The Year Observed

Oh, Snapchat! And 2013’s Other Tech Winners and Losers

Buddies! Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Tumblr founder David Karp. (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Snapchat’s Staying Power

Despite being a picture-messaging app whose missives disappear in seconds, Snapchat made clear that it wants to stay on the tech scene for years to come.

Invented by fraternity brothers at Stanford University in 2011, the start-up is still profitless, but it hasn’t lacked for buzz in 2013—or controversy. In February, Snapchat achieved the ultimate start-up status symbol by being embroiled in a lawsuit by a spurned frenemy named Reggie Brown. He claimed that founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy stole the idea from him, in a Social Network-esque lawsuit. Read More

Shakeups

Deposed Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson Named the CEO of Room 77, a Hotel Search Startup

drew-16

Skift broke the news today that former Jetsetter cofounder Drew Patterson was named the new CEO of Room 77, a hotel price comparison startup that raised almost $44 million in funding from investors like Expedia, Concur, Bob Pittman, and General Catalyst Partners.

Mr. Patterson was CEO of Jetsetter–a flash sales luxury travel site operated independently under the Gilt Groupe umbrella–for more than three years until Gilt Groupe chairman Kevin Ryan asked him to step down last May. The move by Jetsetter’s board followed an exodus of senior executives, low morale, and fears of a “mutiny” among staffers.  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

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

Fresh Capital

Onefinestay Raises $12 M. for NYC ‘Unhotel,’ an Airbnb for Rich People

Screen Shot 2012-06-19 at 4.05.18 PM

Airbnb and Jetsetter better step up their local luxury game. Today, onefinestay, the London-based home-rental company announced it would be heading stateside, flush with $12 million in financing, and ready to open up its “unhotel” model in New York City. What, exactly, is an “unhotel”? Basically, just a fancy way of saying Airbnb for the fabulous set or Jetsetter’s Homes listings. The company finds high-end private abodes, takes care of the photography, marketing, and insurance, and offers amenities like linens and cleaning.

Global investment firm Canaan Partners, which has offices in New York and Silicon Valley, led the round. Existing investors Index Ventures and PROfounders also participated. Index has certainly been a busy beaver. Since revealing its new $442 million fund Sunday night, Index has already announced four deals, including New York darlings Codecademy and Shapeways. (Onefinestay cofounder and CEO Greg Marsh spent three years on Index Ventures’ IT investment team.) 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

Daily Daze

Layoffs and Restructuring at Gilt Groupe as New Verticals Fail to Deliver Growth [UPDATED]

Gilt-Groupe

UPDATE: Gilt Groupe has not returned requests for clarification or comment, but responded via AllThingsD this morning.

CEO Kevin Ryan told the blog: “We are not closing down any businesses. We are not closing down Gilt Taste, and we aren’t merging Gilt City and Jetsetter.” Mr. Ryan also said, “In its fifth month of business, Park & Bond did more revenue than any other business in its fifth month,” although he did not say by what metric. He added that President John Auerbach is still employed at the company for now. But, he noted, there was a chance some of its top 15 executives may leave. (Chief Marketing Officer David Zucker left the company in July and Chief Product Officer Stefan Pepe left the company in June.)

Mr. Ryan did, however, tell AllThingsD that Gilt expects to “selectively trim” staff by about 50 over the next couple months, but claimed that by the end of March the number of employees would be larger than it is now. Gilt Groupe, he said, is on track for an IPO, possibly at the end of the fourth quarter, but mostly likely in 2013.

As for Gilt Taste, Mr. Ryan claimed that the site would need fewer staffers despite “doing great.”

Business Insider, where Mr. Ryan is chairman, has also confirmed impending layoffs of 50 to 60 people within the next week or so. According to Business Insider’s source, five to six percent of the company will let go across various departments in order to get cash-flow break-even by the second quarter of 2012.

Here is our original post:

Since Friday Betabeat has been hearing rumors about impending layoffs at Gilt Groupe. Late Tuesday night, a second source familiar with the company told us that the layoffs would happen on Wednesday and might be as high as 170 employees. We have reached out to Gilt Groupe for confirmation and will update the post as soon as we hear back.

The accounts vary, but both sources also point to restructuring within the company. One source said Gilt Taste, which hired former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl as editorial director last May, is expected to function at half its current workforce, with the remaining staffers funneled into other open positions in the company. Another source speculated that Gilt Taste was likely to be shut down.

Betabeat also heard that Gilt City and Jetsetter, which overlap in the high-end travel market, will merge. In October, Gilt City, which has a partnership deal with Google offers, acquired the daily deals site BuyWithMe, which itself suffered from big layoffs in the crowded deals space. Read More

Come And Knock On Our Door

Jetsetter Sidles Into Airbnb Territory With Vacation Rentals

jetsetter

You know Gilt Groupe is in overdrive mode when even its verticals are diversifying.

Jetsetter, the travel site Gilt Groupe founded in 2009, must have liked the looks of Airbnb’s numbers,  since it just launched its own foray into the vacation home  rentals market with Jetsetter Homes. As The Next Web notes, Homes starts off with collection of 200 curated and verified villas in exotic international locales. Since this is Gilt we’re talking about,  the pricing is “exclusive,” with some options offered in the company’s customary flash sale style, depending on availability. Although in the case of these homes, we imagine the scarcity is more than just manufactured. Read More