Groupon: We’re the Savior for Small Businesses

    December 18, 2010
    Chris Crum

Legend has it that Groupon turned down a $6 billion offer from Google, which if accepted would have been Google’s biggest acquisition to date. Time will tell if this was a smart move or not, but Andrew Mason, Groupon’s CEO seems fairly confident in the company’s future.

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Mason recently appeared on Charlie Rose, who asked him about the offer. He declined to talk about it specifically, but did offer this response: "I think every choice we make in the company comes down to a core of this idea we have of what Groupon could be, and the place it could play in the world in the rest of the 21st century, and every choice that we make is which option will make it more possible for us to get there. So I think whatever we decide to do with the company – the people that we hire, the deals that we run – every itty bitty choice is how do we build this company into something that transforms the way people buy from local businesses?"

Rose asked if the decision had been influenced by decisions Facebook had made, to which Mason responded: "I can’t talk about this Charlie. You can’t talk about all kinds of things largely because for the same reason that every person you go on a date with…you don’t bring them home to your parents right away."

Mason said that the company, which began as nothing more than a side project is adding about 30 cities a month in 35 countries, has 40 million subscribers, and just added 3 million subscribers the previous week. 

Can Groupon Become the Next Amazon?

Mason said he wants Groupon to change the way people buy from local businesses like Amazon changed how they buy products, and told Rose, "The discount is this great trick that we’re playing on people because we’re tricking them into getting out of the house and live their lives, because it’s there for one day. It’s like, ‘I’ve always wanted to go skydiving. If I’m gonna do it, I might as well do it now because it’s never gonna be cheaper,’ so we finally get people to commit and get off the couch and go out and have some fun."

Of course Amazon might wish to be that company too. The company recently invested 175 million into LivingSocial, one of Groupon’s biggest competitors. 

LivingSocial vs Groupon  - Data from Hitwise

The Savior for Small Businesses?

Mason said Groupon was able to give one business half the number of customers in one day that the business had previously had in the previous 25 years combined. That’s quite a feat, and the kind of power that would make such a large price tag from Google seem pretty legit. 

"We’re the savior for small businesses," Mason told Rose. "For consumers, we want to reverse this trend of spending more and more time on the computer, and help people rediscover their cities." He Later added, "We found a way to make the coupon cool."

Mason is well aware of the Groupon copycats out there, but appears satisfied with the large lead it has in the market, the rate of expansion, and the company’s focus on what it does. 

For right now, it looks like Groupon will have some pretty fierce competition from some bigger players it hasn’t really had to contend with much yet, however. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are all going to want a piece of this pie, and all have a great deal of resources and sway over consumer habits on the web itself. 2011 is going to be a most intriguing year for local business deals. 

Watch the entire interview here. Mason’s a pretty funny guy. 

Do you think Groupon is the savior for small businesses? Tell us what you think