On stage at last year’s Le Web an argument broke out between co-founder Loic Le Meur and TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington over whether Europe was capable of producing a ‘big win’ Web company or whether Skype was, perhaps, just a one-hit wonder. Like heavyweight fighters, they traded some heavy blows in subsequent blog posts. But during the live on-stage Gilmour Gang, one company was mentioned by Le Meur which left the rest of the assembled staring blankly: Vente Privee.
Probably the reason it prompted such sideways looks, however, is that this is not a classic ‘web app’ startup, but an e-commerce hub. Vente Privee began in France in 2001, but has only recently become a powerhouse of the new wave in Europe: an online private sales club involving designer fashion brands, otherwise known in the fashion retail industry as the “overstock market”. Its success has lead to a bunch of clone sites, while Vente Privee itself is on target to hit €650m in turnonver globally this year. In other words Europe is not out to lunch – as Arrington put it – it is out to shop.
But Vente Privee’s success has now lead to a number of U.S. companies becoming very interested in either entering this world or expanding their operations. TechCrunch Europe thus understands, from some very well placed sources, that Gilt, Amazon and eBay are all actively looking at acquisitions in the European private shopping club space. The price for Vente Privee alone is being talked about in terms of a $1.5 billion sale. Some sources even put the figure at between $2 billion and $4 billion.