Gilt Groupe: MTV Celebrates Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs in Technology and MediaMay 26, 2011
by Salaah Swan
Over the years MTV networks has been known for catering to its younger audience with music and reality television programming, but not-so-much for its honoring of the accomplishments of women in media (outside of entertainers). The Viacom Network can boast of a bevy of hosted and broadcasted events (award shows, reunion shows, comedy roasts, just to name a few) however none of which celebrate the women whom behind the scenes greatly contribute in the media and technology field. Pairing with the NCWIT, National Center for Women in Information and Technology, Wednesday evening MTV hosted an awards dinner in New York City to recognize women in technical innovation and award one recipient with the 2011 Symons Innovation Award. Though the 2011 award winner is Audrey MacClean, angel investor, venture capitol advisor and associate Stanford professor, one of the noteworthy mentions was Alexandra Wilkis Wilson of Gilt Groupe Inc (Gilt.com). If you haven’t at least heard of Gilt Groupe by now then you’re not a true fashion hound.
Gilt Groupe started out in 2007 as an online sample sale destination for the fashion savvy shopper. During strained financial times the Gilt Groupe concept appeared to be a great opportunity for fashionistas to indulge in high-end brand name shopping - think Dolce & Gabanna and Zac Posen - while benefitting from the discount prices of the short-sale format. Beginning as a women’s apparel e-merchant, Gilt Groupe eventually grew to merchandise men’s apparel, event tickets, services, travel packages, and entertainment. The website’s original three founders Kevin Ryan, Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson have recently realized huge success after the valuation of Gilt Groupe doubled from one year ago to $1 Billion. Not so bad after just four years as an e-commerce merchant!
Prior to her current position of Chief Merchandising Officer for Gilt Groupe Wilson was a district operations manager for Bulgari as well as a manager for Louis Vuitton. Her retail-level experience proved beneficial in understanding consumer wants and needs as well as buying habits and attitudes. She credits herself with possessing the talent to build relationships with various brands in the beginning stages of the company while positioning and selling the Gilt Groupe concept as a legitimate, trustworthy, and potentially successful e-commerce website. With over 3 million current Gilt Groupe members (and growing) several venture capital companies have committed more than $200 million to the booming fashion-turned-lifestyle entity, as near future plans include product diversification. Part of the companies’ merchandising strategy has been to utilize emerging and digital media, creating mobile apps for shoppers and mobile phone users. One recent promotional strategy gave a $10 credit to the first 10,000 iPad owners who registered for membership via the Gilt Groupe app.
The keynote honoree of the evening, Audrey MacClean, made a very valid point when she referred to entrepreneurship as an “extreme sport”. With the economy gaining momentum and the fashion industry showing a positive outlook in consumer spending trends, the marriage of digital media and fashion is sure to prove to be a “key strategic weapon” in global business and commerce. Hats off to the women in technology and digital media who are able to play ball with the very best and make a pronounced difference in a male dominated field, and find success in doing so.