Wal-Mart Hires Jennifer Fleiss as CEO of Code Eight

Wal-Mart’s experimental Store No. 8 has landed a major player in the world of e-commerce.

Jennifer Fleiss, cofounder of Rent the Runway, is joining Store No. 8 to lead its first portfolio brand, Code Eight, as cofounder and chief executive officer, Wal-Mart said on Monday.

Fleiss exited Rent the Runway, which in 2009 she started with Jennifer Hyman after graduating from business school. She will remain on the company’s board of directors. Rent the Runway reportedly turned a profit last year when it exceeded $100 million in revenues and is said to be moving toward an initial public offering.

Marc Lore, president and ceo of Wal-Mart global commerce, revealed the Store No. 8 concept at Shoptalk in March.

He described Store No. 8 as an innovation hub intended to “be the force driving commerce at a time when emerging technologies are influencing all aspects of consumers’ lives.” Code Eight will develop one-on-one personalized shopping experiences, as the first portfolio company to be launched by Store No. 8, which has been charged with identifying technology start-ups and giving them room to grow. With Code Eight, Store No. 8 is taking the first step toward creating an innovation ecosystem where, according to the company, “new ideas can thrive outside the constraints of short-term process and profitability.” It will incubate, invest in and partner with early-stage start-ups, venture capitalists and academics to innovate in areas such as virtual and augmented reality, robotics, machine learning and articulate intelligence.

“Jenny is a trailblazer in her field and has spent her career advancing ideas that have shaped retail as we know it,” Wal-Mart said, adding that Fleiss helped Rent the Runway expand into a globally recognized brand and pioneered a new business model.

“Our team has a powerful vision for what retail can look like today and what it will be in the future,” said Store No. 8 principals Seth Beal and Katie Finnegan. “By empowering top-level talent to lead teams and work with autonomy, were able to attract industry innovators like Jenny.”

Wal-Mart has a road map that will help guide the innovations it brings to market to scale over the next 18 months. Store No. 8, however, has a much longer outlook, the company has said.

Since its August acquisition of Jet.com, which was founded by Lore, Wal-Mart has been amassing a portfolio of e-commerce sites, including Shoebuy, Moosejaw and Modcloth, and the retailer is said to be in advanced negotiations to buy Bonobos.

“With the support of Wal-Mart, Store No. 8 will play a role in the continued evolution of e-commerce,” the retail giant said.

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