Rent the Runway goes public with $1.7 BILLION valuation

The rise and rise of Rent the Runway: Fashion company goes public with $1.7 BILLION valuation after CEO Jennifer Hyman pulled it out of a major decline during the pandemic

  • Rent the Runway began publicly trading on Wall Street at $23 per share on Wednesday, up from a $21 IPO price
  • CEO Jennifer Hyman’s 5.1% wnership stake is now worth about $48.9 million
  • The 41-year-old launched the company is 2008 with Harvard Business School classmate Jennifer Carter Fleiss, who left in 2018
  • The company’s stock has grown over the years and they’ve added new services like a subscription plan
  • RTR has gone through severl rounds of funding, and in 2019 was valued at $1 billion, giving it ‘unicorn’ status’
  • But it lost that status after a new valuation at $800 million in April 2020, and RTR had to lay off and furlough much of its staff and close its brick-and-mortar stores
  • Business is back up this year, and Gwyneth Paltrow joined the company’s board

The pandemic was a rough time for Rent the Runway, which lends customers designer clothing for work, nights out, and special occasions. With special occasions — really, all occasions — on hold, the company’s business tanked in 2020.

But on Wednesday, the fashion-lending brand began publicly trading on Wall Street at $23 per share, with with a staggering $1.7 billion valuation.

The company did even better than expected, capping off the meteoric rise of co-founder Jennifer Hyman, 41 — whose 5.1 per cent ownership stake is now worth about $48.9 million.

Rent the Runway began publicly trading on Wall Street at $23 per share on Wednesday, up from a $21 IPO price

CEO Jennifer Hyman’s 5.1% wnership stake is now worth about $48.9 million

The 41-year-old (right) launched the company is 2008 with Harvard Business School classmate Jennifer Carter Fleiss (left), who left in 2018 but still owns 1%

The debut marks an incredible turnaround from the chaos that began last spring.  

Additional funding had led Rent the Runway to be valued at $1 billion in 2019, and pre-pandemic, their $159-per-mont subscription service was booming, growing faster that 100 per cent per year.

But in early March, as the US began shutting down, customers fled.

Many subscribers, who had made up 75 per cent of business, canceled or paused their accounts. Forbes reported that only 30 per cent still had active accounts by May.

The company went through pay cuts, furloughs, and layoffs, and shut all of its brick-and-mortar stores. During a round of funding in the fall, the company’s valuation dropped to $750 million valuation.

According to Yahoo, their total revenue for the 2020 fiscal year declined 38.7 per cent to $157.5 million, compared to $256.9 million the year before.

But during that time, Rent the Runway also went through some product changes. Hyman overhauled their subscription service, and opened up sales of its used clothing to all customers, even those without a membership.

As more and more people felt comfortable going out again as vaccination rates climbed this year, so too did Rent the Runway’s bottom line, culminating in its IPO this week.

The company had marketed 15 million shares for between $18 and $21, but ended up selling 17 million for $21 each on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, when trading opened to the public, it was up to $23 per share, 9 per cent above its IPO price. 

‘I’m so proud of this milestone day,’ Hyman told the New York Times. ‘We’ve gone from a single dress and a single situation to building a full closet in the cloud that women can access for every occasion.’

Hyman had previously said she would know it was ‘time the IPO for when Rent the Runway will have the best success’ — and she seems to hav efound the right moment. 

Hyman launched Rent the Runway in November 2019 with co-founder Jennifer Carter Fleiss, whom she’s met two years earlier when they were both MBA students at Harvard Business School in 2007

In April of 2019, the co-founders held a pop-up shop at Harvard where fellow students could rent dresses. On November 10 of that year, they launched their website

Hyman launched Rent the Runway in November 2019 with co-founder Jennifer Carter Fleiss, whom she’s met two years earlier when they were both MBA students at Harvard Business School in 2007.

They came up with the idea over Thanksgiving break in 2008. Hyman’s sister, Becky, had spent $2,000 on a dress to wear to a wedding — which put her in credit card debt — and it occured to Hyman that it would be smarter if women could rent designer clothes rather than buy them. 

‘I never said, “Oh, this is a brilliant idea, this is going to be a billion dollar company, we have to do this,”‘ Hyman admitted to the Muse. ‘My reaction was: I had an idea, I thought it was interesting, Jenny thought it was interesting, we thought it was fun, and we thought, let’s figure out if this is a great idea.’

A month later, the women cold-emailed Diane von Furstenberg and set up a meeting. The designer was skeptical, according to their website, but she gave them advice.

In April of 2019, the co-founders held a pop-up shop at Harvard where fellow students could rent dresses. 

It was a success, together, the co-founders raised funding from Bain Capital Ventures and Kleiner Perkins. On November 10 of that year, they launched their website and opened business to the public.

The business continued to grow, expanding stock to include accessories and plus-size clothing. By 2011, they carried more than 15,000 dresses from 120 designers

More and more investors had money pouring in, year after year

The business continued to grow, expanding stock to include accessories and plus-size clothing. By 2011, they carried more than 15,000 dresses from 120 designers. 

And more and more investors had money pouring in, year after year.

In October 2014, the company launched its brick-and-mortar store in New York City, and would go on to open several more.

The company continued to grow as Hyman’s personal life took a turn. In 2013, the then-32-year-old was set to marry former Starwood Hotel executive Peter Mack in a ‘close to one million-dollar’ ceremony at a horse ranch in Aspen, Colorado.

But three days before the nuptials, she called off the 200-person wedding.

I wanted to share the very sad and devastating news that I’ve decided to postpone/call off my wedding this weekend in Aspen,’ she wrote in a message to guests, which was leaked to the New York Post.

