Julie Wainwright Is Onto Her Next Company

Wainwright founded The RealReal in 2011. By 2019, the company was a household name worth $2.39 billion.

Serial CEO Julie Wainwright is building a new business after departing The RealReal last year. Her new venture, a nutrition technology company called Ahara, announced it received $10.3 million in seed funding on June 6.

Julie Wainwright sits and speaks with arms out.
Julie Wainwright at the 2017 Vanity Fair’s Founders Fair. Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Ahara provides consumers with at-home tests that reveal health information like the levels of key nutrients in the blood and how healthy cells are, according to Melina Jampolis, physician and co-founder. Ahara then creates personalized nutrition plans for consumers based on their health data.

In the emerging nutrition technology ecosystem, Ahara could benefit from Wainwright’s experience in the consumer tech industry.

Who is Julie Wainwright?

Over her 44-year career, Wainwright has worked as the CEO for seven companies, including software company Berkeley Systems for three years beginning in 1994, online video store Reel for two years beginning in 1997, photo-editing software company Bellamax for three years beginning in 2003 and wellness site SmartNow for three years beginning in 2008.

Most recently, she founded The RealReal, a luxury consignment marketplace, in 2011 and worked as chief executive until June 2022. In that time, she grew The RealReal into a household name worth $2.39 billion in 2019. Its value has since fallen to $173 million due to competition, a lack of profits and a slowdown in the luxury goods market, according to SeekingAlpha. Wainwright abruptly left the company last year.

The executive has had her share of corporate challenges. As the chief executive of Pets.com, a pet supplies retailer, Wainwright took the company public in 2000 before shuttering it just nine months later. A flawed business model and the dot-com bubble, in which investors flooded money into internet companies, contributed to the failure of Pets.com.

“I became sort of a pariah,” Wainwright said in a 2017 interview about the closure of Pets.com. “I was like, the dumbest person in the Valley, and it was a little tough.”

The company’s public failure limited Wainwright’s job options, which led her to start her own company, she said in an interview with Forbes in 2021 when it named her in its “50 Over 50” list. After taking time off and working a few jobs, Wainwright founded SmartNow in 2008, but it didn’t stick. Then came The RealReal. She wasn’t afraid of failing because she had already experienced that with Pets.com, and it made her a stronger person, she said.

Wainwright hasn’t detailed why she left The RealReal, aside from saying it was time for a new generation to lead the company. But her latest move in founding Ahara suggests she hasn’t given up on her ability to grow a business.

What is Wainwright’s new venture, Ahara?

Founded by Wainwright and Jampolis, Ahara launched in beta on June 6. The company name comes from the Sanskrit word referring to “pure food” and nourishment.

Consumers answer questions about their diet, food sensitivities and medical history to inform their nutrition plan. They can also participate in biological testing that includes genetic, epigenetic and biomarker tests that provide more data. An algorithm, which is patent-pending, creates the nutrition recommendations. A consumer ends up with recipes, shopping lists and a menu-scan option for dining out. Individualization is necessary because consumers have different nutrient and dietary requirements based on their lifestyle, medications, biology and environment, Ahara claims. The technology is backed by more than 300 scientific studies, according to the company.

Before launching Ahara, Jampolis was Wainwright’s doctor. “As a patient of Dr. Melina (Jampolis), I experienced first-hand the positive impact of her approach to optimal health,” Wainwright said in a company statement. “I approached Dr. Melina with the idea for a health tech business that would reach millions, and she quickly understood that together we could help everyone achieve optimal health.”

Greycroft, a venture capital firm that invested in The RealReal, led Ahara’s funding round. Other investors include the co-founders, entrepreneur Sandy Sholl and San Francisco-based firms Headline and Shakti Capital, according to a company statement. Ahara has eight employees and six medical advisors, according to its website.

Julie Wainwright Is Onto Her Next Company