The CEO of $250 million startup Ripcord is stepping down after a 19-year-old employee complained of 'objectification, marginalization, and harassment'

RipcordRipcord founder Alex Fielding.
  • The founder of the robotics company Ripcord, Alex Fielding, will step aside as CEO, taking a new role as chief product officer. He will remain on Ripcord’s board.
  • His role change follows an investigation into a former employee’s allegations that she was fired after reporting harassment and a toxic environment at the company.
  • The former employee said Fielding discussed pornography in front of her and made a lewd comment about her.
  • Ripcord says that while its external investigators couldn’t substantiate all the allegations, it uncovered enough examples to implement measures such as enhanced training and more board oversight.

Alex Fielding, the founder of the $US250 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 work environment.

However, Fielding will stay with the company as the chief product officer. He will also remain on Ripcord’s board of directors, which 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,” a Ripcord representative said in a statement. “Our Board engaged external investigators to conduct a thorough review of specific allegations as well as Ripcord’s culture more broadly.”

In early February, the former employee, Perry Coneybeer, published a bombshell Medium post saying her time with the company was characterised by “objectification, marginalization, and harassment.”

Coneybeer said that in one instance, Fielding discussed pornography in front of her, and in another, he made a lewd comment about her. Coneybeer said she was fired after reporting her experience.

While the investigation “did not substantiate all claims that were made,” the representative said, it “highlighted instances of inappropriate behaviour 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 representative said they were 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,” the representative said.

Last year, Ripcord raised $US85 million in four separate funding events from investors including Kleiner Perkins, the Lenovo-affiliated Legend Star, Telstra Ventures, and GV (formerly Google Ventures).

Fielding is a friend and former mentee of the 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 behaviour 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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