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Google To Buy Groupon

Google To Buy Groupon - What happens when you throw a bunch of Chicago comedians into a complex of Silicon Valley engineers? Hilarity, maybe. Or one of the more unusual M&A gossip yarns of the past few years.

There's loads of talk right now about whether group-buying coupon service Groupon will sell to a big buyer or will hold out as an independent company in the hopes that it may become the world's leading name in local-business advertising. The barrage of rumors over Groupon is an interesting one--Yahoo wants it! Yahoo loses it! Google may be willing to fork over $4 billion for it! Groupon doesn't want to sell! Wait, has Google bought it?--is an interesting one, if only for the reason that most of the acquisition targets these days are eyed for the hot technology they've built. Groupon isn't.

What it boils down to, primarily, is the fact that Groupon's "secret sauce" is not its technology--as evidenced by the fact that the group-buying model, which had a short and unsuccessful stint in the dot-com days, has proven ridiculously easy to replicate and that hundreds of "Groupon clones" have popped up--but its massive sales force and how that sales force is organized. It's not Google's usual cup of tea, but it's one of Google's own weak spots. And on the other side of things, it's something Groupon may not be able to maintain at such a fast clip on its own.

Groupon is a bit wacky: The Chicago-headquartered company, under the reign of proudly eccentric CEO Andrew Mason (he keeps a level head by surrounding a framed copy of his Forbes magazine cover with other magazine covers featuring the CEOs of once-hyped companies that flopped), has thousands of employees brokering deals with local businesses in dozens of U.S. metro areas as well as international locales in Europe and Latin America. Many of these sales reps, copywriters, and customer service employees were sourced from the Chicago comedy scene.
All in all it's a stark contrast to the current engineer-centrism in Silicon Valley, the attitude depicted through Facebook's displaying of "HACK" in massive stylized letters on the doors to its Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters and through Google's much-publicized willingness to keep its engineers from leaving for the pre-IPO Facebook or small start-ups. If Google buys Groupon, it's not picking up an ace developer team or a legendary Valley entrepreneur. (ThePoint, a "group action" company out of which Groupon spun a few years ago, was Mason's first company.) It's also buying a company that's proven it can make money--and a lot of it--just fine on its own.

Google To Buy Groupon


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