Intercom co-founder Eoghan McCabe returns as CEO

7 Oct 2022

Eoghan McCabe. Image: Intercom

McCabe, who stepped down from the CEO role in 2020, said he is back to finish what he started.

Eoghan McCabe shared yesterday (6 October) with Intercom staff that he would be returning to the top role at the company.

McCabe – who founded Intercom with Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee and David Barrett in 2011 – will take over the CEO role from Karen Peacock, who will stay on in an advisory role to support the transition.

Peacock was appointed CEO in 2020 when McCabe stepped down following a decade in charge.

This move came a year after McCabe apologised for “poor judgement” in his behaviour towards women employees in the company’s earlier years. An independent review initiated by the Intercom board after harassment allegations came to light in 2019 found that these matters were “handled appropriately”.

McCabe said he had pegged Peacock for the top job when she was hired as COO in 2017, and that he asked her to step up in 2020 because “he was ready for a break” and that “the time finally felt right”.

‘We will go head to head with Zendesk’

In the two years since, McCabe started some “passion projects” and invested in others, including new businesses from former Intercom employees.

“Recently, some of our board members asked if I’d come back and I felt called to finish what I started,” he told the Intercom team.

“I have a very specific vision for what we need to be and what we need to do to get there. It involves going back to our roots, some extreme focus, and a bet that we’ve never been willing to make before: picking a lane and being clear about what we’re not going to do.”

Traynor similarly discussed this dedicated focus in a fireside chat with Silicon Republic CEO Ann O’Dea at Future Human 2022, describing it as moving with the pendulum swings.

“The ‘pendulum swing’ stuff is actually pretty clear: We’re doing this, and then we’re going to do that,’” Traynor explained, noting that it’s more about sustained focus than rapidly shifting from extreme to extreme. “There’s so much more clarity and it’s such an easier message,” he said.

Teasing that further details on Intercom’s new focus would follow, McCabe singled out a specific rival the business is targeting: “We will go head to head with Zendesk.”

McCabe also thanked Peacock for “redefining” work at Intercom and providing “the raw materials we’ll use to build our path to this new vision for the future”.

The news reached Intercom’s global workforce during an all-hands meeting.

The Irish-founded software company, which has around 400 staff locally, recently announced plans to reduce its global workforce by just under 5pc. These layoffs affected 49 people, including 23 in Ireland, largely in HR and marketing roles.

‘Focus’ was also an apparent theme in Peacock’s statement at the time. “We need to prepare for a lower growth market environment where efficiency is even more important, and we need to keep our costs in line with our revenue,” she said last month.

“Over the last few months, we’ve proactively taken steps to reduce costs and ensure we are focusing on the most important things to continue driving value for customers.”

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.