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Some questions about The RealReal’s IPO, from a woman who remembers

Some questions about The RealReal’s IPO, from a woman who remembers


Sock puppet!

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Vanity Fair’s Founders Fair
Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Perhaps you have heard that The RealReal, an online consignment shop for luxury goods, has filed for an initial public offering under the ticker “REAL.” Ok, fine, so far so what? Well, the company’s founder and CEO is Julie Wainwright.

For those of you who did not immediately emit an ultrasonic shriek, Wainwright was the CEO of, which went bust less than a year after its IPO in 2000.’s infamous failure is still used as a synecdoche for the collapse of the 1990s Silicon Valley bubble. “It failed, and I became sort of a pariah,” Wainwright said, according to a CNBC report in 2017. “I was the dumbest person in the Valley. It was a little tough.”

Wainwright insists that was a good idea that was ahead of its time, and she might be right. After all, Petsmart bought in 2017 for $3.35 billion.

Anyway here’s the deal with The RealReal: it’s consignment at scale, with goods sold in a few brick-and-mortar stores and online. If you own, let’s say, a Chanel purse and you’ve decided you don’t want to wear it anymore, you can drop it off at a RealReal store or mail it to the company. It will then authenticate the bag and resell it.

The RealReal’s revenue grew 55 percent in 2018 to $207.4 million, from the year before. But The RealReal lost $75.8 million overall in 2018, also an increase over the $52.3 million loss in 2017.

Here are my questions:

  1. How long will The RealReal last?
  2. Is its IPO a bad omen?
  3. Is this a redemption arc for Julie Wainwright?
  4. What does this mean for eBay, if anything?
  5. How much do you think the original sock puppet mascot would sell for on The RealReal?
  6. How many more unprofitable companies will the IPO market take from Silicon Valley?
  7. Brick and mortar? In this economy?
  8. Will someone buy me the sock puppet if it does go up for sale?