shameless rumormongering

Rumor Roundup: Kevin Ryan Is a Ping Pong Champ and AllThingsD Knows All About Mustache Rides

We'll use this as an artist's rendering. (Photo: flickr.com/lac-bac)

Silicon Alley Smackdown One of the many tech events on rain delay because of Hurricane Sandy was the Big Apple Smackdown ping pong tournament, whose guest list included an impressive number of familiar names from the New York tech scene. (Betabeat is one of the media sponsors, so we may be a little biased.) Among the techno-athletes scheduled to play was Gilt Groupe CEO–and soon-to-be Gilt Groupe chairmanKevin Ryan. Apparently, we missed quite a show.

The tournament was scheduled for Sunday, “and I played on Friday and on Sunday just to get ready for it!” Mr. Ryan told Betabeat. Really? “Oh yeah, because I won a tournament about a month ago.” That was an invitation-only affair for ping pong ringers at the Hamptons manse of ABC Carpet & Home’s Ken Pilot. “You had to put $100 into the pot and the winner got two-thirds of the pot, so I was pretty excited about that,” Mr. Ryan enthused. Read More

Shakeups

Gilt Reportedly Looking for IPO-Friendly CEO to Replace Kevin Ryan [UPDATED]

Mr. Ryan (Photo: Invoke Media)

Weeks after news broke that flash sales giant Gilt Groupe put its travel deals site, Jetsetter, up for sale, the Wall Street Journal reports that Gilt is looking for a new CEO to replace company founder Kevin Ryan. Sources told the Journal that Mr. Ryan and the Gilt board agreed two months ago to quietly begin the hunt for a new CEO who can help usher the struggling e-commerce site towards a successful IPO.

Despite flailing forays into verticals like menswear and travel, Gilt is still eyeing going public within the next 18 months, and wants a CEO who can revamp Mr. Ryan’s business strategy in order to “generate sufficiently predictable profits.” Read More

After the Storm

Sandy Scramble: How Gilt Groupe, BaubleBar, Jackthreads Are Getting Ecommerce Back in Order

One of Bonobos' displaced Ninjas. (Photo: WorkingFromHomeDuringSandy.Tumblr.com)

Many startups are able to work remotely with just a laptop and a working Internet connection–though good luck finding one right now. But for ecommerce companies focused on pushing products out into the real world, “just ship it” is taking on a whole new meaning. Between extensive power outages and three days without a functional subway, the disruption is likely to last through the week.

“Eccommerce companies are lucky since we don’t have physical stores–we can handle a break pretty easily,” said Gilt Groupe CEO Kevin Ryan. “We are a little bit like an airplane,” he added: “you can turn off the engine for a little bit and there is no problem–if you turn off the engine for a while it is a disaster, but a few days is not a big problem.”

That doesn’t mean recovering from Sandy has been painless, though. Read More

Shakeups

Report: Gilt Puts Jetsetter Up for Sale at Around $50 Million [UPDATED]

Mr. Ryan (Photo: Invoke Media)

After a tumultuous spring that led to staffer mutiny and the ouster of CEO Drew Patterson, Gilt Groupe has decided to put its travel site up for sale, according to sources who talked to The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports that the company has been shopping around Jetsetter for the past few weeks with an asking price around $50 million, but so far no interested bidders have taken the bait. Read More

Book Em Charlie

Jack Dorsey-Funded Startup Peek Wants to be OpenTable for Booking Activities When You Travel

Ruzwana Bashir photographed by Kevin Abosch

How does a pre-product startup raise $1.4 million from the likes of Jack Dorsey, Eric Schmidt and Khosla Ventures with just an idea? It helps if you’ve worked with the investors before. And if you’re trying to bring a fragmented offline industry online, a particular hobbyhorse of Mr. Dorsey’s, whose mobile payments company Square has done just that with mom and pop shops.

Peek CEO and founder Ruzwana Bashir first met Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Schmidt when she directed business development and marketing for Art.sy, another investment of theirs, she told Betabeat earlier this week. Read More

Fresh Capital

Oprah and Eric Schmidt Back Cory Booker’s New Startup #waywire, a Media Site for Millenials

RIP. (Photo: waywire.com)

While you were clinging to your A/C unit over the weekend, Newark mayor and Twitter addict Cory Booker was ushering his new startup out of stealth mode. The company, called #waywire, is a media platform that combines original and syndicated videos with relevant user-generated content from young adults about what’s important to them and their perspective on issues in the news.

