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By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  531 ratings  ·  52 reviews
On a warm September night in 2002, former acquaintances Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis reconnected at a mixer for new students at Harvard Business School. Alexis had just ended a four-year run at eBay during the dotcom boom and bust. Alexandra had just spent three years as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Now they were entering the country’s top training ground ...more
Hardcover, 266 pages
Published April 12th 2012 by Portfolio (first published April 1st 2012)
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Sherri Huntley
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
Gilt is the story of the founders of the website Gilt, their background and their efforts in bringing the site online. It's interesting to read about their connections, their processes and their successes. What it's not is a how to book for the average person who wants to succeed in business. The book certainly throws in some suggestions for forming a team, seeking capital and developing a business plan, but unless you are connected enough and wealthly enough to get a Harvard education and pour ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it liked it
The best part of this book was the bullet point summaries of advice for starting/maintaining a business. The questions they invited the reader to ask herself were really thought provoking and I feel like I really learned from Alexis & Alexandra about the business world and the tech start-up world. I also liked this book because I was inspired to hear the story of two driven, passionate women who started a wildly successful business without sacrificing their femininitiy or the close friendship. B ...more
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
What a fantastic read!

I've been a fan of Gilt Groupe for many years, and was so excited when I saw that "the A's" had written a book chronicling their adventures as they started their company from the ground up.

This book gave so many important tips, hints and suggestions as to how to not only start your own business, but how to succeed in any business. Some of these fabulous tips include loving who you're working with, maintaining relationships both big and small, and not overlooking the little
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
In case you are unaware, I work at a New York technology start-up. A female-run, beginning from nothing, bound to be great (fingers crossed!) start-up. And to answer some previously posed questions, no, we do not have liquor carts delivering us drinks in the afternoon, or omelet and coffee bars greeting us every morning. We have instead one cubicle space rented from a co-start up pal, a couple of macintosh laptops, and days that run from 7am to 7pm – with any luck. Can you now see why I decided ...more
Kim Wallace
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
"By Invitation Only" is an easy and enjoyable read — and a must-read for women entrepreneurs in the fashion/beauty business.

I like that the authors/cofounders state from the beginning that the writing style will be a bit strange (they refer to themselves as "The A's" or in the third person throughout to show who was making what decision), but the real content of this book is a successful startup story ... with all the bumps, kinks and typical new-business blunders they faced.

It's an inspiring
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: entrepreneurship
This book is a very easy read. I especially loved the whole girl power aspect of it, considering that the co-authors as well as the co-founders of Gilt are two ambitious women. It is rare to come across books on female leaders, especially among the entrepreneurs. I loved how they outlined their own leadership styles, which reminded me of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. One doesn't have to be masculine to be a successful leader. Women have other traits that can also help them- empathy and the ability ...more
Aug 22, 2012 rated it liked it
I began this book not knowing anything about Gilt Groupe. I was amazed that a book about a tech start up could be so interesting and engaging! I'm not going to join Gilt, as I don't really need another tempting place to spend money, but I can appreciate what they do. My favorite aspect of the book was the discussions of marketing and creating buzz; these women are amazing. Also at networking- I admire them for putting themselves out there time and time again. I'm glad there are people as driven ...more
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, the stories Alexis and Alexandra share about the start-up and long days of getting Gilt Groupe to be what it is today is an interesting read. I almost didn't go further than page 30 as the love fest of the two A's (Alexis and Alexandra) goes on and on.....how great they are, how fascinating they are and blah blah blah until the reader almost becomes physically ill with all the self grandiose.

Fortunately it turns towards that start-up of Gilt. As a long-time customer, I was interested in
Jean Boudillon
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book, great story, you will learn a lot!

What a great book and a great story! You will certainly learn a lot in this easily read account of the making of the Gilt Groupe. Perfect idea and perfect execution by a dream team. The only down side of this book is that it's hard to relate with the founders, not because they are female Americans but because they all have already stellar backgrounds, Harvard MBA almuni, investment banking, ebay, and that their business model is perfect from the get-
Oct 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting read, however, the concept of inviting 2000 contacts to join an online sales event is so far outside of my wheelhouse. I do not know, nor care to know, that many people. The determination and drive of two women to create such a successful business is very inspiring regardless.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hilarious!!!! Thus is nit the book I read!!! I read By Invitation Only by D B Frank!!!! Been putting progress reading for the wrong book. The one I read was great. Entertaining and just a fun read
Eustacia Tan
Nov 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I wonder if you've heard of Gilt Groupe? The first time I heard of it was because it was a pre-installed app on my phone (and I can't get rid of it). But I am always interested in the stories of how businesses succeed. And this book is way more than just a story.

Apart from being just a story, By Invitation Only aims to put "forth our story with the goal of offering concrete suggestions on how to handle some of the challenges that lie ahead". And yes, the book does fulfill that promise.

First, the
Jessica Haider
I like the internet. Yes, I do. I've done my share of online shopping. But I've only purchased from Gilt.com once... So when I saw this book on the firstreads giveaway on goodreads it caught my interest. I entered the giveaway and won a copy!

The book is by the company's two founders Alexis and Alexandra-- two blondes with Harvard MBAs and a love of designer sample sales. The book tells of the founding of Gilt and its days as a successful startup in 2007 through current day.

