Luxury group buying service Gilt Groupe is joining the mega-round bandwagon today with a new $138 million funding, led by Softbank, which took nearly half the round. Goldman Sachs, New Enterprise Associates, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Growth, Pinnacle Ventures, TriplePoint Capital and Eastward Capital also participated, as did existing investors General Atlantic and Matrix Partners.
Gilt Groupe operates a growing family of flash-sales sites, including the original Gilt, Gilt Home, Gilt City, Gilt Children, Gilt MAN, and Jetsetter. Members are offered discounted prices for a limited time, which drives demand. Gilt was one of the earliest flash sale sites, and now there are dozens of copycats. (HauteLook, a smaller flash sale site, was acquired by Nordstrom for $270 million last February).
Social commerce, in general, is attracting a lot of capital. Groupon raised $1 billion earlier this year and is on its way to an IPO. LivingSocial raised $400 million at a $2.9 billion valuation. Those two focus more on local commerce and require a certain number of consumers to commit to a deal before it goes into effect, whereas Gilt acts more like a merchandiser picking the products it thinks its members will want to buy.
Gilt is smaller in revenues than Groupon—on track to be more in the $500 million range than the $2 billion+ range that Groupon is in—but is growing rapidly. A big round like this is usually a precursor to an IPO, which is the next logical step.