Startup CEO's Slack Messages Did Her In

Steph Korey stepping down from luggage company Away after 'Slack bullying' revealed in Verge report
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2019 9:00 AM CST
Updated Dec 14, 2019 3:00 PM CST

Last week, an explosive expose by the Verge focused on Away, a luggage startup that ex-employees claimed hid a "toxic work culture," despite a cheerful public-facing message of travel and inclusion. In this "cutthroat culture," workers were said to work "exceedingly long hours" and pressured to not take time off, while company executives reportedly "brutally" berated employees on public Slack channels. Especially implicated in the "Slack bullying" was CEO Steph Korey, who was said to be especially harsh on the messaging platform, once calling someone "brain dead" and referring to one of her teams as "millennial twats," sources say. On Monday, Away made a big announcement, per Business Insider: Korey is out as CEO, though the company insists it had been looking for a new CEO as part of its plan for longer-term growth. More on the recent happenings:

  • What's next: The Wall Street Journal reports on the reshuffling at Away in the wake of Korey's departure. Stuart Haselden, COO at Lululemon, will step into the CEO role as of Jan. 13, while company co-founder Jen Rubio will stay on as president and chief brand officer. Korey will remain at Away as executive chairman.
  • An online vow: Korey posted a message on Twitter last Friday titled "Making things right at Away," admitting to her "mistakes" and promising that the company "will continue to work to improve." As for those mistakes, she notes: "At times, I expressed myself in ways that hurt the team. ... I was appalled and embarrassed reading [the messages]. ... I'm sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it. It was wrong, plain and simple."
  • More on Korey: takes a look at the affluent childhood of Korey—the daughter of immigrants from Lebanon and Romania—complete with boarding school and travels around Europe and the Middle East. The roundup also reveals how Away was nearly done in during its early stages by a battery snafu.

  • Prescient interview? Fortune chatted with Korey and Rubio in July about their beginnings, their mentors, and their work hacks, the latter of which Korey addressed with: "I preface every single message I send with a level of urgency and an expected response time, and it's (unsurprisingly) put my team at ease because there are no unspoken expectations." Recode also has a recent interview with the co-founders.
  • Rubio speaks: Korey's partner took to Twitter on Monday after a few days of silence, touting Haselden as an "incredible leader and human being" and promising to be "a more present leader." She adds: "I know we have a lot of work to do to rebuild your trust."
  • A billion-dollar breakout: In May, Away reached a valuation of $1.4 billion—doubling its value from the year before, and what Forbes calls a "big win" for Korey and Rubio. At the time, the magazine estimated each woman to be worth about $130 million.
  • What does this mean for Slack? The Verge calls this a "moment of reckoning" and wonders "how executives may begin rethinking the use" of the messaging platform, which it calls a "type-first, think-later style of communication." The site speculates Korey "won't be the last CEO who wishes she had used Slack differently—or, perhaps, not at all."
(More Slack stories.)

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