The Next Rocketship - Sponsored by The Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell
A series of Q&As with startup founders who are figuring out the tech solutions of the future. For the final interview in “The Next Rocketship” series, we spoke with Dwight Merriman, co- founder of MongoDB, an open-source document database, and the leading NoSQL database. We talked about the catalyst for the business, fundraising pressure, and attracting talent. Read More
Jetsetter, the luxury travel site that Gilt Groupe put up for sale for around $50 million back in October, has been acquired by TripAdvisor, according to a press release published to PRNewswire. A Gilt Groupe representative confirmed the acquisition to Betabeat. Skift reported back in March that Jetsetter was close to an acquisition, most likely by the travel reviews site.
File this one under ‘second acts in American lives’: This week, Business Insider honcho Henry Blodget gets the New Yorker treatment (subscription only, you cheap bastards), with a profile by none other than the bold-faced Ken Auletta. Sure, he’s still banned for life from the securities business (for now!), but being written up by Mr. Auletta ain’t too bad as a life consolation prize.
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.
Silicon Alley is awfully fond of putting “proximity to other industries” in its plus column. As the line goes: We’re down the street from the top media, financial, and fashion companies in the world! Despite being neighbors, however, fashion and tech have had some trouble understanding each other–hence the growing number of fashion startups that have hung up their stilettos for good.
Into all that drama jumped Decoded Fashion with an exceedingly practical idea: a fashion hackathon where industry insiders tell techies what’s actually lacking in the market. In other words, rather than the umpteenth street style photo-sharing apps, how about the next Fashion GPS, a digital tracker for samples and look books used by designers like Lanvin, Dior and many, many more.
A little more than a year ago, Betabeat reported that despite his lofty role as chairman and chief executive officer of 10gen, the company behind the MongoDB database language, Dwight Merriman was still mixing it up with his developers, drinking beer and writing code with the company’s engineers.
Earlier this afternoon, Gilt Groupe named a new CEO to replace founder (and current CEO) Kevin Ryan. Michelle Peluso, formerly the president and CEO of Travelocity, will take the top slot at the flash deals site beginning in February. Ms. Peluso, who currently serves as the chief marketing and Internet officer at Citigroup, is also the only outside member of Gilt Groupe’s board who isn’t an investor. She joined the board in October 2009.
“There aren’t that many people that you would trust to become CEO of a company that you’ve spent five years building and that has a thousand people,” Mr. Ryan told Betabeat by phone. “She’s always been my first choice. But in the process, midway through, you can’t say ‘Oh my God, I really want Michelle,’ because she hasn’t said yes yet; we haven’t made an offer yet.”
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 chairman–Kevin 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.
After the Storm
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.”
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.