Hayley Barna has been making waves in the tech world since the beginning of her career. In 2010, she launched subscription beauty delivery service Birchbox, which is one of a small number of VC-backed companies founded solely by females. More recently, Barna joined First Round Capital as an investor, becoming the venture capital firm’s first female partner.
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get the idea for Birchbox?
My co-founder Katia [Beauchamp] and I were second-year students at Harvard Business School when we had the idea. Really, it was inspired by our needs as consumers and our love of the internet. We loved buying things online—media, music, books, shoes, clothes—but we didn’t feel there was a great place to buy beauty products. That was partly because you want to feel and touch things before you buy them. …. I grew up as sort of a tomboy. I didn’t know how to do makeup or hair and I really wanted to feel confident. Katia knew her way around the makeup counter, but wanted a better way to understand the products. We realized we could solve these pain points and create a business model that made it fun and effective by creating this try, learn, buy experience. … We came up with the subscription because we felt it was the best way. I think we repackaged the idea of subscription for product discovery and online shopping.