Gilt Groupe: Riding the Gilded Wave of Growth

Editor's note: This story is part of TheStreet's Tomorrow's Leaders Today series.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Rob Deeming never stops moving. When he's not jetting between New York and London as the head of strategic projects at luxury discount site Gilt Groupe, Deeming can be found surfing in the Rockaways, playing soccer and hiking in the countryside.

"I tend to be running at 100 miles per hour every day," he said.

Fittingly, the 33-year-old Deeming has landed a job that requires this same level of intensity: Drumming up new business for Gilt, a fast growing e-commerce start-up launching a dizzying number of new verticals while fending off steep competition from rivals including Amazon's ( AMZN) MyHabit.com and Nordstrom's ( JWN) RueLala.

But while Gilt is prized by bargain hungry women who rush online at noon each day to nab items like $700 Judith Ripka earrings and $200 Marc by Marc Jacobs skinny jeans for up to 60% off, Deeming said he wasn't drawn to the company by a love of designer apparel, but rather its massive growth potential.

After graduating from Nottingham University in the U.K., Deeming worked as a management consultant at Bain before attending Harvard Business School in 2005.

He spent the summer after his first year at business school at Apple ( AAPL) where he worked in the iTunes group.

Despite the prestige of working at the notoriously tight-lipped consumer electronics giant, Deeming said it wasn't a cultural fit.

"Apple was an amazing place to work but the issue was that there was so much secrecy it could get frustrating at times," he said. "You heard about products in the same way that the broader market did."

Another obstacle: An inability to move up quickly within the organization since high up execs tend to stick around.

"Apple doesn't seem like an organization where you'll fly through the ranks quickly and that's something I wanted to do," he said.

Returning to Cambridge, Mass. in the fall, Deeming began working on a new business with a fellow classmate that turned into Amuso, an online gaming service that made trivia games for social networks like Bebo and Facebook.

After selling Amuso to the BBC, he moved on to Outside.In, a local news aggregator, where he served as chief operating officer. Outside.In was sold to AOL ( AOL) in March, where it was folded into Patch, a group of hyperlocal news sites.

Bitten by the start-up bug, Deeming was encouraged to join Gilt in 2009 by then COO Jennifer Carr-Smith, a business school mentor.

"I was drawn to Gilt because I liked the model and had worked in e-commerce before," he said. "It looked like a company that was going to be on a path of growth."

Deeming thought right.

Co-founded in 2007 by former DoubleClick exec Kevin Ryan, the company in May raised a whopping $138 million from investors including Japan's SoftBank and Goldman Sachs ( GS) at a $1 billion valuation -- more than double the company's value a year prior.

The company also posted $423 million in revenue last year, up from $170 million in 2009.

Much of Gilt's growth comes not only from its core discount business, but new full-priced verticals such as its luxury travel site Jetsetter, its gourmet food site Gilt Taste and its men's fashion site Park & Bond, which combined are expected to generate $100 million within the next fiscal year.

100 Ideas a Week
Deeming first served as the so-called chief-of-staff to then CEO Susan Lyne where he helped improve communication and efficiencies within the company while coming up with ideas for new businesses.

"At the time, Gilt was a lot smaller and a new project was a big deal because we didn't have so many verticals," he said. "Now we plow through 100 ideas a week."

In mid-2010, Deeming began working for Ryan, who replaced Lyne as CEO.

"At any one time I'm trying to manage a list of 10 to 15 businesses we're thinking about going into and then I'll put together two or three that might be the most interesting," he said. "I'll take that to the board, review them and then we'll decide what to move forward with so we can put together a team."

One of the first new verticals Deeming was tasked with building out was Gilt City, the company's answer to Groupon, catering to a high end, urban audience.

With Deeming's help, Gilt City has expanded into 10 metropolitan areas including New York, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

And just a little more than a year after launching, the business will account for around 10% of Gilt's overall revenue next fiscal year.

For the last nine months, Deeming has been spending time in the U.K. where he's working with a team of seven to launch Jetsetter's first international site. He expects to stay at Jetsetter U.K. until he gets the business off the ground before turning it over to a senior manager.

Deeming is also working on several top-secret projects and re-launches of existing sites which will be announced in 2012.

"It's exciting to always be working on news things, but it's also challenging to build a business and then leave it to someone else to run," he said. "It feels like letting go of a baby."

Growing too Fast?

While Deeming said he feels confident Gilt isn't stretching itself too thin through aggressive expansion, the company has scaled back launching new businesses this past year to ensure it can dedicate enough resources to its different sites.

"Growing fast is always a concern but not growing fast is a concern too," CEO Ryan said. "There are lots of things we haven't done -- we haven't expanded into 20 countries and we're not in 100 different categories."

And as retailers are becoming smarter about cutting back on ordering excess goods that Gilt relies on to supply its inventory, the company will continue to break into other areas to sustain its growth, said Gene Alvarez, an analyst with Gartner.

"Gilt needs to look at new opportunities when you see the core business seemingly maturing," added Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "Growing into these other businesses can mitigate the negative affect of not having as much inventory there."

For Deeming, he sees Gilt continuing to push new businesses forward, one of which he hopes to build from the ground up and then run full-time eventually.

"I'm not ready to give up the fast paced build-it life yet," he said.

-- Written by Olivia Oran in New York.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/Ozoran.

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