Domio, a startup that offers short-term rentals, has its headquarters in a New York City loft that features beer on tap, a game room and a wall of house slippers for visitors. The fast-growing and unprofitable company has raised $117 million in venture capital, including $100 million in August.
When the coronavirus pandemic caused Domio’s bookings to dry up last month, it laid off staff but did not ask its investors for more funding. Jay Roberts, Domio’s chief executive, said it had no immediate need to raise more money and most likely had enough cash to last until 2021.
Instead, Domio applied for a federal loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, the $349 billion plan to save jobs at small businesses during the outbreak. It received a loan on April 13. Three days later, the program’s funding ran out, even as hundreds of hard-hit restaurants, hair salons and shops around the country missed out on the relief.
Questions about whether the funds were disbursed fairly and whether some applicants deserved them have drawn scrutiny to the aid program. Several companies that got millions of dollars in loans, such as the Shake Shack and Kura Sushi restaurant chains, faced criticism and eventually gave the money back. On Friday, President Donald Trump signed legislation approving a fresh $320 billion to replenish the program, which the Small Business Administration is directing.
Now, scrutiny of the program has reached technology startups like Domio. While many of these young companies have been hurt by the pandemic, they are not ailing in the same way that traditional small businesses are. Many mom-and-pop enterprises, which tend to employ hourly workers and operate on razor-thin margins, are shutting down immediately because of economic pain or begging for donations via GoFundMe campaigns.