Thanks to Kevin Ryan, New York has been home to at least two game changers in Internet commerce. First, he discovered the key that turned the Internet from a time drain into a moneymaker. Second, he founded a company that revolutionized online selling, and dragged the fashion business in his wake.
From 1996 to 2005, Mr. Ryan was president and then CEO of New York-based DoubleClick. If banner ads piss you off, blame Kevin Ryan. If you like having free access to Internet content, thank him. DoubleClick figured out how to turn web traffic into money. The owners sold out to private equity in 2005, which in turn flipped the company to Google for more than $3 billion.
Mr. Ryan left to start AlleyCorp with his old colleagues from DoubleClick. Alley started three companies: 10gen, Business Insider and Gilt Groupe. The companies have little in common with each other or DoubleClick, but Mr. Ryan and his friends are proving they flat-out know how to sell on the Internet.
Gilt Groupe, founded in 2007 with Mr. Ryan as CEO, ignited the practice of flash sales of coveted apparel and accessories. Yes, he’s the guy responsible for your office counting down the time to noon to pick up a bargain pair of red-soled Christian Louboutins.
In advance of Gilt Groupe going public, Mr. Ryan announced last November that he was stepping down as CEO. When the history of business in the Internet Era is written, Kevin Ryan will be credited as one of the first innovators to figure out how to make money online, and one of the first to do it twice in unrelated ventures. The smart money says he’s not finished.