Jun 17 2011

if I were ceo of groupon…

I’ve been reading all the viewpoints on Groupon, dissecting its IPO position, and thought I’d suggest an “alternative viewpoint”.

In this viewpoint, perhaps you’ll see a different way to look at their actions and model.  I’m writing it on my own blog because it’s really just one man’s opinion, and not related to my semi-conflicted role as founder of Closely.

So, let’s pretend I’m groupon’s ceo – take a glimpse into my unpublished playbook…

  • Rule #1: spend like there is no tomorrow the year before I go public.  Why?  two reasons – my year-over-year performance charts and investor meetings in post IPO quarters will make me look brilliant through that first awkward year as a pub co!  And two, because I know that the real value I bring to the market is having the biggest freakin opt-in consumer hook for local commerce on the entire planet. Gigantic is better than huge is better than big!
  • Rule #2: Rush to the public market like a bat outta hell – not because of some deep fear about the long-term viability of my business model, but because this is a currency play, baby.  Get with the program!
  • Coming Out: We’ll get out at a BIG number.  So what if that number is $18-20B, it’s still 3X what I turned down from Google.  And, besides, it’s the next step you need to watch.
  • The Real Plan: With my nice lofty new currency, I’ll crank open my acquisition play book:
    • Yelp, check.  When I own reviews + commerce, I have it all to own the local shopper experience.
    • Foursquare, check.  Those boys have more than nice hair. They have the pulse on live mobile. With no local sales force – ergo, they need me!
    • OpenTable, check.  I could really tighten my grip and control inventory flow in category numero uno! The market’s already telling them they need me!
    • Qype, most def! Gotta stay very Euro, and these guys are killing it!
    • And, yes there’s a few others…
  • So, look at this from the other side:  From the new Groupon… I’ll turn those skeptical analysts into my biggest fans, and bring new air into my valuation bubble!  Why? because I’ll be the undisputed big boy in local commerce, baby. Sitting pretty, scaled and diversified nicely from the one trick astro pony that got me here.

So, tell me again that I was stupid to turn down Google?

Or that Groupon isn’t sustainable?  You see, that really doesn’t matter.

…just sayin’

Of course, I have no idea if this resembles the playbook, but I’m willing to bet it’s a lot closer than the image of a company desperately hoping their model holds on as is.  It’s got a smart-as-hell board, a machine under development for hiring and training local sales, and a fundamental model while not sustainable “as is” – very capable of morphing in very interesting directions.

I was just getting a little tired of everyone assuming it’s a company standing still.

Never under estimate the currency of this scale of an IPO, or the fatigue of late stage pre-IPO investors/execs [or hot businesses with an unclear revenue model] to simply take a great exit offer, and “be done”.

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Mar 27 2011

but for a little more brain space!

Two things coming onto the scene are capturing “that little voice” inside my head. You know the one, saying “hmm, there’s something really big under here, I’d better take a serious look”!

Locker Project on GitHub

The Locker Project.

I’m a big fan of Jer, ever since we first met back in ’98, and concocted a partnership that sponsored and supported the growth of Jabber. His new start-up, Sing.ly (where the locker meets the cloud?), is sponsoring the Locker Project, which (I hope) means it gets the benefit of his careful and reasoned approach to open platforms and his vision about a “better open stack”.

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Jan 22 2011

on failure

I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to spend a couple of days in Montreal with a very engaged group of startups, at the Montreal Startup Camp on January 20th, 2011.  The theme for the Camp was Failure.

Below is the presentation I gave, entitled “My mistakes. Some advice from a well worn path”. It was intended to give a little perspective from a decade of startup experience, and the learning that comes from a pretty broad range of personal and professional challenges along the path!

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Aug 25 2010

can you here me now?

The predictable entry of Facebook into the space previously known as “check-in” has caused an appropriate amount of stir. A careful entry, for very good reasons, Facebook Places is a decidedly simple and utilitarian approach in its first step into location sharing.  While anyone who reads my blog undoubtedly views check-in as a product with considerable history, it’s worthwhile keeping in mind that only ~2% of Facebook users have ever used any of the current generation of mobile check-in products.

