Andrew Mason subscribes to the old adage "It's all about the journey, not the destination." That's why he isn't gloating over the fact that Groupon, his group coupon startup, which has gone from 7 to 1,000 employees in two and half years, is one of the fastest-growing Internet companies today.
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It's also why, he says, he didn't jump up and down when his hot new company recently raked in $135 million in funding. Okay, well maybe he did for a minute. But the point is, he is enjoying the ride -- and oh what a ride it's been so far.
Started in November 2008, Groupon is a website that features a deal a day--from wine classes to helicopter lessons--by harnessing the power of groups to get consumers a good deal.
"If Groupon can get a certain number of people to sign up for a given deal, then consumers walk away with anywhere from 50% to 70% off the original price," explained Mason.
And it’s not only the customer who gets a break, he explained, the small business benefits from an influx of business--and Groupon makes a cut from their profits.
Mason didn’t disclose if the Chicago-based company was profitable yet. But it already has over 6 million subscribers and is offering daily discounts in 140 cities (and counting). And with plans for swift expansion, it seems as though this site is just starting to take off- -with over 200 businesses in Chicago alone waiting to be featured on the site.
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As of right now, Mason says he has no upcoming plans to sell his startup, which was recently valued at $1.35 billion. He also said he isn't worried that Groupon’s success might plateau--because his team is continually thinking of ways to reiterate and improve the business.
"I think as long as we're focused on that--as long as we're not sitting around slapping each other on the back and congratulating each other with the success we've had so far," he said. "Hopefully we can continue to grow."
Six Shooter Q&A with Andrew Mason of Groupon
1. What are your three biggest tips to entrepreneurs?
Mason: a) You aren't smart enough to know what people want - build something quickly and get it in front of them so you can start learning.
b) The journey is more important than the destination - making money usually works itself out if you're doing stuff you love, and if you aren't fixated on money/power then you don't have to worry about cutting corners that will make you hate yourself for the rest of your life.
c) Give up - because if that advice worked, you should (give up).
2. As a young entrepreneur, how do you get others to take you seriously? Is it ever hard because of your age?
Mason: I would be very worried if people started taking me seriously. If you can't be the best in the world at something, the second most valuable spot is being the worst in the world - much better than occupying the gray area in between, and the bottom is rarely as competitive as the top. So I try to be the least seriously taken business person in the world, and so far I think it's going great
3. In three words, how would others describe you?
Mason: Gotten kinda fat
4. Who is your biggest inspiration?
Mason: J.S. Bach was writing his craziest and awesomest fugues on his death bed, long after fugues had gone out of style. He just did it because he loved it. I, too, want to die doing something that no one likes.
5. What is the future for Groupon?
Mason: We will try super-hard to keep building things that people love.
6. What is the future for Andrew Mason?
Mason: My co-founder thinks it goes like this: I am doing an interview like this and say something that is misinterpreted to be highly offensive and my career ends in a tragic scandal, freeing me up to play more video games.
And if you know of a promising startup, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.