Rent the Runway's Jennifer Hyman Gives the Real Truth On Female Entrepreneurs
When I hear the name Rent the Runway words that automatically come to mind are success, game changer and closet space. After all, this "Netflix for dresses" basically solved the whole personal as well as financial crisis so many women face who find themselves invited to numerous weddings, dressy events and heck, just wanting to make their commute to work their very own fashion show. And when I think of the founders, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, coming up with this idea in their 20s, expanding it to include Rent the Runway Unlimited, and closing a $60 million funding round last month, the word ballers comes to mind. But the word that never comes to mind is "adorable" (even though they do offer some adorable clothing pieces.) But that was how one investor labeled their company during an early pitch. In that small word, the entire double standard female entrepreneurs have to face constantly is expressed.
Speaking to Recode's Kara Swisher on the "Recode Decode" podcast, Hyman said after calling their pitch for the company, which already had 200,000 users at this point (it now has 6 million), "adorable", the male investor "took my hand in his after the pitch and said, 'You know, this is just adorable. You must be so excited, you’re going to have all these amazing dresses to wear all the time, it’s going to be so fun for you!'" Bleh. "I was in a state of shock. I didn’t understand if it was a joke," she said. She went on to speak about how much more work female entrepreneurs often have to do to get taken seriously by investors. She explained that female founders need much more hard data to get funding than their male counterparts, who only have to have "a PowerPoint and a dream" to secure capital. While she has "to come in with 15 spreadsheets."
According to Women Who Tech, only 7 percent of investor money "goes to women-led startups." Interesting considering that "women-led tech startups have 35 percent higher ROI when venture backed and generate 12 percent higher revenue than male-run startups." Rent the Runway is a brilliant concept. Think of all the women who use it and how it feeds into our Instagram culture of never wanting to wear anything twice. And let's not forget that it expands your closet on a virtual level ie it doesn't take up any more space. But because it is in the retail/fashion space it faces that "pink company" discrimination, even with a valuation estimated at up to $600 million after its Series D round. And that is why Hyman and Fleiss have to do twice as much work or at least did in the first few years of their business. Paints quite the adorable picture, doesn't it?
Watch Hyman's exclusive MAKERS story in the video player above.
Photo Credit: Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic