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Julie Wainwright is back with a new, venture-backed startup


Julie Wainwright, founder and former CEO of the publicly traded, luxury online consignment company The RealReal, is back with a new startup.

Called Ahara, the Los Angeles-based outfit describes itself as a personalized nutrition company that provides recommendations to its customers after they first fill out a health questionnaire that asks them about their diet and health history, and their age and location, after which they can take a variety of at-home tests for genetic, epigenetic and biomarkers.

According to Ahara, for example, its tests can tell the company how effectively someone is metabolizing specific nutrients; how healthy his or her cells are; and which tests an individual’s blood levels for key nutrients like vitamin D and Omega 3s.

Wainwright isn’t a wellness expert, but after leaving The RealReal last June after running the company for 11 years, she has teamed up with celebrity physician-nutritionist Melina Jampolis as cofounder. Jampolis is also the outfit’s chief medical doctor. Indeed, in a quiet press release published yesterday, the duo — who already feature half a dozen other employees on their site — including a performance marketer — say they have themselves contributed to a $10.25 million round that was led by Greycroft, with participation from Headline, SHAKTI, and entrepreneur Sandy Sholl.

Ahara is currently in beta and according to its own literature will operate a freemium model that provides special benefits to “premium” members.

That the operation appears to require far fewer resources than The RealReal isn’t surprising. Wainwright — who earlier led the dot.com era company Pets.com — is coming off of a business that’s beloved by its customers but highly challenging from a margins perspective.

In conversation last week with investor Ian Sigalow of Greycroft — the firm was also an early backer in The RealReal — he offered his theories about why The RealReal boasts a market cap of just $170 million after reaching a market cap of $2.39 billion the day of its IPO three years ago.

Though The RealReal was a “really good idea,” creating a far more vibrant second-hand luxury goods market, the “challenge with the model is that it is very capital intensive. The storage of the garments is expensive. The way that they procure in such a white-glove manner is expensive.” Wainwright “executed really well on the vision, but driving a profitable machine and taking the cost out of it is just very hard to deal with in that business because it’s all basically one-off unique pieces of fashion product, and they all have to be graded. It’s a complicated business to scale.”

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Ahara joins a growing spate of digital nutrition startups. Though each has a slightly different flavor, over the last six months, Mighty Health, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup offering a daily health program designed for adults ages 50 and up, raised $7.6 million in venture backing; Nourish, a San Francisco-based telehealth platform for nutrition, raised $8 million in seed funding; and Zoe, a British nutrition and health tracking app, also attracted the attention of VCs, raising £25 million from investors, to name just a few.

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