From her Gilt trip, Susan Lyne takes on another journey as AOL’s new Brand Group CEO

Lyne. Laid-back where another high-profile female exec leans in?
Lyne. Laid-back where a female counterpart leans in

By Dennis Clemente

Getting a job in an industry you know nothing about is close to impossible, but that’s because you’re not Susan Lyne, the woman who has worked in magazines, movies, TV and most recently, members-only shopping site Gilt. In her sixties now, Lyne can choose to rest on her laurels. She has worked with A-listers– director Francis Ford Coppola for City, Michael Eisner at Disney, Martha Stewart and the ABC Network—but she chooses to go her adventurous way and this time, she has gone AOL.

At the AOL Ventures office last August 19, Chieh Huang, former director at Zynga, introduced Lyne as the new CEO of AOL’s Brand Group. She follows an impressive list of powerful women in the limelight these days — Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo.

So what is she bringing to AOL.—and what can we expect? Lyne is going to be in charge of its brands such as Engadget, Huffington Post and Tech Crunch and what used to be ubiquitous– AOL.com

She said she’ll be focused on the content side. “First thing I thought was rethink AOL.com. I’m thinking of it not just as a destination but with content on it that will also allow us to bring consumers to the mix,” she said.

Not necessarily with AOL.com but for its other brand, she wants to do short-form entertainment, 2-minute news updates, live entertainment and overtime, create multiple channels…aggregate and push content out. Do big ‘wows’ that the Internet will allow us to do.” And if we heard her correctly, she wants to do more than what broadcast networks do.

Looking at the future of AOL in the Internet space, she is sorting all the things they have done and how they can be used. Asked about the possibility of a single user app for AOL, she gave it some thought before saying “I like an app that does one thing well like Uber.”

She expressed her desire to have a team of product designers and engineers working as a single unit, even asking someone from the AOL staff to shepherd resumes along her way; a new challenge for Lyne who is single-minded when she wants to be, even if her career history told us otherwise.

Talking about her past incarnations, she is quick to admit that she didn’t plan to have such a divergent career, “but I do go where I am a beginner again.” In ruminating why she’s often attracted to a job that’s new to her or know nothing about. “Those are the times where my mind works best.”

A perceptive editor sees trends coming her way and that came into play when Lyne made the dramatic shift to the Internet with Gilt. “Back then, there were no tablet computers, no Android and no Pinterest (not to mention mobile e-commerce being in its infancy).” She is saying this, because Gilt ultimately benefited from consumer technology’s rise.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Lyne has impeccable timing but she clearly credits her experience in the magazine industry for her success in turning around organizations, for those she loved and abhorred.

She clearly has a preference. “I hated it (job) at Disney. I was happy at ABC, because it was like a magazine.” She also handled Martha Stewart ‘s magazine “at the time she (Martha) was in jail.”

Still, Lyne counts her Gilt trip as a great learning experience. “I was drawn to some kind of change but I also I learned an enormous amount in four years that I was there,” she said. “The ‘aha’ moment for me there was recognizing flash sales is entertainment! Every noon, when new items come up on the site, it was entertainment.”

Lyne sounds more introspective than deliberate when she speaks. “Sometimes you start to believe your own mythology,” she trailed off at one point, close to the end of her talk, as if she were relaxing at a porch on a lazy Sunday morning.

Perhaps the secret is to make all the hard work look easy and laid-back where a younger counterpart may still need to lean in.

3 types of customers come to Gilt, says founder Michael Bryzek

By Dennis Clemente

How do you get hundreds of people to listen to you when you’ve just heard 22nd startups pitch for 60-seconds each? You just have to be Michael Bryzek, founder of Gilt Groupe, perhaps the most successful CTO in the members-only shopping website which features insider access and discounts to top-notch brands.

But nobody would have thought of that the way Bryzek came to Pitch Night last August 7. Pitch Night, as hosted by Meredith Monroe, provides the platform for really early stage startups to practice and improve their startup pitch.

Bryzek went onstage as if he were the 23rd startup pitching his idea for the first time with his nondescript black Tee (granted it had an emblazoned Gilt logo), faded jeans and well-worn shoes. You could say it’s just his style to be low key and dressed down where his site is known for carrying the most fashionable luxury brands.

For those who don’t know Bryzek, he has his roots in non-profit. Prior to 2007 when he launched Gilt, Bryzek founded Volunteer Solutions and also served as the CTO after the company was acquired by United Way of America in 2001.

As we cornered him later, Bryzek explained to us the purpose of three devices, especially for Gilt. “These are three types of customers,” he insisted. “There is the impulsive mobile shopper, the casual shopper who watches TV with tablet computer in hand, and the laptop user who likes to take his or her sweet time before buying.”

If that’s the case, are we a nation of impulsive buyers? “Forty percent of our revenue is in mobile,” he said.

Not wanting to steal the limelight from the 20 or so presenters, Bryzek let the Pitch Night go with its usual 60-minute pitches from each startup. LineApple.com and Swap.rs won the audience over with their pitches.

LineApple allows you to electronically get into lines and check into appointments. The app virtually holds your place in line so you can shop, play, run errands, or experience local savings nearby while you wait.

Swap enables the purchase of any item in a store or web site using any vendors’ gift card or points. We increase foot traffic, shopping cart conversions and increase wallet share for our merchants.

So for those gift cards you don’t like, founder Rafi Cohen said now you can swap them for something you really want.

Other interesting presenters included dressfortheday.com’s Shradha and Anisha. “Women in the US spend $133,000 of clothing in their lifetime yet 60 percent complain what to wear,” they chorused. Why is that exactly? Well, the presenter did not so much as answer that as say their site is a “fashion dilemma solver.” They reportedly now have 7,000 visitors.

There are not too many, if any, presenters from Thailand. So it was interesting to hear someone talk about a social network for writers, thorfun.com, only it’s mostly in Thai. It claims to have 12,000 writers.

Founder from Norway, Mikael Hveem, presented his startup, Oncommune.com, a digital bulletin board used to create the real-life changes and interactions you want to see in your neighborhood, city or university.

Raad Ahmed, a lawyer, knows how much his profession has been disrupted, so he goes by the tenet, if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em in his site called lawtrades.com. “We are making use of technology to make the law affordable, accessible and transparent,” he said.

LawTrades quickly connects people to talented lawyers through its online platform. People can find a nearby lawyer, see their live availability, and book an appointment on the site right away.

As an added bonus, he said anyone will be able to create, sign and send legally binding agreements in seconds. Whether you’re at a party talking about your latest idea, in front of a fellow craigslister, or lending your expensive camera to a friend’s friend, have peace of mind with LawTrades’ on-demand contracts.

LawTrades’ Lawyer Connecting Service will initially be available in New York.

For all these presenters, Bryzek had some essential tips. “Have an intense focus on execution. Build foundations of trust. Make great decisions.”

If Bryzek is not exactly the epitome of style, what makes Gilt so stylish. “We hire people of great taste, who love great fashion.” Enough said.