Duration 20:59
16+
Play
Video

Pioneering an Industry - Allowing for Others to Follow - Jennifer Hyman + Aileen Lee

Jennifer Hyman
CEO and Co-Founder at Rent the Runway
+ 1 speaker
  • Video
  • Table of contents
  • Video
2020 Startup Grind Global Conference
February 11, 2020, Redwood City, CA, USA
2020 Startup Grind Global Conference
Video
Pioneering an Industry - Allowing for Others to Follow - Jennifer Hyman + Aileen Lee
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Add to favorites
700
I like 0
I dislike 0
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
  • Description
  • Transcript
  • Discussion

About speakers

Jennifer Hyman
CEO and Co-Founder at Rent the Runway
Aileen Lee
Founder & Managing Partner at Cowboy Ventures

Jennifer Hyman is the co-founder and chief executive of Rent the Runway , a fashion company with a technology soul that is disrupting the way women get dressed. In her role, she sets the strategic priorities of the business and leads the company in growing all areas of the business, including marketing, technology, product and analytics. She co-founded Rent the Runway in 2009 with Jennifer Fleiss, and has since raised over $525 million in capital, growing the business to over 11 million members and a valuation of $1 billion. Hyman serves on the Board of Directors of The Estée Lauder Companies, on the Women.nyc Advisory Board and is a Founding Member of the NYSE Board Advisory Council which champions increased board diversity.

View the profile

Aileen is the founder of Cowboy Ventures, a seed-stage focused fund. They seek to back exceptional teams building technology that re-imagines work and personal life in large and growing markets - what they call "Life 2.0". She was formerly a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and the CEO of RMG Networks.A graduate of MIT, Aileen has an MBA from Harvard Business School and is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.

View the profile

About the talk

A Fireside chat with Jennifer Hyman, Co-founder + CEO of Rent the Runway and Aileen Lee, Founder + Managing Partner of Cowboy Ventures talking about Industry Leadership and Allowing for Others to Follow.


Share

Good morning pictures of poop to make sure it's a good use of your time. So we could raise your hand if you are a startup founder. I was just a couple. Okay. Awesome. Thank you. And then raise your hand if you are based in the US. So that gives us a sense of any other questions that we had how many of you are building a consumer-facing business? Okay, it's about half what else you want to know about the folks at here? What is everyone else do was in the founder? It still okay,

or if you if you work at a startup raise your hand. Okay, okay. Okay. So I'm super excited. We're going to have a chance to chat we've been friends for a long time. We were together for a long time. Jen is based in New York City. She doesn't get help out here all that often. So it's really a treat for us to have a chat a lien was one of the first Believers in Rent the Runway. So it's amazing to have that continuity over the decade of building the company and I apologize for my voice to kids at home. So constant

sickness. I had heard about Rent the Runway and I reached out to Jen and her co-founder Jenny and I would like be like, hey, I'm going to be in town and you guys want to grab coffee? I just love to hear how things are going and they be like, oh, yeah sure and then I would book a flight and so is that happen for a couple months? And then I was fortunate enough to have the chance to invest in Rent the Runway and that was we were a different business. And so let's talk a little bit about cuz I think if you are

a startup founder if you're working at a startup the Rent the Runway story, which is still just getting started. I feel like we are there's so much I had but maybe talk a little bit about like, you know getting started in the early years. What what was hard and how did what was hard change over time? Yeah. So when I started Rent the Runway, I was 27 years old. I had never managed people before I certainly have never managed functions as diverse as the functions that we needed to

be successful. And so I think that one of the hardest things about scaling a startup is scaling from being an individual contributor yourself early days of a company you were Founders, you're the founding team in everyone's an individual contributor meaning you're all doing everything. You're all reading the copy on email. Girl taking out the garbage you're all answering customer service calls, you're all like reviewing the product roadmap. Then your startup scales a bit and you are managing individual contributors. So you're still close to the work product. And

then there becomes a phase where you have to scale where you're managing the leaders of other individual contributors. So you're managing leaders and you're further away from the product itself. I'm nowhere near the person today who's writing the email but I still have to have both the awareness of what's going on on the ground level and be able to to be also at the ten thousand foot level understanding and kind of inspiring people around Division, I think. Getting to really be able

