Rent the Runway fireside chat with Jennifer Hyman at CBS hosted by CEO
On November 18th, CEO and CWiB cohosted a fireside chat with Jennifer Hyman, CEO and Cofounder of Rent the Runway. The talk was moderated by Brandon Holley, former Editor in Chief of LUCKY & GM of Yahoo! Shine, and current CEO of Everywear. Jennifer inspired attendees at the sold out event with stories about founding RTR, from the initial concept to fundraising to exceeding yearly projections in the first week of business to running the sophisticated logistics operation the company is today. She also spoke to social media’s impact on the fashion industry and the future direction of her company, which is in the process of opening several retail stores in the US.
For you aspiring entrepreneurs, business school is the best place to start a venture — you have access to amazing resources, mentoring, and people who are excited about new ideas; and it doesn’t end at graduation!
My years at Columbia Business School were two of the best of my life — having time to focus on your goals is a precious gift—and I spent them dedicated to entrepreneurship. Between the incredible classes, the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization, events, networking, and being in NYC, I was pretty busy. I worked on two different startup ideas, made fantastic friends, and learned that a successful startup isn’t only about having a killer idea but more importantly about picking the right people to start it with.
A few months before graduation, my friend Adrian asked me for coffee to chat about his startup, Sailo, a peer-to-peer boat rental marketplace that connects boat owners to licensed captains and renters. I had just abandoned startup idea #2 and was curious to hear about his project. Little did I know that our discussion would be the first of many! I spent the following months working with him and his Cofounder, Magda, getting to know the business and team. I confirmed that this was the right idea, the right time, and the right people for me. By graduation, I had joined as Cofounder, and we’ve been working together ever since!
We were accepted into the Columbia Startup Lab (CSL), the new and beautiful co-working space for recent Columbia graduates at WeWork Soho West. In addition to having a stunning work area, event space, and conference rooms, CSL also organizes workshops, mentoring, and office hours for coaching. Most importantly, the Lab is full of incredible people and companies. Everyone is super helpful! From giving pitch deck feedback, SEO advice, or just sharing a beer, we’re really part of a close-knit community, which feels very much like when we were students. I like to call it my 3rd year of B-school (minus all the exotic travel…). To learn more about CLS take a look at the video above.
Being a part of the lab has helped us grow quickly: Sailo went live in mid-August and by September 4 we opened the site for bookings in New York! Our Florida launch is planned for mid-October, and CSL helped us get press and access to investors and mentors. We are so excited to be where we are now and feel so very grateful to Columbia for this fantastic opportunity to work out of such an inspiring co-working space!
On Friday, October 3rd, CEO held its first NYC Industry Trek, with the theme for the week of Media. We visited two incredibly interesting and up-and-coming New York startups in this space: Trustpilot and Bloglovin’. Both companies provided valuable insight into their companies and what it takes to build and grow a startup.
We started off the morning visiting Trustpilot in their offices on 5th Avenue near Madison Square Park. We got a tour of their lively office space (keggerators and ping-pong tables included!) and then got a chance to hear from three different early employees about their roles and the company itself. Trustpilot is an open, review-driven community connecting online consumers with the companies they buy from. It is almost like Yelp for online merchants. The company started in Denmark, and developed a massive following in Europe. Since launching in the US, the team in New York has grown to 55 members, and the company has a goal to reach 200+ members by next summer. Two key takeaways from the visit were: (1) The most important part of building a successful company is building the right team that is best equipped to execute the company’s strategy; and (2) When sourcing new employees, make sure to understand exactly what it is that you need in that role, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and then go out and find the right person for the job.
Afterwards, we all grabbed lunch, and of course went to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park and devoured some delicious burgers!
Next, we walked to our final destination to visit Bloglovin’, who are located in the Betaworks space on Little West 12th Street. We started off getting to hear from Kamiu Lee, a CBS ’14 grad, about her experience working at the company. We then got a chance to speak with three of the company’s co-founders, a group of young and dynamic friends. Bloglovin’ allows users to aggregate all of their favorite blogs into one convenient feed that automatically updates each time one of their bloggers writes a new post. The company was started in a shed in Sweden by five friends who had just finished high school and decided not to go to college. After two failed attempts at starting companies that involved two-sided marketplaces, the co-founders finally realized they were onto something when they started Bloglovin’, and have been growing tremendously ever since. Two key takeaways from the visit were: (1) Don’t build something that you “think” customers will want; solve a pain point for customers and iterate quickly based on customer feedback; and (2) Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to bring in someone more senior than yourself to help run the business.
