Why the Co-Founder of Rent the Runway Left Her Own Company to Join Walmart

May 2, 2017, 8:55 PM UTC

Jennifer Fleiss just went from running her own company to joining the world’s largest company.

Fleiss, a co-founder of clothing rental service Rent the Runway, will oversee Code Eight, the first portfolio company in Walmart Stores’ (WMT) newly launched incubator, Store No. 8.

While the move may seem at surprising at first glance, Fleiss says the timing of the opportunity, announced last week, could not have been more perfect. “Rent the Runway was my first child. I had a deep emotional connection to the business, always have,” she tells Fortune. “But I was at a place where I was ready to do the next thing.” Once the company she founded has reached profitability, she felt free to move on, she says.

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Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s e-commerce operations and the mastermind behind Store No. 8, reached out to Fleiss personally about the role, she says. “At that point, I was already ready to go back to earlier stages.”

Fleiss officially stepped down after nine years at Rent the Runway—where she remains on the board—at the end of March and began her new role at Code Eight a week later. The startup is currently in its sixth week of operations.

“There’s a type of energy and pace that comes with startups. I enjoy wearing multiple hats. I am my best self when I’m moving at a fast pace and doing a lot of different things,” Fleiss says. Her favorite time at Rent the Runway was its third and fourth years, partly thanks to the birth of her first daughter during her third year there.

“Having kids gives you a greater perspective of life and the world. An issue feels less life-critical, and you’re able to prioritize a little more effectively,” she says. Fleiss gave birth to her third child in September, something she said never came up in her discussions with Lore or the rest of the Walmart team. “It’s incredibly refreshing,” she notes.

Code Eight is still in stealth mode, but Fleiss did tell Fortune a few things about the brand-new company:

  1. It will have six employees as of next week.
  2. Its headquarters are in New York City.
  3. The idea behind it is to “make shopping magical and delightful.”
  4. The main product is a mobile, app-based experience.
  5. It utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  6. It’s not a fashion company.
  7. It will offer a “premium” experience not targeted to Walmart’s regular customers.

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