to do that over time is one of the hardest things about the journey and how did you like? How did you how did you learn? How did you get the feedback that you're mine that had to change or that you had to elevate your management skills your communication skills. Like I know another thing that I've heard from some of CEOs that I've gotten to work with over. The years is like it's frustrating cuz you love participating in meetings you love saying what you think about a product or and then like at a certain point like basically when you say a little thing you think is not a big

deal cuz you're just being a contributor to meeting men like everyone changes what they were doing and it can cause challenges because they don't think of you is just a contributor in a meeting anymore. You're like the big boss. Yeah, I think realizing and kind of very much internalizing the impact that your words your body language. Your behavior is actually have on the company in the beginning of something. You're just one of the So you could kind of have a bad day potentially be more blase in a meeting and everyone will know maybe your boyfriend just broke up with

you and you're being more when the team gets bigger. They're looking to you the leader the CEO for their full inspiration and they're taking every single word that you say literally and your tape. They're looking at your body language. And so taking that seriously understanding that every leader and founder and this happens way quicker than you've given credit for if you have a team of ten people this will start to happen where people will take you a lot more seriously than you even take yourself and I think that being conscious of the impact

that you're having on those around you is your job to do as the CEO. It's not anyone else's job to modify their behavior to you. You have to modify your style in your actions to everyone around you to make sure everyone feels comfortable. I think that the primary feeling that I'm looking for in every relationship that I have in my life whether that's at work or outside of work. My primary feeling is the feeling of ease if you feel comfortable with someone and if it feels like an easy environment, that's where you're being authentic and so figuring out how you can contribute in your own

environment to a feeling of ease. I think is the most important thing you can do especially in the early days of a business and then in parallel if it's ectopic are is pioneering and Industry, right? Like when you started Rent the Runway, what year was that? It was 2009 2009. Everybody was buying everything right like wrenching. I remember when we were trying to tell people about Rent the Runway a lot of people are like well, why would like something that someone else has Warren like, I don't know if I could ever do that, right and it started out with special

occasions, right? And so talk a little bit about convincing people to change Behavior convincing people that there was a really really big Market that we are going after when the market did not exist that you need to convince. You need to convince customers you need to convince investors and we need to needed to convince the industry which was our supplier. That's how we would be able to access inventory. So just for a moment, let's talk about Investors. We came up with the idea for Rent the Runway prior to the sharing economy

existing in this country. So the only sharing economy company that existed at the time with Netflix. There was no Spotify. There was no Uber there was no Airbnb you got it. So we had to convince investors of really the demographic trends that were happening around us that would lead towards the sharing economy and something like access over ownership being prolific in our lives. We also had to Convince investors about the changing retail economy. The fact that people wanted to spend less time offline and retail stores

that actually we were going to start buying and renting more things online and how that was going to change our Behavior. So I really think so much about the early days. When all you have is a big idea is about almost being a sociologist or a journalist of like here all the market forces that are making this idea relevant right now and making this idea something that could get even more momentum over time people have to believe that this is the right time for the idea and that people will start to do the behavior. I think it's really important from

a consumer standpoint and it's also helped us within messrs to understand that might my beliefs. That is there's almost no no new ideas. And Rent the Runway is not a new idea. So what does Rent the Runway do it allows you to wear a new outfit everyday. It allows you to have your closet in the cloud put your wardrobe on rotation will that exist or existed before us it's called buying things and fast fashion buying things from a store that selling you a high quantity of items super cheap. So right now the average American and actually the average woman globally 568 articles of

clothing per year. She's only doing that because of stores like H&M or Zara or Amazon for enabling her to buy a high-quality at low prices. So as opposed to Reinventing the wheel I was able to say to investors. Hey, we're just faster fashion for the 21st century. We're giving you even more variety with the real thing in a sustainable way in a way that's smart. And in a way that doesn't actually end up with a whole closet full of clothes that you don't wear about. Is there a A behavior that already exists that you can utilize to prove out your thesis and that behavior

