBank has put one of its own in the top executive role, said a source close to the company.
Business Insider spoke with Painter as well as 12 current and former Fair employees about what it’s like to be a Softbank-backed company in the wake of WeWork. Most declined to be identified, citing non-disclosure agreements.
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