If your entire organization is riding on the backs of a bunch of over-worked, underpaid staff... hooo booy buckle up Verge stories are the least of your worries.
This statement speaks volumes about the efficacy of board governance.
Her problems were created by the detailed investigative reporting of an establishment media outlet.
The issue raised by the reporting spoke directly to her abilities as a manager. It wasn’t a scandal about her dating life or standup comedy routines she did in college.
That kind of thing is precisely what the business press is supposed to do, and there’s absolutely nothing at all new about this dynamic.
Not sure it does.
The Board could have gotten caught up in a mob, regained its senses, and started pulling on the reins again. Or blaming Twitter could be the messaging around what was really a compensation (or some other) negotiation.
An incredibly strong signal of how decent someone is is how well they treat people that have no ability to help them. Even a selfish asshole will be charming and kind to the rich and powerful: if you want to see their true colors look how their reports talk about them when they aren't around, or how they treat a waiter who messed up their order.
See Harvey Weinstein.
Look, it doesn't take a genius to know that every organization thrives when it has two leaders. Go ahead, name a country that doesn't have two presidents. A boat that sets sail without two captains. Where would Catholicism be without the popes?
They’re going back to that because it’s how they will get best valuation as shareholders. Not an ego play, a convert shares to more cash play.
The one attractive thing about the away cases is the lifetime warranty, but I don’t know how easy it is to submit a claim.
lifetime warranty is worthless if the company goes out of business, too
Most Americans don't know what the hell Muji is. They only exist in a few coastal cities.
I mean I love my Muji stationery and pens (0.7), and I always describe it as Japanese Ikea to people, and they get it. But they don't advertise.
I’ll take that over a battery that I: have to remember to charge, can’t use unless traveling, and have to remove to gate check my carryon, any day.
Just received it last month, and build quality seems excellent. And judging from the positive Kickstarter comments so far, I can't wait for my next trip. :)
It's quite a bit more expensive than the Away case, but the large back-wheel and push mechanism felt super innovative and provide a very tangible improvement to quality of life for steering the case around in streets compared to existing designs, whereas the Away case at the end of the day is just a regular old suitcase with slightly nicer materials (I own one but plan on selling it off soon if this one holds up in practical use).
I've looked at lots of options for carry-on luggage, and most are heavy enough to significantly eat into the 7kg or 8kg allowed. Honestly, I can't imagine moving away from the simple backpack I used; it's light, and I can carry 8kg easily for any distance (covering laptop, Mac Air, and misc other items). By carrying everything, I can go anywhere I can walk, and don't have to worry about pushing / pulling some box on wheels around.
These kind of mega-expensive luggage 'solutions' mostly seem to be for people who like showing they can afford such things.
I knew I'd seen it before - it's basically a laundry cart. Obviously different build quality but the innovative 60 degree handle and large back wheels? Laundry cart.
The alternative is that she runs the company into the ground on the backs of her employees and courts PR disaster after PR disaster. It's a dangerous game to play -- in this climate, bad PR is still PR. But she's going to be in the hot seat now, and one slip up that the court of public opinion doesn't like, and she's going to be back to square one.
"By curing cancer or going to space?"
I'm curious about the story of this update. Original reporting claimed Erin Grau identified as a person of color (near context of "“The stuff you said was hateful, even racist. You no longer have a job at this company.” Emily, who is a person of color, was shocked. “That was jarring — three white people telling me I was racist,” she says.")
Did Erin Grau previously identify as a person of color at time of reporting? Does she no longer identify as a person of color as a result of this article? (I saw her get a lot of ridicule online because she very much looks white.)
So from her perspective the lesson to learn here is to keep the company's dirty laundry out of the media. I suspect the culture will become even worse at Away, but more secretive. Monitoring people's Slack messages. Scolding people in places without a paper trail, etc.
I have no particular insights or opinions on the matter; I do think it's worthwhile context, given this development.
Interesting times. Social media is dictating countries, and companies governance. Of course, before internet there was media (newspaper etc) which used to do that.
But in these times people or rather mobs have got that power - for better or worse.
Social media is dictating countries, and companies governance
Twitter is mob rule. Regardless of whether or not Twitter disrupts the Illuminati, it's not a great alternative.
