Wow, it's been a busy week for Groupon. Amidst the ever persistent backlash against Groupon's recently aired Super Bowl TV ads, CEO Andrew Mason announced via the Groupon blog (GrouBLOGpon) Thursday afternoon that the company is adding none other than Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to its board of directors. Additionally, Schultz' VC firm Maveron has bought an undisclosed amount of Groupon stock from existing investors (so Groupon isn't technically getting new money from Maveron). To make room for Schultz on the board, several directors have stepped down, including Jason Fried, John Walter, and Harry Weller.
"As CEO of one of the world’s most iconic brands, Howard is an invaluable addition to Groupon," Mason blogged. "His experience in building the culture and business of Starbucks and his relentless focus on innovation to improve customer experiences brings a unique combination of skills to our Board of Directors."
The key word in there is "brand." When you break it down, Groupon isn't a technological game-changer on par with Google or Facebook. It isn't revolutionizing the Internet or commerce, and in fact the business model has proven to be very, very imitable. So what does Groupon have that no one else has? The name "Groupon." Groupon is to collective buying what Starbucks is to coffee. Starbucks wasn't the first coffee shop franchise, and many, many others have moved into the space to vy for the same customers (and you could easily argue that some are doing it better). What Starbucks has is the brand and the exposure, and that's how Groupon is going to stay in the lead as its millions of little clones nip at its heels.
Remaining board members include co-founders Eric Lefkofsky, Brad Keywell, Kevin Efrusy, Peter Barris, and Ted Leonsis. In January, Groupon raised a monster $950 million Series D round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, raising its valuation to $4.75 billion. Only $377 million was new equity; the remaining $573 million came from new investors buying shares from existing investors and employees. Now the company is reportedly in discussions with Wall Street bankers about a possible $15 billion IPO this year.
Maveron has invested in a wide range of popular Web companies, including eBay, Shutterfly, The Motley Fool, DrugStore.com, and PayNearMe.
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