If Away co-founders Jen Rubio and Steph Korey eventually take their luggage startup public, they'll know how to celebrate. 

The co-founders rang the Nasdaq opening bell Tuesday July 2. While an IPO isn't yet in the company's plans, Away has hit a number of milestones in the past 12 months: the startup raised $150 million in funding, became profitable, and reached unicorn status with a $1.4 billion valuation in May. Rubio is also one of the subjects of Inc. magazine's July/August cover story, in which she shares how the Away team responded to a ban of lithium-ion batteries for carry-on suitcases imposed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. Inc.'s editor in chief, James Ledbetter, joined the co-founders in the ceremony.

So why did Rubio and Korey make their Nasdaq cameo? The stock exchange is positioning itself as a partner to companies throughout their lifecycle--before and after a public offering.  "At Nasdaq, we embrace and celebrate visionaries, game changers and those who ignite their passion to do more," says Karen Snow, Nasdaq senior vice president and head of East Coast listings and capital services. 

"Nasdaq has always been so supportive of our company and startups in general," says Rubio, who co-founded Away in 2015. "It's awesome that people are seeing more diversity and different cultures on platforms they haven't seen them on in the past." Rubio was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. at age 7. 

This year has seen a rush of initial public offerings. In the first six months of 2019, Nasdaq launched 97 IPOs, including ride-hailing startup Lyft, video communications company Zoom, and plant-based burger-maker Beyond Meat. The New York Stock Exchange also has had its share of high-profile IPOs, including ridesharing giant Uber, virtual bulletin-board company Pinterest, and workplace-chat business Slack, which opted for a direct listing rather than a traditional IPO. More are on the way.

While Away may one day aim for an IPO of its own, Rubio says the company has work to do before being ready to tap the public markets.

"We're still a very young business," says Rubio. "Right now we're focused on creating the infrastructure that could support our being a public company."

The company's plans include growing its retail presence from seven stores to more than 50 in the next three years, strengthening its international presence, and expanding its product line. An IPO, however, is "something that we think could absolutely be part of our future," Rubio adds.

Published on: Jul 2, 2019