It seems that Chinese billionaire investor Jack Ma is planning to expand his business interests to include women’s fashion. Mr. Ma and his Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai, are now eyeing a stake in Rent the Runway, a New York-based designer clothing rental for women.
Jack Ma and Joe Tsai, through Blue Pool Capital, will inject $20 million in fresh capital into Rent the Runway based on details on a filing uncovered by research firm Lagniappe Labs. Blue Pool Capital is a multi-billion dollar fund tasked with investing the wealth of Ma, Tsai and other Alibaba executives.
— Recode (@Recode) March 9, 2018
With the additional capital, Rent the Runway is now valued at a little under $800 million. During the company’s previous fundraising activity, it was valued at $750 million after it was able to secure $60 million in Series E investment led by Fidelity back in 2016. The latest deal with Blue Pool will carry the same terms as the Series E deal.
Rent the Runway was established in 2019 by Harvard Business School students Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman. It was previously a purely online-based service business that allowed women to rent designer dresses for special occasions rather than spending a substantial amount to buy them.
The business idea became a hit and, veering from its pure eCommerce model, Rent the Runway soon opened up retail locations in major US cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Washington DC. Now, the company rents other high-end accessories such as handbags and jewelry.
Aside from rental earnings and such, Rent the Runway’s revenue is now boosted by sales in lingerie, cosmetics, shapewear, and tights. In addition, the company introduced a subscription model where clients can rent a rotating closet assuring a wider variety of clothing options even for everyday wear.
It is still unclear if Ma and Tsai plan to eventually acquire Rent the Runway. According to Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway co-founder and CEO, the deal is “good for us whether we IPO, or we sell the business, or we stay private.”[Featured image via YouTube]