It went to Twitter. And I think 'investigative reporting' is far too generous of a term as it evokes images of good journalism. This was a click-bait hit piece detailing a bunch of nothing.
What a work culture.
If one needs to terminate someone, and they catch some negative attention on Twitter, blaming Twitter for the termination would be both convenient and fake. The reason wasn’t actually Twitter; that’s just the messaging.
If your target market is American teenage boys and some Qatari old men really, really hate you their feelings are public sentiment too but you shouldn’t care in the slightest. Likewise what journalists think should be irrelevant compared to what customers think.
I think the point is that it isn't a 'public sentiment'. Public sentiment would imply some sort of representative sample. Twitter people engaging in Twitter mob behaviour is not representative. It's like calling the Campus students freakouts when some conservative speaker visit, as 'public sentiment'.
>You have also bought into the framing the company has used to make itself seem like the victim by referring to "mobs" having power,
That's exactly what it was. It wasn't a balanced view on this CEO or company culture. It wasn't even that bad. I remember reading the Verge article, and thinking "Meh". There was one circumstance when the team was asked to work New Years Day in return for getting a month off. Everyone would make that choice. But OK, Korey clear set high expectations and created a culture where working a high number of hours was encouraged - is that bad? "Meh". It's an interesting case study but a investigative report from the The Verge is overkill.
And this is another aspect to this story, this mob behaviour was triggered by 'The Verge', itself a billion-dollar conglomerate owned in part by NBCUniversal, another global media conglomorate. 'Public Sentiment' indeed.
Is this really true? It seems like social media has a relatively limited impact on companies/countries on any scale longer than a week. Most social media outrage seems to just result in an apology by the company and perhaps some weak action, and everybody forgets about it a few days later.
Remember when the whole internet collectively tried to stop the FCC from repealing net neutrality? Or Article 13? Or the constant complaints about demonetization of content on YouTube? Internet mobs never seem to get anything meaningful done.
- 2009 Moldova civil unrest, claiming that the elections, which saw the governing Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) win a majority of seats, were fraudulent
- 2009–2010 Iranian election protests, also known as Green Revolution and Facebook Revolution, following the 2009 Iranian presidential election
- 2010–2011 Tunisian revolution, also known as Jasmine Revolution and Wikileaks Revolution, in which the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ended after 23 years
- Egyptian Revolution of 2011, in which the regime of Hosni Mubarak was ended after 30 years
Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine, beginning in November 2013.
But that's not how the system works. You need to vote with your feet - you don't like it, leave and let them know you aren't going to put up with it. Without that, we're all just arguing about what's ok and what's not. Don't complain, vote!
Plenty of companies play the game of "hire employees, treat them like crap, when they leave hire new employees by misrepresenting what the company is like". The labor market is huge, and you can always find new employees that don't know your previous employees.
So you could argue "If you don't like what the company is doing, don't shop there!" But unless current/former employees speak out, the market (consumers, investors) won't necessarily know "what the company is doing" and won't penalize them.
In this case, employees spoke up, and a whole bunch of people who read the Verge (who are probably in the "luggage buying demographic") decided they didn't like what the company was doing and voiced their concerns stating they would no longer buy the company's product. The board fired the CEO, this apparently satisfied many customers, now they're walking it back and I guess we'll find out how the market feels about it.
But I don't see anything wrong with this approach as long as the reporting is well done (and in this case it was).
Ruling by mob means the treatment is unfair across companies. I think people should argue for laws that are broadly applicable when the market fail. And in this case I think the market (even like glassdoor, reviews, etc) would tank the company's ability to hire it it was not a place people wanted to work.
It's definitely less of a problem for lower skilled jobs. And that makes sense since the labour is a lot more replaceable. But it's also why unions are there to prevent abuse.
I won't pretend to claim the system works perfectly. My point is just that there are levers there already that work pretty well. And we should decide as a society how to play or add levers. Managing by mod is really a dictatorship run by the angriest twitter users. If that's who we want running the show - I think that should at least be put to a vote... I'm definitely against it.
