Historic Year for Female-Founded Companies Achieving Unicorn Status
As more companies achieve unicorn status, 2019 is on track to become a historic year for the number of female-founded companies crossing the $1 billion valuation threshold. According to Anu Duggal, Founding Partner at Female Founders Fund, female founders face challenges in achieving these high valuations given that they receive less than 2% of venture capital dollars overall. Duggal notes that female-led businesses have experienced rapid and even exponential growth in certain industries, particularly those where women dominate the buying power.
Here are the female-founded and led U.S. companies that have achieved unicorn status in 2019 thus far, with one of the companies going public this past June. They’ve disrupted multi-billion dollar industries from beauty to fashion to catering.
Glossier - founded by Emily Weiss in 2014. The company announced a $1.2B valuation in March 2019. Emily Weiss originally founded Glossier as a beauty blog before becoming a digital-beauty brand launching her line of beauty products on Instagram. The company has successfully leveraged the platform to build a large following with over 2.4M Instagram followers demonstrating the power of social media to sell products, especially to millennials and Gen Z consumers.
Rent the Runway
Rent the Runway - founded by Jennifer Hyman together with her Harvard Business School classmate Jennifer Fleiss in 2009. The company announced a $1B valuation in March 2019. Rent the Runway rents out designer and everyday clothing pieces on an individual or unlimited basis through a subscription program. According to Fast Company, Hyman plans to invest the new funds in building more of a community for their subscriber base and investing in the company's technology and logistical operations.
ezCater - co-founded by Stefania Mallett in 2007. The company announced a $1.25B valuation in April 2019. The online catering marketplace was founded by CEO Stefania Mallet, a veteran executive with degrees in engineering and computer science, together with co-founder, Briscoe Rodgers. They’ve successfully tapped into the growing $60+ billion catering market developing a software platform for restaurants to advertise and sell catering services.
Away - founded by Steph Korey and Jen Rubio in 2015. The company announced a $1.4B valuation in May 2019. Steph Korey and Jen Rubio, both alumni of Warby Parker, started the company with the idea of selling stylish luggage at lower prices than existing brands. According to Forbes, part of their success was due to an online sales strategy that included influencers promoting the brand on Instagram. The company has big expansion plans with its infusion of cash, including a roll out of new retail stores globally and a broadening of its product categories.
TheRealReal - founded by Julie Wainright 2011. The company went public in June 2019 with a $2.3B valuation after achieving unicorn status earlier this year while it was private. Julie Wainright, formerly CEO of Reel.com and Pets.com, has successfully led the luxury online consignment shop in capitalizing on the secondhand retail market trend, especially during a time when there is an increased focus on sustainability, especially among millennial and Gen Z consumers.
These founders join other notable female founders of unicorn companies such as Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, Julia Hartz of Eventbrite, Adi Tatarko of Houzz and Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix. The future looks promising with more female-founded businesses joining the ranks of these companies helping to achieve a more diverse representation of leaders building the next generation of companies.