Words of business wisdom from the King of Silicon Alley

Words of business wisdom from the King of Silicon Alley

Posted: Tue 7th Feb 2012

Kevin Ryan is the New York-based boss of Gilt Groupe and a seasoned entrepreneur. Thanks to Judith Clegg of Glasshouse Ventures and the London to New York mission, I had an opportunity to meet Kevin today and question him on how the company has grown and how he personally manages to run Gilt plus two other roaringly successful businesses.

Introducing Kevin Ryan

As a British start-up or business owner, you may not have heard of Kevin Ryan. But in New York, he's nothing short of a legend! In this interview with the New York Times, Ryan is referred to as the King of Silicon Alley and his latest venture, Gilt Groupe, "the hottest start-up in New York city". The respect is well deserved. This seasoned entrepreneur appears to almost effortlessly run multiple businesses and today I picked up some key points on how he approaches work.

Product power

Kevin has a rule that none of his businesses advertise for the first 18 months. That way, he says, the company stands or falls by the worth of the product itself. He describes it as starting a business with one hand tied behind your back (ie no advertising spend; but this makes the free arm (product) much stronger and not too reliant on the other. Sounds simple/ makes sense!

Customers count

When asked how Gilt Groupe has moved from "a fashion business to a lifestyle business", Kevin responds that growth and expansion into new categories (menswear, travel, homewares, food etc) has come from customers suggesting new ideas and asking for more. "Customers will come up with good ideas," says Kevin. "They are well worth listening to."

The power of photography

Gilt is renowned for using photography to, in Kevin's words "make things look better". It reminded me all over again about the power of imagery; whether it be the picture you use with your own biography (if you are the product of your business) or images of goods you want to sell. Imagery is powerful and top class presentation has secured Gilt thousands of happy customers.

Focus on what you do best

I asked Kevin how he manages his time running three businesses. His reply is that he focuses on what he does best and delegates the rest to top teams of people. This completely chimes with our business mantra at Enterprise Nation which is 'focus on what you do best and outsource the rest' - or, in other words, choose trusted partners or personnel and let them do their job while you focus time and energy on yours.

Experiment and move fast

A message and point of advice that continues to crop up; I heard it a couple of weeks ago from Erik Riesand today from a man who is putting it into practice every working day. "We try things a lot and we move fast." Indeed, in a recent Forbes interview, when asked for his one piece of advice to start ups and small business owners, "Move fast" was the advice on offer from this man in a hurry who you just don't want to ignore. And I'll leave it at that as I better get moving! Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation Photo credit:  NigelMorris

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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