that existed for decades prior to Rent the Runway with people buying a lot of clothes everything or even I mean friends are my starter with special occasion for the most part, right? We talked about like the Cinderella experience which had been pros and cons in terms of like the pros of people can understand it rightly special. It's an incredible way to bring it on but then it but it also is very precious. Right? And so moving the brand away from something that was so precious and do something everyday was also I think a big shift but at the time like Fast fashion wasn't even as popular as

it has been in the past 5 or 10 years and what people were buying facely buying dresses Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom journeyman and wearing them with the tags on and then that's what they were doing, I mean, there's a lot of ways to kind of proved out that the behavior exist and kind of telling those stories and recognizing that like, you're not brilliant like your ID. It's not brilliant your ideas just an iteration for today like that almost helps tell the story in a better way because there's less to believe if I'm inventing something completely new in the universe.

There is a lot that a consumer or an investor would have to believe so I think that it is to your advantage to basically tell an idea that's really about interation. Now in reality having a closet in the cloud my customers today are using the service 120 days of the year as a substitution for getting dressed out of their closet that's clearly disruptive behavior. And it's clearly something that no one's ever done before but had I describe the behavior in that disruptive of away in the early days. There's no way we would would have ever been able to raise money in my

opinion. What do you think of the things that I mean? I think you are probably one of the best fundraisers I've ever experienced as when Jan and Jenny gave their fundraising present. Haitian at my former from Kleiner Perkins. It was the only time I think I'd already been there for like 8 or 8 or 10 years or maybe that they got a standing ovation from the partnership which was pretty impressive. Like why do you say what did you do talk about your it? Like we are your special sauce around fundraising have no idea because I've never seen anyone else fundraise before so I can you know compare but

first of all, I absolutely love what I do and I've been working on Rent the Runway for 11 years. I actually had zero intention growing up to ever be an entrepreneur. I was passionate about this idea about giving women the power to express themselves. However, they want every day. I think that that is giving them basically key the key to self empowerment. I was really passionate about democratizing and Industry and giving everyone access to have their class in the cloud. So I think that that passion probably shows through that I'm not just doing this to be an

entrepreneur Which has become quite glamorized everyone thinks that this is their ticket to either Freedom or it's their ticket to money or success and let me just tell you like 11 years of work 24 hours a day of not being able to shower without thinking about Rent the Runway of not being able to sleep without thinking about Rent the Runway. You better love what it is you're setting out to do and I think that that comes through I think the focus on team and recruiting has always been there and people because inevitably the idea is the easiest part. It's the

execution that is always 99% of the job and you're not executing anything on your own you're executing it with a team of really talented people. So the ability do bring great people around me to have those people grow and want to stay at renttherunway even have some of those people come to Rent the Runway. Leave and then come back. I think that all of those things might have been. Okay, I'll add a couple things. Okay, one of the things your first VP at Red Run my was a VP of data data and the at the time it was very unusual. Right but

renttherunway incredible Logistics and supply chain both like buying inventory smart basically building a sabre system to be able to know what was going to be in stock of what was going to be in the entryway and like how long how far away was the dress. When was it going to come back? When can you promised it to the next customer? Like that was all. In the house? And so I think that was a really smart hire at a time when people were not hiring has a sew-in understanding of people and an understanding of yourself, you know, I I got I was aware of

the fact that I had a lot of customer oriented Vision a lot of team-oriented vision, but that I needed a yin to my yang in terms of how I thought about the world and I needed a Visionary as it related to data because data is the competitive advantage of our business it informs how we built our operation how we think about inventory which are the two biggest kind of expenses of my business. And so you hired a VP of data is very early before we really had much of a business before we had data. How did you can get an update on how did you convince a world-class data scientist to come be the

VP of data when we had no business. I think it's about spending quality time with someone think fundamentally people only want to work for someone who they love and not just for an idea and I think that we spend time. We took walks together. We had long lunches and meals together. It wasn't just Work-oriented conversation because he at the time was making a move where he was changing cities. He was figuring out not only do I believe in whatever they are duration of this idea is right now Rent the Runway, but do I believe

in Jen and interesting ly he was with me for 10 years and he is now moved for small II scene for dinner all the time still he's now found in his own company and he's moving a block away from me. Come to my family's Passover seder is like he's literally a part of my family which is so incredible that you can you know, I think building real relationships with people fundamentally is the Saving Grace what you have to do at the founder cannot think of this is just a business.

