When Jen Rubio and Steph Korey started the online luggage retailer Away in February 2016, they had modest ambitions. The pair developed a suitcase with a battery to charge mobile devices and launched a website to sell it.
Three years later, Away is valued at $1.4 billion, thanks to a $100 million funding round from Wellington Management Co. LLP, Baillie Gifford, Lone Pine Capital, and Global Founders Capital that was announced this week. Now Rubio, Away's president and chief brand officer, says that the company has loftier plans in mind.
"When I look back on the early days, I think what fueled our passion and kept us going was the belief in what we were creating and how much potential we saw to transform the travel experience," Rubio told Business Insider. "We started with luggage, but our sights have always been set on much more. As the business scales, so will our ambitions."
This has already been a blockbuster year for female-founded startups like Away, which is the fifth women-led company to cross the $1 billion valuation threshold in 2019.
Skin-care and makeup company Glossier was founded by Emily Weiss in 2014 and announced a $100 million funding round tied to a valuation above $1 billion in March. Jennifer Hyman's clothing-rental company Rent the Runway also reached the $1 billion valuation mark in March, according to a New York Times report. The developer startup Confluent and catering startup ezCater round out the list of female-founded companies that achieved unicorn status in 2019.
"It has definitely been a big year for women in business — if Steph and I can be a part of the case study that proves how valuable it can be to empower and invest in women, I'm all for it," Rubio told Business Insider. "I hope this is just the beginning for us, and for many other women and minorities who have been underestimated or overlooked."
The new injection of cash will allow the company to expand beyond suitcases into a larger "travel brand," Rubio said. The company is exploring new products in the apparel, wellness, and accessories spaces that can help simplify the often mundane travel experience.
"We're excited to figure out how else we can play a role in travelers' journeys, not just focusing on what you use to pack, but also what you might need to bring with you — this might include things like skincare and supplements, or thoughtful apparel for more comfortable travel," Rubio said.
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