Wait, didn’t Al Gore have the same idea in 2005?

“Traditional news sources aren’t in any way talking to millennials,” Mr. Booker tells TechCrunch. Perhaps the site can start with whether any young adult actually wants to be labeled a “millenial”? Read More

XX in Tech

It Is 2012 and Pregnant Women are Still Discriminated Against by VCs

Ugh homegirl, we have anxiety FOR you. (technorati.com)

Upon navigating to the front page of the New York Times website this weekend, we were happily surprised to discover that a piece about women in technology occupied the feature spot. “Nurturing a Baby and a Startup Business” chronicles the difficulties of juggling motherhood and a booming business, through the lens of a handful of New York’s lady-driven startups: The Knot, Rent the Runway and Gilt Groupe, to name a few. Read More

Programs for Programmers

NYC Tech Mobilizer is Summer Camp for Devs Who ‘Crush Technical Problems With a Mere Glance’

Mr. Lewis (twitter.com/mlewislogic)

One of the most salient pieces of advice offered at yesterday’s lady CEO panel at Internet Week is to find a mentor you trust who can help guide you through the turbulent ecosystem of Startupland. NYC Tech Mobilizer, a lightweight summer program for developers, wants to help you find that mentor. The program, which is in its second year, links up prospective mentees with talented mentors from some of New York’s hottest startups, including Foursquare, Gilt Groupe, Birchbox and Meetup.

NYC Tech Mobilizer is the brainchild of Fondu CTO Mike Lewis, who moved to New York a little over two years ago with a masters in computer engineering, ready to dive into the startup sector. Read More

Shakeups

Kevin Ryan Asks Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson to Step Down After ‘Mutiny’ From Staffers

Mr. Patterson via @jetsetdrew

Gilt Groupe founder Kevin Ryan and chairman Susan Lyne spent Monday at the offices of Jetsetter, a deals site for luxury travel that operates independently under the Gilt Groupe umbrella. When the day was done, the Jetsetter board, where Mr. Ryan serves as chairman, approved a bold decision in response to an exodus of six senior executives and pervasive frustration among Jetsetter’s nearly 90 employees. “More than half of us are looking to leave within the next month, at which point the business won’t be operational,” a Jetsetter employee told Betabeat last week, recounting “mutiny” among staffers.

“Drew [Patterson, the company’s CEO and cofounder] is going to step down effective immediately,” Mr. Ryan told Betabeat by phone this morning. In his stead, Mr. Ryan named Rob Deeming, Gilt Groupe’s director of strategy and operations, and Mr. Ryan’s former “chief of staff,” as acting general manager of Jetsetter. Mr. Deeming had been in charge of Jetsetter’s UK office, which was launched last September.

Mr. Ryan said the change at the top was motivated by turnover and morale. “Too many people have left. When you’re the CEO, you’re responsible for that. We’ve had a lot of communication over the last six months on this issue. At a certain point, for myself, you make a change.”

Interviews with staffers, who spoke under condition of anonymity last week, painted the picture of a company hampered by Mr. Patterson’s and CTO Colin Kroll’s unwillingness to listen to and implement other people’s ideas–at the expense of employees eager to grow the brand. The initiatives that the duo had put forward, such as a UK office, had flopped, sources said. “They talk to themselves and they think they’re smarter than everybody, but they don’t know how their customer works,” said another Jetsetter staffer, referring to Mr. Patterson and Mr. Kroll. “We have great members, we want to keep them happy.” Read More

Daily Daze

Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson On Hiring His First CMO, Scaling Up, and ‘Gossipy Tech Blogs’

Mr. Patterson via @jetsetdrew

Today, Jetsetter, the luxury vacation deals site (think flash sales on villas in St. Vincent or a pied-à-terre in Paris) announced the appointment of its first-ever chief marketing officer, Barry Herstein. A former CMO at PayPal, American Express, and the Financial Times Group, most recently Mr. Herstein was responsible for revitalizing Snapfish, the photo sharing and printing service, after a decline in revenue growth.

(Ex-Snapfishers seemed to be everywhere these days. Former Snapfish CEO Ben Nelson recently set his sights on reimagining an Ivy League experience at half the cost.)

Betabeat chatted with Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson about the need for a CMO, Jetsetter’s role within the Gilt Groupe family, and those pesky tech blogs. Read More