Saturday 25 May 2019

Irish tech boss McCabe admitted 'poor judgment' with female staff as he built up €1bn company

Eoghan McCabe: The 34-year-old Dubliner works from Intercom’s base in California
Eoghan McCabe: The 34-year-old Dubliner works from Intercom’s base in California
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Who is Eoghan McCabe, the tech entrepreneur who apologised for "poor judgment" relating to behaviour with female staff this week?

The 34-year-old Dubliner is one of Ireland's most successful entrepreneurs, inside or outside the tech industry.

Intercom, the software company he has jointly built with co-founders Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee and David Barrett, is namechecked in Silicon Valley as an industry standard, something very few tech firms anywhere in the world attain. It creates customer service products for companies, like help desk platforms, live online agent chats and marketing automation.

Mr McCabe's big break came when he persuaded Twitter co-founder Biz Stone to invest after meeting for a pint of Guinness.

From there, things have exploded. The company has raised €200m at a valuation of €1bn, with a stock market flotation talked about by industry analysts. It has star backers and star board members, such as industry legend Mary Meeker.

Intercom is also a maverick in that its main product development happens in its huge Dublin office, leaving sales and marketing to its Silicon Valley headquarters.

This is a reverse of what normally happens with other huge tech companies (like €20bn firm Stripe run by Limerick's Collison brothers) that make it on the global stage.

Mr McCabe is based in the company's California office while the firm's other co-founders work from Dublin.

He is described by colleagues as creative and driven. However, he has previously recounted how running a startup is all-consuming, with little respite.

"The concept of work-life balance doesn't even usefully describe the way I live my life," he previously told the Irish Independent.

"There isn't a separating line any more, it's all blended in. I mean, this is my life.

"I love it and it's very fulfilling and I wouldn't rather do anything else but it's not going to be sustainable for decades. It requires a lot. Life gets put on the backburner."

Last week, the US online tech news company 'The Information' published a lengthy article highlighting complaints against Mr McCabe from a number of female staff at the company.

The company's board has initiated a review of the matter. A previous investigation within the company cleared Mr McCabe of wrongdoing.

"In the early years of the company I demonstrated some poor judgment," Mr McCabe said in a statement. "I apologised at the time and have matured as a person and a CEO since then. I'm proud of the respectful culture we've built, and have long believed that people do their best work when they feel truly happy and safe. I fully support the independent review into these matters and our HR practices."

One senior female executive released a statement in support of Mr McCabe.

"Eoghan is an exceptional leader who is visionary and strategic, as well as kind, genuine and transparent," said Karen Peacock, the chief operating officer of Intercom.

"He has built a culture that respects and empowers all people, which is one of the reasons I joined the company."

Irish Independent

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