Jen Rubio has something that Uber, Lyft and WeWork would be green with envy that they do not: Away.com, the luggage startup she co-founded, is profitable. Not that she's out to rub it in. She spoke at the Skift Global Forum in New York today and spent time explaining what motivated her to launch a new product in a business filled with stale legacy competitors.
"I saw an opportunity not for a luggage company, but for a travel brand," said Rubio, a Warby Parker alum, at the event. Rubio launched Away.com as a direct-to-consumer travel brand with $2 million in funding after she and her co-founder successfully pitched investors before they even developed a prototype. Today, she's chief brand officer.
Our first chart tracks Away's job postings over time - and they have more than doubled, to over 100 as last count, this year alone. The company raised more than $150 million and generated a $1.4 billion valuation the last time it took capital from investors ranging from Lone Pine Capital, to Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, to entrepreneur and model Karlie Kloss. And, the brand is expanding.
As part of the $1.4 billion valuation and nine-digit fundraising, Rubio and her co-founder Steph Korey began looking into new verticals - ranging from Asian expansion, to clothing, to skincare products. This chart - which tracks headcount as tracked via LinkedIn ($MSFT) - reflects 36% growth so far this year, and accelerated growth since its May 2019 cash infusion. Away's direct-to-consumer business model allows it to cut out other retailers (although it plans to launch a few dozen stores) and the expanded margin is allowing it to take on ambitious growth as a result.
And, social media users are talking the brand up - as our chart above reflects. Better still, Away's secret weapon is its Instagram following, which is greater than its Facebook and Twitter followers tally combined.
But not everyone can maintain Away's trajectory - as another luggage unicorn is learning. After Tumi's 2016 $1.8 billion sale to Samsonite the company saw its Facebook ($FB) Talking About Count spike - to more than double what Away's is today - but it has since steadily and consistently fallen, signaling that its consumers are beginning to tune Tumi out. What remains to be seen is whether the disruptors of the luggage business can maintain their trajectory - and quality - or if their business models have peaked in the current market.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.