One terrible day in November 2000, Julie Wainwright’s husband asked her for a divorce. That same day, Wainwright, then the CEO of Pets.com, determined she would have to shut down the company. She had led the e-commerce business through its meteoric rise and IPO, and now it was crashing.
“It failed, and I became sort of a pariah,” says Wainwright, speaking at the Vanity Fair Founders Fair in New York City. “I was the dumbest person in the Valley. It was a little tough.”
Wainwright says she was 17 years too early with Pets.com (this year PetSmart bought pet food and product site Chewy.com for $3.35 billion). Though she wasn’t the founder, Wainwright had been with the company since Pets.com was only two people and a germ of an idea.
Between the demise of Pets.com and her divorce, “it was just a dark cloud descended,” she says. For a while Wainwright didn’t do much besides paint and work out. She took a job working in venture capital and fielded a number of lame (by her own account) CEO job offers. But she wasn’t inspired.
After several years Wainwright realized that her situation wasn’t going to improve unless she took action.
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