A lot of details and every penny man that matters and you had incredible Vision in your pitch, but you had incredible backup slides like there was not a question and investor could ask you where you were not like my God, I could so frustrated. I entrepreneur is coming to me. They don't know the numbers. They don't know any of the financials behind their own business. Let alone the financials of the market. It's like I don't waste time. If you don't know every single question that you could be asked and you can back that up with a number. So before you go and you meet with another, you know

entrepreneur that you want to be your Mentor or an investor. You better have everyone in your orbit ask you 400 questions about your pitch and So that you're basically rehearsing you'll figure out what the most commonly asked questions are and then you have to figure out how to answer those questions with data or with numbers. If you just come in with your gut feeling it will never ever be successful. Yes. I think that's a lie had analyzed what if this happened? What's what is this happen? Like if this price went up if this cost went down if this customer acquisition change you

had analyzed it from everything and I don't think you had a slide how to invest you have to analyze it from the mindset of the investor if they think about what are they going to be worried about? What are the biggest risks associated with whatever I'm talking about right now and let me pre answer that let me actually address the thing that they're worried about prior to them bringing it up because that gives them more confidence that I'm being truthful as opposed to the fact that I'm hiding the fact that of course, there's risk in my business. I'm 11 years into my business now and there's a

lot less risk than there was, you know a decade ago, but they're still And so even when I speak to investors today, I talked about the risks preemptively. So I feel like you're starting to talk like a CEO who's thinking about maybe running a public company? Well, I certainly want to run a public company. Hopefully that'll be ready. I think that I see your long Runway Rent the Runway ahead of us and that we're just at the beginning of building out this closet in the cloud and having people start to

think about their wardrobes and I just anecdotally I don't know how many of you have experienced Rent the Runway or I know people in New York City who have moved their Apartments to be closer to a Rent the Runway store cuz it just makes it easier to basically like make it literal your closet. That is crazy. It's amazing, but you're literally changing people's living decisions and there are so many things that are changing this year. If you haven't signed up for a subscription sign up now and you will see actually every quarter-over-quarter this year. They're going to be massive improvements to

the customer experience, especially if you live here on the West Coast Even as just a business person. I think it's interesting to see iterative change in a product experience over time and how a company thinks about that and you have some announcements coming later this week. We have some big announcements coming later this week and some more coming later this month. So, you know, it's fun like fundamentally. I just want everyone in the audience to think about like what is fun for you know, this is just been the joy of my life to build this company. I have fun every

single day. I absolutely love it. And I think that's fun and he's are the to sustaining attributes where I'm more excited about my own business now, I wasn't the begin which I think is important if you're going to make this your life location. Yeah. It's not easy their ups and downs, but I don't even lie. I think you're in credible role model and testament to like having a vision and both I think doing the hard work to bring the skill to Bear to see it to light and it's a

joy to see What's happening of company in what's a head? Thank you. Thanks. Again. Thank you so much for having us.

Cackle comments for the website

Buy this talk

Access to the talk “Pioneering an Industry - Allowing for Others to Follow - Jennifer Hyman + Aileen Lee”
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free

Access to all the recordings of the event

Get access to all videos “2020 Startup Grind Global Conference”
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Ticket

Interested in topic “Entrepreneurship and Startups”?

You might be interested in videos from this event

April 29, 2020
Online
21
86
covid-19, fundraising, fundraising leader, help, motivation, philanthropic organization, practical advice, training

Similar talks

David Rogier
CEO & Co-Founder at MasterClass
+ 1 speaker
Allie Miller
Head of AI Growth, Startups and Venture Capital at Amazon
+ 1 speaker
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Scott Belsky
Executive, Author, Investor, & Product Obsessive at Adobe
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free

Buy this video

Video

Access to the talk “Pioneering an Industry - Allowing for Others to Follow - Jennifer Hyman + Aileen Lee”
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free

Conference Cast

With ConferenceCast.tv, you get access to our library of the world's best conference talks.

Conference Cast
558 conferences
22059 speakers
8190 hours of content