Groupon co-founder and early investor Eric Lefkofsky announced in a blog post Monday that he’s backing off of Groupon to focus more on Lightbank, the venture capital firm he co-founded with fellow Groupon investor Brad Keywell.
Explaining the decision, Lefkofsky wrote: “My role has always been more complicated at Groupon, as I am a co-founder as well as its first investor. Andrew has been the founder and CEO since Day One, which has permitted me to act more like a super-active investor and director than a member of the management team.”
Lefkofsky went on to explain (more or less) that Andrew Mason has proven himself to be a capable CEO who no longer needs Lefkofsky to help out as much as he had before. Lefkofsky doesn’t specify exactly what roles he played in the early days of Groupon, other than to say:
“Any entrepreneur can appreciate being understaffed, so in the early days whenever Andrew needed me, I would help out – typically with finance, operations and legal. When Groupon was a ‘young’ company, Andrew and I wore a lot of different hats. Every time we hired someone new, we gave up a hat. Given the breadth of the team today, everyone’s hat is planted firmly on the right head, which has allowed me to focus on doing what I do best.”
Indeed, Groupon owes much of its success. Eric Lefkofsky met Groupon CEO Andrew Mason shortly after Mason graduated from Northwestern University in 2003 with a degree in music (always useful). Mason did Web design for Lefkofsky in Chicago and then left to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Later, when Mason came up with the concept of The Point—a Groupon-like platform for effecting social change—Lefkofsky decked him out with $1 million in seed money.
It later turned out that The Point had a tough time making money. Lefkofsky urged Mason to come up with a monetization strategy, which resulted in the creation of Groupon.
Lefkofsky says he will remain the company’s Board of Directors as the Chairman. He currently owns 21% of its outstanding shares, compared to Andrew Mason’s 7.7%.
Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell founded Lightbank in Spring 2010.
Image source: NYTimes