Darbyshire, Ryan Team to Highlight Ways to Succeed in Competitive Landscapes

By Jamie Epstein May 04, 2012

Gawker is a news magazine and blog based in New York City that refers to itself as the “source for daily Manhattan news and gossip,” while Gilt Groupe is a shopping Web site that helps its members find clothing, things for their home, food, travel and activities they are interested in.

What do these two things have in common? Both had their most prominent members present at this year’s StartUp 2012.

Yesterday, both Gaby Darbyshire, COO of Gawaker and Kevin Ryan, founder and CEO of Gilt Groupe – in addition to the chairman of the company that spearheaded the event Business Insider – joined together in a session that looked closely at how to build a company that will prove successful in the long term that is attempting to enter a market that is already full of multiple organizations growing by the day.

Ryan started the conversation by revealing that back in 1995 at the beginning of the commercial Internet; he started selling ecommerce and advertising because he predicted the Internet was going to be big. This decision was clearly the right one and his first project led him to start a database company and shopping engine that eventually became Gilt. As both of these were already pretty crowded verticals, Ryan claimed that start-ups should never be methodical, and should instead constantly think about where opportunities lie.

He began Gilt after seeing a surging trend in Europe of flash sales, while with Business insider he felt like other trade publications weren’t what he wanted to read and he wanted to have a totally different approach.

“Even in a crowded area, there is always room if you have a good product,” he said.

“Many verticals I don’t think are new opportunities; rather many times someone else has the initial idea,” Ryan added. “In all these situations, we knew there was opportunity where you could create something that would fill a need but the question is should you pick something underserved and do something that hasn’t been done before, or do you  try something already being done but fix problems and make it bigger? Being first doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best.”

At this point, Darbyshire jumped in: “As an entrepreneur, you never ask if it is better or not to do this or that because it is hard enough to come with an idea you feel passionate about and ultimately so few ideas work. Therefore, it’s a judgment call on what you want to do and the idea is less important than you think as it is really broken down into 90 percent execution and 10 percent new idea. The hard part is getting great people who do a great job and ultimately making a product that stands out.”

But once your company does begin to become successful, don’t be naïve and think it will be smooth sailing going forward. As Ryan stated, “Once you get to 1,000 people, things go wrong all the time and my life is now filled with fixing things.”

Long ago in the news space, it only took one loyal person with a voice to bring their business to fruition, however there is so much competition now for people out there to be the best writer. “Competition is so strong, you can’t just try and see,” Darbyshire said.

Both speakers also agreed human resource departments and hiring processes are one of the most important parts of a CEO’s job, and it’s simply impossible to perform this job to the best of your ability as a tiny start-up.

The most important decision you can make to promote continuous success is bringing key people on, because even good ideas need good people to back it to work. In addition, once you attain these quality employees it is vital to keep them around for as long as possible. Ryan said he believes that the number one reason people leave companies is because they don’t like their manager and these individuals will put up with a lot if they feel their manager supports them to the best of their ability.

Ryan concluded, “It’s hard when it doesn’t work but when it does there is nothing more fun than doing a start-up.”

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Web Editor

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