I'm here with all my friends! (from Barfly)

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Jul 19 2010

pivoting: the delight of a great team in a great space

I’m been enthusiastically hammering my head against the wall of local media and small business revenue models for over a dozen years.  About a year ago, I strapped on my early stage start-up skates and wobbled my way back onto the ice.

the napkin phase

A lot has changed in the 6-7 years since I was an early stage entrepreneur.  While running a 150-person local media tech business keeps you contemporary with industry knowledge, rolodex and perspective, you forget the scrappy exhilaration and anxiety of a from-scratch business formed around a shining new idea. It also gives you a near carnal attachment to a clean cap table;)

learning to lean

I’ve read with a mixture of enthusiasm and marginal skepticism the lean start-up school of thought.  The “agile + listen to your market + pivot quickly” logic is high quality stuff for any start-up to seriously digest.

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Jul 9 2010

will “live recommendations” obsolete local review sites?

We’ve grown up to view online business reviews and recommendations as something that gets accumulated into organized sources of browsable content. TripAdvisor and Yelp represent two highly successful cases-in-point of the power of critical mass to reviews.

The dominating model of shopping behavior goes something like this…

search > initial select > search again for opinion to test your decision > transact

As noted in Search Engine Watch, “the search continues because search engines aren’t the consumer’s most trusted source of advice”. As we all know, we’re spending more and more time socially connected.  This creates a new whole stepping off point for shopping behavior. In theory, the potential exists to invert the experience and infuse trust and recommendations into the front end of shopping.

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Apr 5 2010

group think


A few people have been asking about my thoughts on GroupOn.  This post presents some general observations on their business model and the impact on local promotion marketing.  Soon, I’ll take a look at how we view and apply this learning in our business model at Closely.

As a consumer, and as an entrepreneur, I love GroupOn.  They have build real velocity into a large market need and space, executing exceptionally well on a quality business model.   I also am impressed how they have backed their brand strategy with real attention to customer service.  For those not familiar with GroupOn, explore here.

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Mar 30 2010

thumbs up, fans down


Out with “fan”, in with “like”.

So, Facebook is officially mothballing the terminology of Fan, in favor of the kinder, gentler Like.  According to All Things Digital, the decision has been made.

Sometimes subtle changes in terminology can drive meaningful impact and unintended consequences.  My commentary below  is on how this might impact a Business’ Fan Page marketing.

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Mar 16 2010

opening up

A View into Closely Inc.

You may know I’ve been working on a new start-up for the past 6 months, pretty much heads down – stealth by default, not design.  Actually we’ve been very active in our market, just totally focused on product, not business cards or websites!

In a couple of days, we’ll be taking the wraps off.  We’ve been chosen to launch at the DEMO Conference, which is a great venue to jump off the ledge with new products.  I’ve done this once before; it’s a pretty intense and fun launch pad!

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Nov 21 2009

and the people shall inherit the earth


I was pleased and excited to see this week’s launch of Public Earth’s website.  Not just because it’s the home of a small cadre of friends that I knew would build something very interesting, but because I believe in the fundamental premise underlying Public Earth.

The Twitter synopsis of Public Earth sums it up nicely.

We’re the Wiki For Places, dedicated to delivering interesting, unique, and up-to-date place information in a personalized way.

after world domination

The scale of product investment and advancement commitment from Google and Microsoft in mapping these past five years has been truly impressive.  These brands deservedly unseated MapQuest’s sleepy position by moving the ball forward on user experience, on multi-dimensional content, and on developer tools.

Fact is though, we’re still at the utilitarian consumption stage in geo-experience, and the very thing that creates their current world domination could well be what weighs down their forward progress.  The “Anchor Tenants” of the consumer geo universe, perhaps. [for fun: Google = Walmart, MapQuest = Kmart, and Microsoft so wants to be Target].

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