This week is shaping up to be a good one for female-founded businesses. Today, online fashion company Rent the Runway announced that it has reached a $1 billion valuation, making it the second woman-led business (after beauty brand Glossier) to achieve so-called “unicorn” status this week.
On Thursday, the company announced a new $125 million investment from heavyweights like Bain Capital and Franklin Templeton. These new funds, combined with existing investments, have brought the company’s total raised capital to $337 million, reports Fast Company, thereby elevating its value to a whopping $1 billion.
Rent the Runway’s cofounders, Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman, have now joined the ranks of women who are leading unicorn ventures. Others in the club include 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey, and Stitch Fix’s Katrina Lake. Not far behind these women is young billionaire Kylie Jenner, whose cosmetics company is worth $900 million.
Fleiss and Hyman met while completing their MBAs at Harvard Business School. During their time at school together, the two would meet for lunch each week to brainstorm entrepreneurial ventures. The two launched the company in November 2009, shortly after graduating.
Despite the company’s wild success, its path to profitability wasn’t always a straight one. “It was tough to prove to the investors that this concept was really going to work,” Fleiss told The Muse. “It’s really hard for the 60-year-old men we were pitching to understand the emotional connection that women have with fashion.”
Today, Rent the Runway is the latest proof that female-centered and women-led ventures have the potential to be incredibly successful. In 2018, only 16 of 134 U.S. venture capital–backed companies valued at $1 billion or more had a woman founder or cofounder at the helm. Hopefully, if this week’s trend continues, there will be many more women joining these ranks in the years to come.
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