Groupon's Google Moment? CEO Andrew Mason's Wacky Letter References 'Stupidity,' Goals
Daily deals company Groupon has just filed for a $750 million IPO, and though the S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission contains no shortage of jargon and financial details, it also contains a personality-filled letter from Groupon CEO Andrew Mason.
Mason's note, which contains the explicit warning that the "path to success" will be a "bumpy ride" with "moments of sheer stupidity," evokes the letter Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin included in Google's own S-1 filing, as Deal Journal first noted.
Google's founders framed their unorthodox letter as "'an owner's manual' for Google shareholders." Elements of that letter can be seen in Mason's.
For example, Google's Page and Brin opened their letter with the disclaimer, "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one."
Mason's description of Groupon has certain similarities. "We are unusual and we like it that way," he wrote, adding "We are always reinventing ourselves" and "We don't measure ourselves in conventional ways."
In addition to spelling out the company's 'Don't be evil" maxim, Google's co-founders said of the company, "We will not hesitate to place major bets on promising new opportunities. We will not shy away from high-risk, high-reward projects because of short term earnings pressure."
Groupon's CEO says of his company's investment strategy, "We aggressively invest in growth. We spend a lot of money acquiring new subscribers because we can measure the return and believe in the long-term value of the marketplace we're creating. In the past, we've made investments in growth that turned a healthy forecasted quarterly profit into a sizable loss. When we see opportunities to invest in long-term growth, expect that we will pursue them regardless of certain short-term consequences."
The letters from both companies are infused with references to cultures of the companies.
"Life is too short to be a boring company," Mason explained. "We want the time people spend with Groupon to be memorable."
And just as Google's co-founders wrote that their mission was to "make Google an institution that makes the world a better place," Mason said in his letter to investors, "After selling out on our original mission of saving the world to start hawking coupons, in order to live with ourselves, we vowed to make Groupon a service that people love using. We set out to upturn the stigmas created by traditional discounting services, trusting that nothing would be as crucial to our long-term success as happy customers and merchants. "
As Steven Levy noted in In the Plex, Google's letter originally drew criticism from the SEC, which Levy said was "unimpressed by the charms of Page's 'Owner's Manual'" and asked the company to "revise or delete the statements about providing 'a great service to the world,'" among others.
Read more about Groupon's IPO filing here.