Video Transcript

00:12 Scott Gerber: It seems to me, if you look at the history of your business, there's sort of a paradox that's inherent in the startup, which is you're selling luxury but at a discount, which I would imagine is a hard vision to sell to the early adopters, to the vendors that you wanted to bring in to make the vision happen. How do you convey a vision at the startup level, when nobody else sees it except you, in a way that not only makes it compelling, but makes it tangible to the people that you're looking to do business with?

00:37 Alexis Maybank: Well, when we did get Gilt started, Alexandra, my co-founder, and I and our other technical co-founders, there was no one else doing something like this. There were largely American and European luxury brands that weren't even selling online. So, the complexities in convincing brands to come along with us were several-fold. Not only did we have to convey a brand, a new business, a new vision, but we had to explain the basics of e-commerce on the internet. "Here's what it can do to you. Here's how it can open up new channels, new customers you're not reaching today. Here's why it could be really powerful. So, okay, now that education's done, now let us tell you about our pitch, about why this business is great."

01:16 Maybank: And I think if you can stand in the footsteps of that customer, if you are the customer for your end product, you're gonna really effectively convey what it is customers will love about this business, what it is customers will really find intriguing, and why they'll gravitate to your business. Also, the more you can leverage personal relationships, the better. It's often, when it comes to selling an idea or getting a business up and running, more of the low-hanging fruits that you can grab and leverage is critically important. And we, as we began to build those milestones or success showing that this partner showed up or these number of clients have listed themselves wanting to shop this way... We, of course, started started first with the people within our circle of friends and network of acquaintances, and so from there we were able to build some key first steps that showed; this is gonna work.

02:07 Gerber: How can other startups go about figuring out basic things that they can do to asses product market fit before they go and say, "Is this a liable business?"

02:15 Maybank: Talking to perspective partners and clients is a great way to do it. But you're gonna have a lot of naysayers that you run into, so you can't let that dissuade you. You will have more people say. "Ah, that won't work", than will say it will work no matter what the idea is, or "Here are the challenges and these are the difficulties", than will say, "These are the opportunities and this is why it will be easy."

02:34 Maybank: And actually that's a good thing because not only does it stiffen your resolve, but it also lets you prep for all the same really tough questions you're gonna get from the broader market place, from investors. And you have to have a pretty well-polished answer by those times. So those are ways that you can, first test your idea, to the extent that you can build up mock-ups or you can build out your concept a bit further to actually put it physically in front of people, the better. And good old fashion surveys do help you quite a bit, too.

03:04 Gerber: Do you think there is a timeline for how long you should be assessing, nowadays, at the startup level if a business really has real viability? What ultimately do you think is the time where a business founder has to say to himself, "Okay, these are the things I should be looking out for and if these things don't happen in this period of time, maybe this isn't the business for me."

03:24 Maybank: There's some simple things like, "Am I about to run out of money?" Then maybe it's not going as well as you think it's going. "I'm having trouble raising the money that I need." "I can't hire people." You really have to think hard whether or not you can get this idea off the ground. Also, you get feedback that is completely unexpected during the process.

03:43 Gerber: Like what?

03:44 Maybank: And we built a business, Gilt, thinking that this is gonna be a really unique way for small brands, medium brands without a footprint in the real world to liquidate last season's goods. And we had feedback about four months in and then it was replicated once in a week in, and then five months in, that with those three things coming to us at the same time we realized, "Wait. People are coming to us for something very different we never would have anticipated, and that is a pivot." They were coming to us because they thought... Gilt is a really unique way to reach a younger customer that's behind a flat panel monitor, 80 hours a week, not coming to my stores anymore. So, they began to look at Gilt as a really unique marketing channel. "How can I get in front of a younger customer base that I can't get into my stores?" And as a result, we were surprised when larger brands were calling on us. Larger brands with the biggest footprint of outlets in America were saying, "We wanna work with you." Ralph Lauren as an example. And it was that aha moment, that pivot if you will, which led us to realize that they wanna work with us because it's a unique marketing channel to get and acquire customers that they don't have access to, and how can we further that? How can we redirect our business knowing that? And that's an example of being really keen to feedback that can come to you that you don't expect and be willing to flow in that direction of it.