Birchbox Cofounder Hayley Barna On New Ventures, Glamping, And Her Filthy Fridge

After leaving Birchbox last year, Barna is diving into the VC world. She explains why and offers a look at what she’s up to.

Birchbox Cofounder Hayley Barna On New Ventures, Glamping, And Her Filthy Fridge
Birchbox co-CEO Hayley Barna [Photos: Arturo Olmos]

Last August, Birchbox co-CEO Hayley Barna decided to walk away from the influential beauty-subscription-box startup that she cofounded in 2010 (she remains on the company’s board). “What we created with Birchbox was truly unique at the time,” she explains. “I loved it, but it turned out the beauty industry is not my lifelong passion. It’s [exploring] innovative business models.” So, in February, Barna signed on as a partner at First Round Capital, the seed-stage VC firm that has invested in companies such as Uber, Warby Parker, and, not coincidentally, Birchbox. (Meanwhile, Barna’s former company has been struggling, enduring two big rounds of layoffs earlier this year and receiving a $15 million injection of funds from current investors in August, reportedly due to cash-flow issues.)

Hayley Barna

One of Barna’s initial First Round investments is certainly a departure from the makeup-sample universe. She’s working with—and has joined the board of—a travel startup called Collective Hotels & Retreats, which builds pop-up luxury tent resorts in high-end locations such as Colorado’s Aspen and Vail. “I laugh whenever I say glamping, but that’s what it is,” she says. “It’s an atypical venture investment. I’m really excited about it.”

Barna is also eager to dig into opportunities related to women’s health, transportation, and the workplace, among other areas. “For now, I’m fully focused on helping entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground,” she says. Still, you never know. “I’m not secretly sitting on my next business idea, but [starting companies] is part of who I am.”

Best Recent Tech Development

“Tech has become more a part of pop culture, and being a founder has become a viable career path for people who might have gone into banking or consulting.”

Worst Development

“Too much screen time. We’re addicted to information. We need to work on our attention span.”

Who Would Be On Her MCP list

Hanya Yanagihara, author of the dark 2015 coming-of-age best seller A Little Life. “It’s heartbreaking but beautiful.”

Recent Accomplishment

“I Marie Kondo–ed my apartment. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff. When I did my refrigerator, I found things from, like, 2012. I was like, ‘What have I been doing?’”


How She Stays Productive

“I used to stay up until 3 a.m. working. I’ve learned to go to bed early and finish in the morning. I try not to force myself to push through if I’m not feeling it.”

Related Video: Birchbox’s Katia Beauchamp And Her Secret Weapon

About the author

P. Claire Dodson is an assistant editor at Fast Company. Follow her on Twitter: @Claire_ifying.