May 08, 2019

Female Founders Are Crushing It In 2019

2019 seems to be shaping up as a fantastic year for female entrepreneurship.

So far this year, there have been 22 so-called “unicorn” companies with valuations at or above $1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Six of these companies were founded or co-founded by women.

In terms of percentage, this number represents a significant shift. PitchBook estimates that about 11% of unicorns had female founders in 2018. We’re only barely past the first quarter of 2019, and the percentage of women-founded unicorns has already doubled last year’s number to 27%.

Two of the female-fronted businesses making the biggest waves so far in 2019 are cosmetic startup Glossier and fashion rental firm Rent the Runway.

Emily Weiss started Glossier as a beauty blog back in 2009 and, as of this March, the company was valued at $1.2 billion. The direct-to-consumer model of its website and luxe boutique feel of Glossier’s physical storefronts have been a hit with cosmetics customers over the past 5 years. Glossier is both a tech startup and cosmetic industry powerhouse, an impactful combination that impresses investors.

“We are building an entirely new kind of beauty company: one that owns the distribution channel and makes customers our stakeholders,” Weiss said in an official statement amid the funding news.

Weiss is a fantastic example of turning a passion project into a business, and it doesn’t seem like the passion ever left.

“Thanks to this direct relationship with our customers, we have access to endless inspiration for new products, experiences, and ways of building an enduring business — all while staying true to our core belief that beauty should be a celebration of individuality and personal choice,” Weiss continued.

In an interview with BuzzFeed in 2016, Weiss said she saw a strong link between her initial beauty blog and the successful cosmetics business that started in earnest about 5 years ago. She said that what she sold was like “tactile content.” In a way, what she sold was akin to what she was posting online years prior.

Like Glossier, Rent The Runway is a woman-founded startup that began online but is now dipping its toe into physical retail.

Also like Glossier, the company, now valued at $1 billion, took a disruptive approach to an aging industry–fashion. As the name suggests, Rent The Runway allows its customers to rent designer clothes at a steep discount when compared to buying them.

“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, who founded the company with Jennifer Fleiss in 2009, said in a statement about the valuation news.

Of the companies founded by women that became unicorns in 2019, only a small portion focus on cosmetics or fashion. Other notable female-founded companies that hit a $1 billion valuation so far this year are genetics giant 23andMe, Credit Karma, customer service startup Talkdesk and data streaming firm Confluent.  

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About the author

Barry Eitel
Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.

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