Hyman was set to marry former Starwood Hotel executive Peter Mack in a ‘close to one million-dollar’ ceremony at a horse ranch in Aspen, Colorado in 2013

But three days before the nuptials, she called off the 200-person wedding

‘I know you have each made huge commitments of your time and money to come… this weekend, changed summer plans, made vacations out of it and I am so sorry — for everything.

‘I feel horribly to have made this decision so last minute, to have had to make this decision at all and I hope that each of you can understand and support me through what I know will be a very difficult time in my life.’ 

She said there were ‘a number of very important reasons’ why she made the decision, which she would share ‘personally’ in good time.

‘I am extremely saddened by this situation and it’s been incredibly hard for me to get to this point. But, I do believe that it is the right thing for me to do,’ she added. 

Meanwhile, drama unfolded on the work front, too. According to Fortune, there was an ‘exodus’ of employees in 2015, with former employees comparing the encironment to the movie Mean Girls.

In October 2014, the company launched its brick-and-mortar store in New York City, and would go on to open several more

A chief operating officer, a chief financial officer, a chief marketing officers, a chief creative officer, a chief technology officer, a chief people officer, and a head of partnerships all departing in the span of 10 months.

‘The culture is unpredictable and erratic,’ said one former employee. ‘Everyone knew and talked about it amongst themselves, but it was never formally acknowledged. It’s not like there were complaints to HR. People were too afraid. There wasn’t even really an HR.

The employee also said there were ‘frequent screaming matches’ between exectutives.

‘You don’t feel it’s an environment where women support each other,’ said another former employee. ‘It felt like high school, it was very clique-y.’

Another spoke of ‘disillusionment’ and ‘unprofessional’ treatment, while one said: ‘Everyone who leaves there has the same PTSD,’ said another ex-employee.’

Responding to Forbes, Hyman said she thought the company was the ‘opposite’ of Mean Girls: ‘There are no cliques in the office. There is an openess. People feel extremely comfortable with me personally. I have office hours where they can come talk to me.’ 

She also argued that similar things wouldn’t be said about a male company founder. 

There was an ‘exodus’ of employees in 2015, with former employees comparing the encironment to the movie Mean Girls

Rumblings aside, the company continued to grow, with 100,000-plus pieces of clothing, jewelry, and accessories by about 100 designers in 2016

Rumblings aside, the company continued to grow, with 100,000-plus pieces of clothing, jewelry, and accessories by about 100 designers in 2016.

That year, they launched a monthly subscription service — which put expected revenue for the year at $121 million.

In 2017, co-founder Fleiss left the company, holding onto a 1 per cent stake and leaving Hyman in charge.

Things took an upturn after that, and in 2018, she and fiancé Benjamin Stauffer, a film and television editor, welcomed a baby girl named Aurora.

Soon after, the couple — who met on Hinge — married in a ‘super down-to-earth’ wedding at Gurney’s in Montauk, New York.

According to Vogue, Hyman wore a Marchesa dress for the event, which had over 100 guests.

In 2018, she and her fiancé, film and television editor Benjamin Stauffer, welcomed a baby girl named Aurora. They married soon after

Another high came in 2019, following a round of investing that raised $125 million from Franklin Templeton, Bain Capital, and T. Rowe Price — and elevated Rent the Runway to ‘unicorn’ status with a $1 billion valuation. 

Then the pandemic swooped in and shook things up. Hyman laid off a third of her staff, furloughed another 37 per cent, and reduced everyone else’s salaries for three months. 

In April 2020, their valuation was demoted to $800 million after a $100 investment that helped get them through the economic downturn.

The company, which had previously posted 133,572 active subscribers and $256.9 million in revenue in 2019, was down to just 54,797 active subscribers and $157.5 million in revenue.

‘They took a huge hit because if you don’t need to leave your domicile to wear an outfit at a wedding or a prom or a graduation, you’re going to dress in comfortable clothing,’ Shawn Grain Carter, an associate professor of fashion business management at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told the New York Times.

But fortunately for Hyman and her employees, business began picking up quicky in 2021.   

Then the pandemic swooped in and shook things up. Hyman laid off a third of her staff, furloughed another 37 per cent, and reduced everyone else’s salaries for three months

But fortunately for Hyman and her employees, business began picking up quicky in 2021

‘The recovery is happening much earlier and is much steeper than we ever imagined,’ she said

In May, Gwyneth Paltrow joined the company’s board, despite never having used the service

‘The recovery is happening much earlier and is much steeper than we ever imagined,’ she told Forbes in June. ‘Nobody wants to wear anything they wore in 2020.’ 

Revenue increated 39.4 per cent from April 30, 2021 to July 31, 2021, and subscribers (including those with accounts on pause) were back up to 143,464 — even higher than they were in 2019.  

In May, Gwyneth Paltrow joined the company’s board, despite never having used the service. 

‘What’s fascinating is that, in my own way, I’ve been renting the runway for years,’ she told the New York Times. ‘Borrowing a dress from a designer for a single moment at a premiere or an awards show, then giving it back afterward. Now I guess everyone is doing it. But I’ve got my welcome code in my inbox, so I’ll soon be trying it out.’  

As for the future, Hyman said she expects to branch out into other categories, and is open to goods, to shoes, ‘luxury,’ and kids — but she never expects to abandon her company. 

‘I have no desire to sell Rent the Runway,’ she said on the podcast Recode Decode in 2017. ‘I have a 50-year vision for Rent the Runway, at least, to change consumer behavior and actually put the closet in the cloud. 

‘And I think that it actually takes a long time to change consumer behavior, to get us from a place where we’re buying closets filled with things that we don’t use, to a world where you’re being smarter about how you get dressed.’

Source: Read Full Article