Success Stories: Working With the Right People

Three of the founders of Gilt Groupe discuss how hiring the right people and being flexible during the early phases of the online retailer led to it becoming a multimillion dollar success.

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Video Transcript

00:07 Kevin Ryan: I'm Kevin Ryan. I'm the CEO and founder of Gilt. Gilt started... Our first product offering was flash sales for women. I had the idea and I went out to find people who would have the right skill base.

00:21 Alexandra Wilkis Wilson: Joining Gilt Groupe from the start was really a dream come true for me. I had always been fascinated by the excitement for shopping and finding designer fashions for amazing prices. So the idea of being able to bring that to customers online was really a very exciting opportunity and who better to do it with than one of my best friend's, Alexis.

00:44 Alexis Maybank: I got to Gilt in a number of ways. I live, breathe, eat e-commerce and have a special affinity towards online marketing and use of viral techniques to build up memberships quickly. We had a formative team from the very beginning. My experience with e-commerce and building online brands and shopping experiences and marketing them out coupled with Kevin Ryan who has scaled businesses before and is one of the most talented people at raising money, too.

01:15 Wilkis Wilson: But one of the things that I enjoy about working with him is that Kevin has a bit of a contrarian nature. So if you come to him with an idea and you say white, he is automatically gonna say black just to test you.

01:29 Maybank: We were a natural kind of complement to him because we were the target audience. We understood the consumer branding. We understood the fashion and luxury world and how to build an experience that would be suitable for both. And lastly, Kevin's a lot of fun.

01:47 Ryan: We try and have a lot of activities that bring people together because when you grow really quickly, one of the challenges is that you don't know everyone in the company. Those are both fun but fun isn't a reason enough, there are also good ways of meeting other people. It's really all about people, so it's hiring people. And in general, we hired a lot of great people.

02:05 Wilkis Wilson: At the end of the day, we were a startup and we knew that people were gonna have to put in a lot of hours and a lot of passion into this company.

02:13 Ryan: So the challenges in starting up Gilt in the beginning are, like with many startups, is that you're tiny, no one has heard of you, you have no reputation. So the question is why are great fashion brands going to work with you? And you've got to get a couple breakthrough clients in the beginning. And once they're on board, other ones will see, "Oh well, if Zac Posen is working with you or Judith Leiber is working with you, then I'll work with you as well." Gilt is a more complicated business than any other internet company I've started, and I've started a lot of them; mostly because you have physical inventory as well.

02:42 Maybank: We would find ourselves, given the unique nature of the Gilt model, where we have members. Members are growing virally so we'd have months where that would surge and we'd be at 50% where we needed to be in terms of inventory to actually service that demand.

02:58 Wilkis Wilson: Predicting consumer demand has always been a challenge for us and I remember back to our first sale, and we had no idea what to anticipate. We are thrilled to say that a few minutes into the sale, our members in the first sale started shopping very quickly.

03:14 Maybank: We set out early success in our model based on the response of customers, the uptake in revenue that we got very early on. We watched department stores begin to pursue this idea and we watched the largest e-commerce players in the world start to pursue this idea. So we knew that we had to move really quickly and execute as flawlessly as possible. A startup is never a straight line. There's always going to be lefts and rights and you'll run into bumps on the road.

03:38 Wilkis Wilson: And I'm very proud of the fact that together we actually made longer term decisions, ethical decisions.

03:45 Ryan: What's really been great is that if you think of the four other co-founders who are... We started at, during that... They joined during the first four months of the company. They're all still here today. And clearly, everyone has gotten along well, because we're still having fun and doing interesting things for us today. And that's exciting. Once in a while we all get together and think we were lucky.

Last updated: Aug 25, 2011




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