Unicorn Watch: Glossier and Rent the Runway, two female-led unicorns swell the ranks of a rare breed
Unicorn startups - new firms that had attained a valuation in excess of US$1bn - used to be rare enough to justify their name. The term, coined by Cowboy Ventures partner Aileen Lee in a 2013 TechCrunch article, was intended to express three qualities: Rare (at the time, only 0.7% of all startups made it to unicorn-hood); Aspirational (unicorns want, and often do, change the face of the consumer and business landscape. See: Uber); and Magical (A UC Berkeley Professor of Linguistics said, “the term romanticizes techno-companies: takes them from the remote and unintelligible to the magical and even lovable, while also being rare and powerful”).
According to Hiten Shah, “every entrepreneur is chasing the unicorn dream, and the effect is felt throughout the startup world and on the bigger economic landscape.” Since the term was coined, the number of unicorns has exploded, but there is one sort of unicorn that is, perhaps, more deserving of the title. Of the 150 unicorn companies based in the United States, fewer than 20 had a female co-founder.
This week, that number grew by two, as beauty startup Glossier achieved a $1.2bn valuation, and fashion on-demand service provider Rent the Runway secured a $1bn price tag following a $125mn funding round.
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Founded in 2010 by Fortune 40 Under 40 fashion luminary and CEO Emily Weiss as beauty blog Into the Gloss, Glossier is a beauty and skincare line that provides a direct-to-consumer service. Its latest funding round saw the company raise $100mn in a Series D funding round led by Sequoia Capital, alongside Tiger Global Management, Spark Capital, Forerunner Ventures, Thrive Capital, IVP, and Index Ventures, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We are building an entirely new kind of beauty company: one that owns the distribution channel and makes customers our stakeholders,” says Weiss.
Rent the Runway
“Shared, dynamic ownership is a movement that Rent the Runway has pioneered over the last decade and we’re excited to continue to lead the market and innovate our subscription service,” Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman said this week. Launched in 2009 by Hyman and her co-founder Jennifer Fleiss, Rent the Runway provides designer dress and accessory rentals. According to Fortune, “the company launched with a formalwear rental service and now also offers a subscription service for all kinds of clothing. It recently expanded into home goods as well. With this round of funding, Rent the Runway plans to continue to scale its subscription business, which it says grew 160% year-over-year, and broaden the categories it offers.”