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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