Steph Korey, the CEO and co-founder of luxury online luggage seller Away, is to be replaced by Lululemon COO Stuart Haselden. The move comes in the wake of a scandal about the toxic working environment at the three-year-old startup: last week, a tell-all feature by The Verge laid bare a workplace in which employees were routinely verbally abused in public, paid leave was banned, and understaffed teams were expected to work throughout weekends and late into the night without compensation.
Startup culture is notoriously cut-throat to begin with, and employees in such young, high-growth companies are frequently expected to make financial and personal sacrifices to drive the company’s early survival and success. However, social media today enables workers to voice out their concerns, compare their situations with other people elsewhere, and essentially understand that suffering workplace abuse does not have to be the norm. This also increases the risk that companies--and top executives--expose themselves to by maintaining toxic working environments.
Away’s president and other co-founder, Jen Rubio, has claimed that the scandal is not the reason for Korey’s departure, and that the company had actually been looking into finding a new CEO for the better part of the year. Korey’s replacement, Haselden, havs spent almost five years at Lululemon, the fitness apparel company which has been criticized in the past for an unprofessional working environment.
Away, founded in 2016, was valued at about $1.4 Bn earlier this year after a round of fundraising that netted it $100 Mn. It is not certain whether the company’s valuation will be affected as a result of the scandal.