Oh and to really put the icing on the cake she gives a statement saying she's been doing some deep soul searching and reframed all of the issues as just
>“When I think back on ways I’ve phrased feedback, there have been times where the word choice isn’t as thoughtful as it should have been, or the way it was framed actually wasn’t as constructive as it could have been,” she said. “Those are not, in the eyes of our leadership and the eyes of our board, terminal, unsolvable problems.”
Well firstly, the eyes of 'our leadership' appear to be... guess who! And apparently, creating corporate policies to publicly humiliate employees and denying them private spaces to talk is a matter of how she "phrases feedback"? Pressuring workers to work extra outside of work hours and at anti-social hours? Badly phrased feedback. To me this just screams "I didn't do anything wrong but need to handle PR for the IPO".
If you want a well-built aluminum case then Tumi and Zero Haliburton are the way to go (sadly Rimowa went downhill after the LVMH acquisition).
these people are influencers
What's wrong with just building a business that makes stuff, selling and marketing it, hiring people as needed, making a decent profit, and per-chance innovating? But giant globs of venture capital money for luggage, LUGGAGE?
It honestly gets tiring reading about the latest "unicorn" company that's valued at a billion plus despite grossing nowhere near that and never making a profit.
Nothing wrong with either approach imo, but the ridiculous valuations are a separate and, yes, exhausting problem. I'm not sure why people even seek insane valuations - maybe VC push them into it or something? I don't know.
Because the founders get to keep more ownership of their company. If I take an investment of $100 million at a $1 billion valuation I own 90%. If the valuation is only $500 million I only own 80%. Why the company needs such a huge investment is a fair question but the insane valuation makes sense.
At first that would be the case, but as the valuation drops (and becomes more realistic) wouldn't the founder lose shares, and the VC would gain more control due to non diluting shares?
One of my favorite examples: https://signalvnoise.com/posts/2585-facebook-is-not-worth-33...
I think the real answer is the VC model works well for some cases, and bootstrapping is OK too! Both have their downside! Many VCs will tell you this directly. No need to get religious about it.
Also, I think that the total addressable market for luggage vs. a Black Hawk are very different.
Quarterly. That’s a lot of luggage. Also you can’t easily replicate a Blackhawk from the same factory and slap a badge on it.
Unsure of the margins, but there seems to be plenty of wiggle room, and contracts run into the 10s of billions for major buyers like Saudi Arabia.
This is a merry-go-round of printed money and the game is to get yours before the ride stops.
If you sort of wave your hands and say "whatever" to that description what it means is "profit" compounded by "profit".
DTC cuts out all the middle retailers' profit points.
"Brand" lets them charge a premium for their product on an ongoing basis.
You can buy a very comparable piece of luggage off of AliExpress  for about half  of what Away is selling theirs for, which means that at volume Away is probably getting a 3x to 4x markup. The profit of branding.
If you're looking for something to compare Away to, look at Lululemon (revenues of $3.7 Billion in 2019). I'm sure they're nowhere near that currently, but the venture capital bet is that there's at least a 1/10 shot of them reaching that sort of level.
1 - https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000472391335.html
2 - https://www.awaytravel.com/suitcases/bigger-carry-on/navy
Like would you compare a Canada Goose jacket with it's dupe at Hollister and say they're "comparable"?
It's not like Away is an artisanal product that's going to be used for decades. It's just half-decent luggage with a fresh look. It's OK as a product, but the aspirations of their leadership and investors is WAYYY oversized.
Nothing wrong with that, or enjoying a great jacket in the process. But it's clearly a signal of wealth.
Mentally adjust the cost that Away is paying per item up 20% if that makes sense to you, but the point is that this is a product with big margins that Away is pushing even higher as a result of their brand.
Like how an identical pair of sneakers can roll out of a factory but the one with a swoosh on the side is able to sell for 10x.
Otherwise, this would just be another simple luggage company.
With that all laid out, Graham's flippant comment that companies can "safely ignore" backlash against such business practices strikes me as callous and out-of-touch, particularly given his role in the venture-funded system which fosters such conditions in the first place. Another dispatch from the world of rich guys that would have the rest of us slaving away in China's 9-9-6 model , interspersed in their feeds with reports of the little moments with family and friends that they'd rather we exchange for a few extra percentage points on their returns.
I did. Let's not overstate it.
