The CEO of $250 million startup Ripcord is stepping down after a 19-year-old employee complained of… [Video]

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Ripcord founder Alex Fielding Ripcord Ripcord founder Alex Fielding will step aside as CEO, taking a new role as Chief Product Officer. He will remain on the Ripcord board.This follows an investigation into the company"s culture, after a former employee alleged she was fired after reporting...

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Ripcord founder Alex Fielding

Ripcord
  • Ripcord founder Alex Fielding will step aside as CEO, taking a new role as Chief Product Officer. He will remain on the Ripcord board.
  • This follows an investigation into the company’s culture, after a former employee alleged she was fired after reporting harassment and a toxic environment at the company.
  • The former employee charged that Ripcord CEO discussed pornography in front of her and made a lewd comment about her.
  • Ripcord says that its external investigators couldn’t substantiate all the claims, but that it uncovered enough examples to work to improve the corporate culture with enhanced training and more board oversight.

Alex Fielding, the founder of $250 million robotics company Ripcord, is stepping aside as CEO in the wake of an investigation into a 19-year-old former employee’s allegations that she was fired after complaining of a toxic working environment.

However, Fielding will stay with the company: He’ll be taking a new role as Chief Product Officer at Ripcord. He will also stay on Ripcord’s board of directors. The Ripcord board is already searching for a new CEO.

“We are committed to building a team and company culture that everyone at Ripcord feels proud to be a part of,” says a statement from a Ripcord spokesperson, in part. “Our Board engaged external investigators to conduct a thorough review of specific allegations as well as Ripcord’s culture more broadly.”

In early February, 19-year-old former Ripcord employee Perry Coneybeer published a bombshell Medium post, saying that her time with the company was characterized by “objectification, marginalization, and outright harassment.”

In one instance, Coneybeer alleged that Fielding himself discussed pornography in front of her; in another, he allegedly made a lewd comment about her. Furthermore, Coneybeer said she was fired after officially complaining about these problems — along with the Ripcord cofounder who had stood up for her.

While the investigation “did not substantiate all claims that were made,” according to the spokesperson, it “highlighted instances of inappropriate behavior and aspects of company culture that the Board does not condone and will not tolerate moving forward.”

Fielding did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Ripcord spokesperson said it was handling press inquiries on Fielding’s behalf and not to expect a comment from him.

In addition to the removal of Fielding as CEO, the startup is “taking a number of steps to improve Ripcord’s culture, including but not limited to increased training, reporting mechanisms and Board oversight,” says the spokesperson.

Last year, Ripcord raised $85 million in four separate funding events from investors including Kleiner Perkins, Lenovo-affiliated firm Legend Star, Telstra Ventures, and GV (formerly Google Ventures). Fielding is a friend and one-time mentee of legendary Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, who also invested in the company.

Here’s the full Ripcord statement:

“We are committed to building a team and company culture that everyone at Ripcord feels proud to be a part of. Our Board engaged external investigators to conduct a thorough review of specific allegations as well as Ripcord’s culture more broadly. More than a dozen current and former employees were interviewed, and the Board deeply appreciates their participation. While the investigation did not substantiate all claims that were made, the review highlighted instances of inappropriate behavior and aspects of company culture that the Board does not condone and will not tolerate moving forward. We are taking a number of steps to improve Ripcord’s culture, including but not limited to increased training, reporting mechanisms and Board oversight. Additionally, Alex Fielding will be transitioning from his role as CEO to a new role as Chief Product Officer. The Board is beginning a search for a new CEO and is committed to ensuring a respectful and productive work environment for all Ripcord employees, now and going forward.”

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