Overall I found the b
Mrs C
Feb 09, 2012 rated it liked it
I was very interested in reading this book not just because of the shopping life (designer everything!) but because I was curious how one becomes an entrepreneur (women especially). I enjoyed reading about the last-minute deals, the unexpected sales, the nerve-wracking meet ups with celeb designers etc. the stories were electrifying, but not so much the personal lives of the authors themselves. Sure, the authors pepper the books with some tips on how to start a business and how to be successful, ...more
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
The saga of the two As, the blonde co-founders of Gilt Groupe, the popular private sale site. The pair, who attended Harvard Business School together have charmed lives but are also very hard workers. Together with a small team they created a site that has become one of the leaders in the growing flash sale industry. The book chronicles their fast rise and is written in a co-narrated style that has the voice switching, often mid-paragraph. The book is at its most successful when the women descri ...more
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
At first, it's annoying to read about the authors' privileged backgrounds. Honestly, the first few chapters were maybe unnecessary- we get it- you are well-educated, hard-working and smart. This book gets much more interesting when we read about how Alexis and Alexandra team up with Kevin Ryan to act on what became Gilt. I really like how the book then after chronologically and thematically traces the evolution of this start-up. We learn that a start-up isn't about just a business plan but also, ...more
Rosella LaFevre
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is another great book for those interested in the business of the fashion world. Maybank and Wilkis Wilson met as peers in Harvard Business School's MBA program. They, together with three others (Kevin Ryan, Mike Bryzek and Phong Nguyen), launched Gilt in 2007. The site offers great deals on designer clothes and is now worth more than $1 billion. In By Invitation Only, Maybank and Wilkis Wilson share how they launched and achieved massive success, and their tips on how you can learn from th ...more
Mar 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: business-memoir
I wanted to read the book because I enjoy reading company histories and also because I shop on Gilt. While I liked the book, I didn’t like it as much as other company histories that I have read.

The book gives some good tips and points on how to succeed in business, not just a start up. The story itself is interesting but seemed like it kept going back and forth. It was a little hard to follow at times when it did that. Also it seemed to repeat itself sometimes. I would read a passage and think
Aug 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Clearly pedigree gave Alexis and Alexandra a leg up, but I couldn't knock their hustle. The timing of Gilt Groupe's launch couldn't have been better- before the boom of fashion e-commerce and right before the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which changed the game for designers and retailers. There was interesting insight about starting a business, building a winning team, and finding investors, but nothing surprising or out of the box. I did find it a bit annoying when the story went back and f ...more
Venus Kennedy
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. I think it got off to a rocky start - their writing style requires a little getting used to. But I LOVE Gilt - and it was a lot of fun to learn how they got their start and the decisions they made each step of the way to be the powerhouse they are today. Its an interesting read, and part biography and part "how to start a business" advice. Recommend it to my fashionista / business loving friends! ...more
Mar 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I love the Gilt concept and am a big fan, so I had to read this when I heard it came out.

Although the authors, and co-founders of Gilt sometimes went off on odd tangents and were full of self flattery, the actual story of how the business launched and became so successful (valued at nearly $1B!) was fascinating.

A true story of two fabulous, fashionable, remarkably well connected, brilliant women!
They changed the way many of us now shop...on the flash sale sites!
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
By Invitation Only… is a great read for anyone interested in business–especially women. It offers helpful tips such as how to find the right partner for your business, how to ensure you’re getting in business for the right reasons and so on

YOU MAY FIND THE REST OF MY REVIEW HERE: http://artblt.com/2012/06/20/book-rev...
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: work
I checked this out of the library for a little research and found myself completely engulfed. Tagging every page and dying to take notes in the margins. This is a must buy as I know I will refer to specific sections on a regular basis. I have found new role models in these women, especially Alexandra, who spoke volumes to me.
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought this book shed light on how great teams are able to create & execute great new ideas. The trust each teammate had in one another was so critical to their success. Being egoless, open to criticism, quick to adapt, interested in innovation, and truly transparent seem to be key components to brilliant leadership. This book was very inspiring.
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Alexis and Alexandra have documented their amazing story of how they turned the world of high fashion upside down and brought it into reach for thousands of shoppers who would never otherwise make it to the exclusive sales in NYC. It's good fun and an impressive tale of great creativity, smart thinking, and a lot of hard work. ...more
Kristal Stidham
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I knew ANYthing about the movers and shakers in the fashion industry. Still, I thought it was a very interesting case study of the planning, hard work, and luck that goes into a successful start-up.
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was SO fascinating! I work in the e-commerce industry so it was even more interesting for me, but I think it's an incredibly motivating and inspiring book and very relevant to our generation. ...more
Barb Wiseberg
Loved it - a daily deal fairy tale!

From inception to the future, the story unfolds step by step, and I loved hearing about the ins and outs of this great flash sales site.

a must read for anyone working in the daily deal arena.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a fairy tale and a business book all in one! Our new princesses, Alexis and Alexandra, can start a business, continue it through hypergrowth, work in fashion, be fashionable, fly around the world and still be BFFs. Very readable and likeable, not sure how applicable or general.
Syed Bukhari
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Have read better books about entrepreneurs and web based business. It is more of
biography or personal journey of founders rather than a guide book or checklist for budding entrepreneurs. Zappos's Delivering Happiness is a better book by miles
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