How a 34-year-old Stanford and Harvard grad built Stitch Fix into a billion-dollar company that just went public

Katrina Lake said her fashion style was

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Katrina Lake said her fashion style was “classic with a twist.”
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Katrina Lake/Facebook

  • CEO Katrina Lake has run Stitch Fix since its founding in 2011. The company went public on Friday.
  • The 34-year-old graduate of Stanford and Harvard was “risk-averse” as a child and initially considered becoming a doctor.
  • Lake is the only woman to lead a tech initial public offering so far this year.

On Friday, Katrina Lake became the only woman to lead a tech initial public offering so far this year.

Lake is the CEO of Stitch Fix, a subscription-based fashion startup. Its customers fill out a detailed questionnaire about their style, pick a shipment date, and pay a $20 styling fee. Stitch Fix’s stylists then pick out outfits to match a customer’s style, and if they like their outfit enough to keep it, they pay for the clothes.

The San Francisco-based company has about 5,000 employees, 3,500 of whom are full- and part-time stylists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to CNBC, investors and analysts were concerned about Stitch Fix’s profitability in the wake of troubles at the meal-subscription company Blue Apron.

Forbes reported that Stitch Fix’s IPO raised $120 million.

Here’s how Lake went from a prospective pre-med major to an entrepreneur on a quest to blend fashion and tech.


Lake told the Los Angeles Times she was “risk-averse” growing up in San Francisco and Minnesota. The daughter of a physician and a teacher, she thought about pursuing medicine.

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TechCrunch/Youtube

Source: Los Angeles Times, Star Tribune


However, she became mesmerized by economics at Stanford. Lake earned a bachelor’s degree in the subject and went on to receive an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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Flickr/HarshLight

Source: Lake’s blog, The Los Angeles Times


Before Stitch Fix, Lake worked at the tech company Polyvore and the management-consulting firm The Parthenon Group.

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MAGIC/Youtube

Source: Lake’s blog


According to Inc, Lake’s inspiration to found a company was her sister, who worked as a clothing buyer and would send Lake outfits.

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Business Insider

Source: Inc


In the early months of Stitch Fix, users would fill out SurveyMonkey forms to identify their preferences. Lake would then deliver the clothes herself.

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Marvin Traub/Youtube

Source: Inc


Lake told the Star Tribune that her fashion sense was “classic with a twist,” adding, “I want to feel comfortable and confident and don’t want to have to think too much about what I wear every day.”

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Fortune Magazine/Youtube

Source: Star Tribune


In fiscal 2016, the company brought in $730 million, according to the Times.

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Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Source: Los Angeles Times


However, the road to the IPO hasn’t been easy. Recode and the news website Axios reported in June that Lightspeed Venture Partners had Lake sign a nondisparagement agreement in 2013 after she reported sexual harassment by Justin Caldbeck, who was Lightspeed’s observer on Stitch Fix’s board of directors.

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Bloomberg Technology/Youtube

Source: Inc, Recode, Axios


“At the time, she was working to raise a round of needed funding for Stitch Fix and was well aware that Lightspeed could prevent that deal from taking place,” a report from Inc said.

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Justin Caldbeck.
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YouTube/straylor

Source: Inc


After the news broke, Lake released a statement saying: “It’s important to expose the type of behavior that’s been reported in the last few weeks, so the community can recognize and address these problems.”

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Shoptalk/Youtube

Source: Inc, Recode, Axios


Stitch Fix’s shares opened at $16.90 on Friday, and the company is now valued at $1.6 billion, according to CNBC. So far this year, Stitch Fix is the only tech IPO led by a woman.

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TechCrunch/Youtube

Source: CNBC, Recode


“I want her to have a huge positive outcome because it does something really important for female entrepreneurs and, specifically, founder-CEOs,” Jennifer Hyman, the CEO and cofounder of Rent the Runway, told Recode on Thursday. “I want her to have this success because we work in an industry where pattern recognition is still the name of game.”

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Facebook/Stitch Fix

Source: Recode


Lake previously told Inc that she strived to build a forward-thinking company. “I wanted to work at whatever company was going to be the future of retail,” she said.

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Startup Grind/Youtube

Source: Inc