Kevin Ryan – Founder of Gilt Groupe and His Latest Startup Kontor
Kevin P. Ryan is a United States based entrepreneur who has founded several New York-based businesses. The list includes Gilt Groupe, database firm MongoDB, Business Insider, and Zola. Throughout his career, he has managed to be an excellent CEO. He has keen insight on designing and setting up a new office interior. So, he is now working on his new project, a visual search and discovery platform for workplace design calling it Kontor.
Early career of Kevin Ryan
Ryan completed his B.A. from Yale University in 1985 and finished his M.B.A. from INSEAD in 1990. While at United Media, Ryan introduced the Dilbert Web site, inspired by the popular comic strip of Scott Adams.
Working as Senior VP of Business and Finance, he supported a restructuring attempt which raised United Media’s profits fivefold. Ryan has also been acquainted with Euro Disney in France and as an investment banker in the United States and the United Kingdom for Prudential Investment Corporation.
Gilt Groupe is an online merchandise firm based in the United States. In 2007, Ryan established Gilt Groupe, www.gilt.com. It is an e-commerce site, providing consumers the experience of purchasing merchandise and food. Gilt gives fashion for women, men, and children. It also offers hotels and travel experiences around the world. Artisanal ingredients and home décor are also included in their service.
Gilt Groupe has gathered over 240 million US dollars in total financing since its establishment in November 2007. DFJ Growth and Goldman Sachs, Matrix Partners, Softbank Group, New Enterprise Associates and General Atlantic Partners are the prime investors of Gilt.
In February 2014, Gilt Groupe was developing an IPO. However in January 2016, the company gave it away to the Hudson’s Bay Company for $250 million.
Kevin Ryan on designing workplace
On his latest start-up Kontor Mr. Kevin Ryan said, “For better or worse, I’ve designed more office space than people you know. It wasn’t my goal…but I do like it, and I care about creating a nice space, so I’m probably a little more involved than your average CEO.”
But during the process of interior designing for his several companies, Ryan says he detected first-hand the challenges that architectural companies and their clients suffer from. For example, pulling different varieties of furniture and other installed items can take certain hours to collect.
Ryan said, “Sometimes it takes them six hours just to find lighting examples just to show to their clients because they need show them 15 different examples…that should not be a six-hour process.”
The issue comes from the fact that most companies don’t have proper systems, which can access them to arrange and go through across their portfolio of finished work or pictures that can inspire them, this includes pictures related to project or vendor catalogs, all under one roof, all well organized. So, without this proper system, when they go back to their client with examples of possible results, they just show them the individual vendor websites, it breaks the rhythm and also consumes more time.
However, many people today are inclined towards gathering the design-related ideas and images on the social site Pinterest, that site itself was not made specifically to fulfill the requirements of this industry.
Items on Pinterest aren’t surely tagged the way architectural companies would want them to be – like interior glazing or swoopy chairs and the format is not in a way to make a firm’s own portfolio of work easy to organize, reference, or search across.
Latest Startup Kontor
It is said to be a hub of the office design, the site, which will be introduced to the public in a short period of time. The site will have the facility for firms to upload their public and privet photos. Kontor then recognizes the items in the photos and tags them accordingly. Over the period of time, the idea is that the furniture seller themselves will support in the tagging process, and hopefully, also pay for good placement for different search terms, which will help Kontor to make money.
Meanwhile, for the architectural companies themselves, Kontor provides them a process to more quickly manage and surface products and vendors to display to clients, as well as amalgamate on projects. They also have the benefit of showing their work to potential clients, who may not be aware of their brand name, but find themselves inspired by pictures of their previous projects.
The meetings are going on with around top 50 firms, and 30 signed up in a matter of weeks. Ryan said that feed has been positive so far. He said, “I think all of them will be on board by the time we launch,” he says.
The future of this business is good and the potential is as similar as other e-commerce sites such as Kayak or cars.com, but this one is particularly focused on the $70 billion commercial interiors industry.
And though workplace design is the regular topic of discussion in the tech industry from which Ryan hails, as it speaks to company lifestyle, a greater inclination toward latest, tech industry-inspired offices is something that’s taking root inside other industries today, too. Even “boring” operations of insurance companies know that having a “cool” workplace can help them lure and retain employees, including millennials, said Ryan.
Ryan has appointed Mia Lewin, a former eBay exec and founder and CEO of design/story as a CEO of Kontor.
The Kontor is also supported by $5 million in seed and Series A funding. Kontor will be introduced into beta later this year, but is gathering email sign-ups for its beta now.
Other work and achievements of Kevin Ryan
Ryan is also one of the members of the board of directors for Human Rights Watch, INSEAD, and The NYC Investment. He also holds a member of the Yale International Council and the Council on Foreign Relations. Ernst & Young, LLP announced Ryan as Entrepreneur of the Year In June 2009. In 2013, Observer declared him one of “The 100 Most Influential New Yorkers of the Past 25 Years”.
“I don’t have an office. I sit in a cubicle with everybody else. That’s partly so no one can ask for an office, which in a fast-growing company isn’t practical. But it’s also so I can keep my finger on the pulse of how people are feeling.”
“I used to think business was 50 percent having the right people. Now I think it’s 80 percent.”
“The best way to be productive is to have a great team. So I spend more time than most CEOs on human resources. That’s 20 percent of my week.”
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