The co-founder of Rent the Runway saw the fashion-rental service grow to six million customers and a reported $100 million in revenue. Then she realized it was time to walk away.
What should founders be aware of before taking venture capital?
When Rent the Runway first raised funding, we were so excited to get a term sheet from Bain Capital that we signed it right away. We might not have given due time to meeting all the players out on the West Coast. Taking a couple more weeks in those critical moments and exposing yourself to all networks of venture capital can be valuable.
What are some of the challenges that women entrepreneurs face that men don't, and how did you overcome them?
Women often start businesses that address a female need. Rent the Runway is a good example. We were our own customers. The problem is that most venture capitalists are men, so getting them to relate to the problem that you're solving can be challenging. We came up with a good solution: Show, don't tell. We took videos of our trial runs showing the emotional connection women have to fashion, which can otherwise be lost on men. You want to point them in the right direction of your target demographic.
How has being a mother changed your view of entrepreneurship?
The nice thing is that you don't take things for granted as much, and that definitely applies to startup life. When I advise young startups, I tell them not to forget that these are the best of times. These are the memories. Write them down, because this is the stuff you're really going to miss at some point. Last night, I was up for most of the night with my youngest kid, but it was a moment in time, and I know that eventually she will grow up. Drink lots of coffee and try to enjoy the ride.
You're now CEO of Code Eight, a company launched by Walmart's tech incubator. How do you know when it's time to leave your company and start something new?
I compare it to when your kids are ready to go off to college: You realize they don't need you in the same way, and it's bittersweet, but it's a natural next step. It has to be this combination of personal drive--you're excited to go back into the trenches of starting another company--and that the company is ready to let go of you.