What It's Like Having Your Best Friend As A Co-FounderSeptember 22, 2010
by Alyson Shontell
Best friends are good for a lot of things, but sometimes spending too much time together can break friendships.
Have you ever tried one out as a roommate? Yah, it’s usually a bad idea.
If you think living with a best friend is hard, how about starting a company with one? For a lot of people, that would be a recipe for disaster.
For the two founders of Gilt Groupe, the fast-growing flash sales site, it was a recipe for success.
Alexis Maybank spoke with us about her long-time friendship with Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and why being best friends made them successful business partners:
Alyson Shontell: I read that you and Alexandra are long-time friends, but how did you first meet?
Alexis Maybank: We first met as college undergrads in Portuguese class in 1996. Later we attended business school together and have been very close friends for a long time now.
AS: What was your first impression of each other, and what was it that drew you to each other as business partners?
AM: There were three critical elements that brought us together, in order of importance:
1. An unshakable, underlying trust in one another.
2. Complimentary personalities that were well balanced: one better at big picture not worried about the details or risks involved. One great at sensing the mood of an organization and thinking through tactical implications of a decision.
3. Balanced skill sets. One with deep fashion industry expertise and great at building and maintaining relationships (sales). The other good at building online experiences and marketing virally to build large audiences online.
There is a long history of incredibly successful companies founded by friends with long histories: Ballmer and Gates at Microsoft, Sergey and Larry at Google, etc.
To this mix, Kevin Ryan added leadership from the board level and deep relationships with VCs, and Mike Bryzek brought a brilliance in engineering to build out an effective infrastructure and team that enabled us to scale.
AS: What made you decide to create Gilt Groupe with Alexandra, and to what do you attribute your joint successes?
AM: Ideas are plentiful. The start up team and execution behind the idea were the key differentiators.