Commentary

Former Etsy COO Kozlowski Takes CEO Role At Embattled Blue Apron

Blue Apron and its investors hope a new CEO, former Etsy COO Linda Findley Kozlowski, will help it craft its way out of the direction it has been headed in lately.

“Blue Apron shares jumped 15% to $1.11 in extended trading after the announcement. The stock has fallen 90% since its initial public offering in June 2017 to less than $1, making it one of the worst-performing debuts of the decade,” writes Bloomberg’s Krista Gmelich.

“Once a darling of New York’s startup scene, Blue Apron was an early pioneer in the meal-kit market. But an ill-timed IPO, coming on the heels of Amazon.com Inc.’s purchase of Whole Foods and competition from HelloFresh, have put pressure on customer acquisition costs. The company also had problems at its fulfillment center, which was plagued by delays,” Gmelich adds.

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Kozlowski replaces Bradley Dickerson, who joined the meal-kit company in 2016 from Under Armour and is departing “to pursue new opportunities,” according to the news release announcing the moves. He will stay on as an adviser through the end of the year, though, receiving nearly $500,000 in 12 monthly installments, Maria Armental and Heather Haddon report for the Wall Street Journal.

“Kozlowski, 45 years old, takes over the New York-based company on April 8. Her starting salary was set at $250,000 a year, and she will receive $3 million in stock awards,” they add.

She will be the third CEO in two years. “Co-founder Matt Salzberg was serving as CEO during the IPO, but Dickerson took over just six months later,” writes ZDNet’ s Stephanie Condon. Salzberg is now Blue Apron’s chairman.

“In January, the company beat Wall Street's Q4 expectations, but it acknowledged that its customer base was down 25% year-over-year. Net revenue per customer increased, but the company's total net revenue for the year decreased 25%. Its shares are currently hovering around a price of $1, giving it a market cap less than $200 million,” Condon adds.

Blue Apron had, at one time, been valued at $2 billion.

“Ilia Papas, Blue Apron's co-founder and chief technology officer, is also leaving for new opportunities, the company said. His last day will be in early May, and the company said it has a transition plan,” Danielle Wiener-Bronner writes for CNN Business.

“The company has plenty of competitors, including Germany-based HelloFresh, Plated, Sun Basket and Home Chef, the last of which was acquired by supermarket giant Kroger (KR),” Wiener-Bronner points out. “It’s been cutting jobs in an effort to get back on track. In November, it announced plans to cut 4% of its workforce, about 100 jobs. It was the second time Blue Apron announced job cuts since its initial public offering.” 

At Esty, “Kozlowski helped realize a transformation that grew annual marketplace sales to more than $3.9 billion and revenue to over $600 million in fiscal year 2018,” according to the Blue Apron release. 

“Prior to Etsy, Kozlowski served as COO of Evernote, where she oversaw worldwide operations, managed cross-functional teams across seven countries and led the successful launch of the company’s multi-tier pricing strategy to drive accelerated revenue. Before Evernote, she worked for Alibaba.com based out of Hong Kong.” 

She serves on the boards of Ralph Lauren Corp. and Styleseat, Inc.

“Linda’s exceptional leadership and marketing expertise, as well as her understanding of Blue Apron customers as a long-time customer herself, will help her advance the company towards sustainable, profitable growth,” says Blue Apron chairman Salzberg in a statement.

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