By Invitation Only by Alexis Maybank


7 Critic Reviews

It is both badly written and unilluminating, not to mention rife with business cliches.
-LA Times


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 for future titans of Wall Street and the Fortune 500.  Little did either suspect that five years later, they’d become famous not in finance or consulting or corporate management, but at the bleeding-edge intersection of fashion and technology. Gilt Groupe – launched by Alexis, Alexandra, and three colleagues in 2007 – is one of the most fascinating startups of recent years, with a valuation of more than $1 billion. And it all began with one bold idea: to bring sample sales online and change the way millions shop. As Alexis and Alexandra write about the day Gilt went live: “We had created a website that could potentially change the rules of retail, for both shoppers and brands. If shopping was traditionally a slow, leisurely activity that might consume an entire day, it would now be competitive, addictive, urgent, thrilling—a rush delivered at the same time each day. Shopping would become not just easier, but so much fun.” But turning that vision into reality wasn’t easy. Designers had long controlled their own sample sales by staging them in anonymous, makeshift locations and strictly limiting invitations. Those lucky enough to hear about a Marc Jacobs or Hermès sample sale would drop everything and run for dramatic, fleeting bargains. Why should elite brands support a new startup trying to replicate the experience online? And even if brands like Valentino, Christian Louboutin, and Zac Posen got on board, would shoppers embrace such a website? Would the kind of people who love high-end fashion really visit a new online sale each day? Was “accessible luxury” a breakthrough idea or an absurd oxymoron? Alexis and Alexandra share their perspective in this dramatic story of Gilt’s birth, rise, and evolution. They show how they juggled the conflicting needs of their suppliers, engineers, marketers, and potential investors. They explain how they blended their individual strengths and weaknesses and managed their rapidly growing team. They cover the growing pains of expanding into new categories like housewares, travel, and menswear. And they take us through the darkest moments of the recession when Gilt might easily have died. As you’ll learn from the true story of Gilt, anything is possible for those with the creativity to recognize a new opportunity and the perseverance to make it real.  

About Alexis Maybank

See more books from this Author
ALEXIS MAYBANK and ALEXANDRA WILKIS-WILSON are the cofounders (with Kevin Ryan) of Gilt Groupe. Previously, Maybank launched eBay Canada and eBay Motors while Wilkis-Wilson worked for Merrill Lynch, Louis Vuitton, and Bulgari. Both have MBAs from Harvard Business School. They live in Manhattan. Visit
Published April 12, 2012 by Portfolio. 285 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Biographies & Memoirs, Computers & Technology, History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for By Invitation Only
All: 7 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 3


Mar 01 2012

The writing is clear, but most impressive is the authors' confidence and exacting attention to every detail.

Read Full Review of By Invitation Only | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Apr 02 2012

In addition to being an entertaining and remarkable success story, Maybank and Wilson's tale is also practical and inspiring.

Read Full Review of By Invitation Only | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Christina Binkley on Apr 12 2012

It's difficult to wholly swallow parts of this narrative, given the many self-serving claims, not to mention snide swipes at unnamed—but obvious—competitors.

Read Full Review of By Invitation Only | See more reviews from WSJ online

Financial Times

Below average
Reviewed by Vanessa Friedman on Apr 18 2012

Their story could have been full of drama but they seem unable to humanise it, instead concentrating on a relentlessly perky tone and skimming over struggles.

Read Full Review of By Invitation Only | See more reviews from Financial Times

LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by Vanessa Friedman on Jun 03 2012

It is both badly written and unilluminating, not to mention rife with business cliches.

Read Full Review of By Invitation Only | See more reviews from LA Times

The Suburban Diary

Reviewed by Emily Arnim on May 08 2012

By Invitation Only radiates with brilliance and fearlessly swift movement which catapulted the Luxury Flash Sale Concept into a Billion Dollar Business.

Read Full Review of By Invitation Only

Viv Mag

Apr 12 2012

Interspersed with the pair’s compelling story are helpful lists of questions that entrepreneurs should ask themselves...

Read Full Review of By Invitation Only

Reader Rating for By Invitation Only

An aggregated and normalized score based on 58 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review