Re-tooling fairy tales seems to be in vogue these days.
Apparently the players in Hollywood believe that the world is hungry for a contemporary spin on the old standbys. After all, there’s universal appeal in stories featuring power, privilege, greed, love and a ball gown.
That’s why I’m making a pitch for turning By Invitation Only: How We Built GILT and Changed the Way Millions Shop into a movie. It’s got blockbuster potential written all over.
If you haven’t heard of Gilt, or visited the website, you will. After all, their target audience seems to be humans. Correction. That’s Facebook’s target audience. Gilt’s target audience is humans with credit cards, which is a slightly smaller demographic, but not by much.
The concept of Gilt is simple: “an invite-only sample sale featuring designer goods at prices up to 60 percent off.” That means any fashionista with a laptop (and now with a smart phone) can purchase luxury goods with a click.
Well, with a tick-tock and a click. The brilliance of the Gilt model is that it offers e-commerce ease and access with the adrenaline buzz of getting a great deal and adds the component of limited time and availability to the equation.
Remember how Cinderella’s behavior was dictated by the clock? It adds a nice element to the story. At Gilt, items go on sale at the stroke of noon (ET) daily, and what has happened is transformative. Women across the country have set their schedules around that buzzer. First to see it, first to buy it. There is a rush to the site, and a virtual frenzy to buy. Every day the inventory changes. Every day presents the possibility that the perfect item is available, at a bargain, if you act fast enough.
It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s addictive. And that is what has made Gilt into an empire.
What makes By Invitation Only into a story good enough for the big screen are the real lives of cofounders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson. Both went to Harvard as undergraduates. Both pursued successful, high-octane careers before re-connecting when they matriculated at the Harvard Business School to pursue MBAs. And both will be played by Reese Witherspoon, in an inspired reinvention of Elle Woods, of “Legally Blonde” fame. The difference is that “Legally Blonde” was fiction, whereas Maybank and Wilson are real.
In Cambridge, they cemented their friendship with a shared commitment to hard work, unbridled ambition, complimentary business strengths and fashion. If Elle Woods had had the sense to pursue an MBA, she might have come up with Gilt.
Do not be fooled by the Jimmy Choos. By Invitation Only is very much a business primer for those seeking advice on how to create a start-up in e-commerce. There is as much about how to successfully approach a Venture Capital firm as there is about how to partner with Zac Posen. In other words, this is a book with both style and substance, and a story that is very twenty-first century.
It’s not a rags-to-riches fairy tale. It’s a romance with fashion, a thriller with deals, and a heartbreak written in “Sold-Out.” And with the addition of categories for men, baby & kids, home, and more, there is something for everyone.
I need popcorn just thinking about this movie. But don’t wait for that. Read the book.
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, cofounder of Gilt Groupe, will speak at the at 1 p.m. on April 20.