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Exclusive: Zulily hires banks for possible IPO - sources

By Alistair Barr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Zulily hired investment banks in recent weeks to advise the fast-growing e-commerce company on a possible initial public offering, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Zulily, a "flash sales" company founded by former Blue Nile executives Mark Vadon and Darrell Cavens, tapped Goldman Sachs, Citigroup's investment bank and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for the IPO push, according to one of the people.

Zulily is one of the first of a new crop of e-commerce companies to try to go public. Other e-commerce start-ups eyed for potential IPOs by bankers include Etsy, Gilt and Wayfair, according to the other person.

The people requested anonymity because Zulily's plans are private. Zulily spokeswoman Laura Jones declined to comment. Spokesmen at the banks declined to comment.

Zulily's move comes less than a year after the company raised $85 million in a deal led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz that valued it at about $1 billion.

Flash sales companies sell merchandise in short term, heavily discounted events each day. The sector grew fast after the 2008 financial crisis, but not all companies have thrived more recently.

Amazon.com Inc, the world's largest Internet retailer, has its own flash sales business called MYHABIT, and investors are generally wary of other e-commerce companies because Amazon is so dominant.

However, Zulily's focus on kids' apparel and mothers as shoppers has helped the company grow quickly. Founded in 2009, the company said late last year that it had 10 million members and featured 35 sales events daily.

"We are impressed with Zulily's strategic positioning," Jeff Jordan, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz and former eBay executive, wrote in a November blog soon after the firm's investment in Zulily.

"One reality in e-commerce today is that you want to avoid trying to compete directly with Amazon, who is hyper-aggressive in leveraging their enormous scale and cost advantage to offer the largest selection and lowest prices on the Internet," Jordan added. "Zulily does this by aggregating a long tail of talented designers who typically lack extensive national distribution."

(Reporting by Alistair Barr and Sarah McBride in San Francisco; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Bob Burgdorfer)

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