We hope to see many of you at our upcoming treks throughout the semester!
Our friends over at CORE posted these interesting facts on Peter Thiel which we’re happy to share with you …
Peter Thiel is the cofounder of PayPal and Palantir and currently resides as #4 on Fortune’s Midas List of Top VCs. He also currently serves as President of Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund.CORE, along with the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center and Columbia Entrepreneurship, brings Peter Thiel to Columbia University on September 17th. Thiel will discuss his new book, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future,” followed by a book signing and reception. Here are a few things you didn’t know about Peter Thiel:
He was the first outside investor in Facebook. He also invested in LinkedIn, Yelp, Inc., Quora, Stripe, Yammer, and many more.
He is a US-rated Chess Master and was one of the highest ranked under-21 players in the country.
He is supposedly the inspiration of Silicon Valley’s character, Peter Gregory.
He is a libertarian who thinks unfettered competition is a bad thing.
Connie is a junior in Columbia College studying Economics and Art History. Raised in Long Island, she has always been in love with the city and all that it has to offer. She also enjoys exploring the city, film photography, nomming at new and cool places, and running off to various corners of the world!
I was fortunate enough to get into Entrepreneurial Finance, and spent a full Block Week (8am to 8pm) fully immersed in this summer course. A typical day in the week started out with breakfast, followed by a lecture block. Next, guest speakers would come in to showcase their businesses. During our extended lunch, we would work on a case with our group and discuss it with the entire class after we returned. A professor would then close the day with another lecture and we would leave to spend an evening in Watson Library working on group homework assignments.
Jay Ju, a fellow member of Cluster Y ‘15, engaged Professor Sorensen during a break
The days were long but absolutely worthwhile! The course is designed in a way that offered variability and classroom engagement. Speakers came with interesting stories, and even more interesting demos. For example, John Levy, investor and Chairman of BioLite, brought a miniature campstove that burned small sticks of wood while charging an iPhone.
John Levy showing a demo of a BioLite campstove (iPhone not yet connected)
My most memorable day was the one in which our group was selected to role-play VC investors and negotiatedterm sheet terms against another group who played a startup founding team. I was excited by how much better I understood the process after having played though the experience.
Dean Hubbard left the class with the practical advice to learn how to “take the money and run” instead of “board[ing] the Titanic.”
Professor Keehner discussed dealing with uncertainty noting that “sometimes you just can’t get it right because the truth is in the future.”
And Professor Sorensen shared that from the perspective of “10 years ago, you would not recognize the world today. The companies we start today will change the world 10 years from now.”
With all of the wisdom I gained, an unexpected benefit of the class is that when I wave at the Dean in the hallways, I know he knows me when he waves back! I feel like I have learned so much, and the bottom-line: I recommend Entrepreneurial Finance to anyone who wants to better understand the startup landscape.
The Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) is excited to welcome everyone to campus. We have an exciting year of events planned, and can’t wait for everyone to get involved with the entrepreneurship community at Columbia. We have a few events that we want everyone to keep an eye out for, particularly for the first years. Today, August 25th, we are hosting an information session during lunch that will go through many of the resources available to entrepreneurs, particularly geared towards getting first years on track to take advantage of what CEO, CBS, and Columbia University have to offer in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Tomorrow, we are hosting an event downtown for incoming CBS entrepreneurs to check out our brand new Columbia Startup Lab. There, current students will hear from former students that have launched startups since graduating and have utilized the fantastic WeWork space Columbia has reserved downtown. Afterwards, we will head to a nearby bar for people to get to know their fellow entrepreneurial peers. (Note: Because of space limitations, we have to cap the headcount of this event, but we will certainly have more!)
The next major event planned will be the Peter Thiel speaking event on September 17th (http://bit.ly/1ns9v45). Peter Thiel is a very successful investor, and it is a great honor having him come to campus to speak with aspiring Columbia entrepreneurs. Outside of the Peter Thiel event, we have a tremendous lineup of speaker events lined up over the coming year. In addition, we are organizing a variety of treks where we will visit startups in NYC, competitions, and networking events to help CBS students in all of their entrepreneurial pursuits. Keep an eye on the CBS calendar on this site for more information on all of these great events.
CEO is looking forward to an amazing year, and we are excited for everyone in our community to get involved and utilize all of the programming our outstanding board has put together!