>The Away management team comes across as manipulative and maximally exploitative at the expense of their employees' well-beings, topped off with a CEO intent on forcing her abysmal work-life balance and sleep schedule on the rest of her staff.
This comes across the same way the Verge article does. Namely, it feels like you're just looking for things to be offended by. The specifics are minor and trivial and interesting enough as a case study but certainly not interesting enough as a national story about some great wrong-doing.
Here's a random excerpt:
"Employees say she swore during interviews, cackled at people’s jokes, and took new hires to lunch, telling stories about her own mistakes. Once, during an interview, a woman remarked that she was drawn to Away because she was a millennial and it was a millennial-friendly product. “I’m a millennial, too,” Korey said. Later, that same employee was told by her manager that Korey had referred to the team as a bunch of “millennial twats.”"
I'm not sure what relevance 'cackling' at jokes is (though it evokes sexist tropes) but outside of that, COME ON. That's just pilling on hoping something sticks because it's all a big pile of nothing.
There is also an anecdote about Korey shutting down a private slack channel because of toxic and racist messages and reprimanded the employees in question. The story backs this up by referencing messages that called out 'cis white men', but the article then spins it as: "“It just became really obvious that this happened because someone white and powerful got offended,” says the customer experience manager, Lindsey." ... yeah. I think I'm with Korey on this. She made the right move.
"The day before Valentine’s Day, Korey decided she was going to stop the team from taking any more time off. In a series of Slack messages that began at 3AM, she said, “I know this group is hungry for career development opportunities, and in an effort to support you in developing your skills, I am going to help you learn the career skill of accountability. To hold you accountable...no more [paid time off] or [work from home] requests will be considered from the 6 of you...I hope everyone in this group appreciates the thoughtfulness I’ve put into creating this career development opportunity and that you’re all excited to operate consistently with our core values.”"
Conversely, why is The Verge pilling on with insignificant allegations?
I didn't ignore anything because there were no serious allegations AT ALL. All the allegations were in the same spirit. Yes, even the one you cited. I'm not defending Korey as a great manager. I'm just not seeing a national story here. The fact that what you cited is provided without context is also telling because the entire article is written with one anecdote after another - with a very loose narrative woven in.
And by the way, pto (not to be confused with vacation time) and wfh, are usually a privilege. Some places do not let you do either. What is this great harm that was done when these perks were denied that required national attention (again, not saying Korey is great manager, or Away was a great place to work - but far from terrible. Have you worked at, for example, a factory?)
End of the day it’s just a glorified Internet forum. Would you oust a CEO because 1000 Reddit users commented against them in a thread? Not likely but it’s about as relevant in the real world as a twitter outrage mob.
Not commenting on Away CEOs actions specifically. Just saying that hardly anyone has a twitter account. Hardly anyone with an account actually uses it and out of those who do use it most of the content is driven by a small group of actual addicts of the platform and shouldn’t really be taken as seriously as it is.
It’s not the real world, it’s a lens that magnifies a tiny and specific sliver of the world and gives it false credibility beyond what it actually has.
Do you think they're also review writing addicts who shouldn't be taken seriously or do you think one should take what they write seriously while making a purchase decision?
PS - Not trying to compare deciding who to keep CEO vs. making a purchase. Genuinely want your opinion.
Those people are (former) customers. They gave you money and might do it again. Their opinions have real relevance. A journalist’s opinions only matter insofar as they are a customer or their writing changes the behavior of customers.
Reading the article it does seem she's remorseful about her behavior.
> Ms. Korey, at one point nearly breaking down in tears, said that the month since the article was published had been a tough lesson about management — and herself.
Hopefully she does learn from this and can change her behavior.
But the Twittersphere is fucking bullshit, any small deviation from their standards of perfection and you're the scum of the earth (e.g. Chris Rock's tweets from years ago) that has to be banished from society.
Then again, it seems they're selling luggage for the Instagram generation, where the USP is the lifestyle (it's fucking luggage, how sexy can you make it?). In that market the court of online public opinion sadly does matter.
I think it's the use of brash language.
TL;DR maybe if this was ExxonMobil, some controversy on Twitter would be easy to shrug off. When you're a small Internet-focused company that's trying to sell a niche audience on your aspirational products, being savaged on Twitter and half the trendy Internet seems like terribly bad news.