Responsible Business Snapshots: Bain Capital Ventures
In 2015, Rent the Runway founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss were running a business that had grown to five million customers and almost 1,000 employees in less than ten years. They had raised more than $100 million in venture funding, but they noticed that it was a little lonely at the top—there weren’t many other women who had achieved the kind of scale that they had.
They did some research, and they learned that while the number of women-founded firms had grown at 1.5 times the national average over the previous ten years, only 10 percent of high-growth companies had been founded by women. Jenn and Jenny wondered if they might be able to help remove some of the barriers that women face when trying to scale their businesses.
Through their newly-created Rent the Runway Foundation, Jenn and Jenny launched Project Entrepreneur in partnership with UBS with the goal of supporting other women in their quests to start and scale high-growth companies. Project Entrepreneur asks women founders at the helm of early-stage startups to apply to be a part of a cohort of 200 women entrepreneurs and for the opportunity to win a $10,000 grant and a spot in a 5-week accelerator program hosted by Rent the Runway.
Applicants have access to online resources and workshops in cities across America as they prepare their applications. 200 semi-finalists participate in a two-day Intensive, where they connect with each other and learn about growth strategies, prototyping, fundraising, market testing, storytelling and other topics from experts in a range of industries. At the intensive, 12 finalists pitch for three spots in the accelerator.
In developing the program, Jenn and Jenny realized that they needed diverse networks to ensure that they were attracting women entrepreneurs from all walks of life to the program. So, Project Entrepreneur partners with organizations including Black Founders, Latino Startup Alliance, Venture for America, and the HBCU Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship Initiative. These partnerships have paid off. More than 50% of the applications in 2015 were from women of color.
In September 2016, Rent the Runway Foundation and UBS launched the second year of Project Entrepreneur and opened applications to the next wave of female founders of high-growth businesses.
Many of the portfolio companies across Bain Capital’s business units operate leading-edge environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives that have benefited employees, communities, and the bottom line. Below are just a few examples of the work that portfolio companies are doing to promote diversity, increase sustainable sourcing and product development, and improve strategic philanthropy.