Groupon At 10: How Email Deals Created A Tech Giant And Why It’s Shrinking

By Ally Marotti
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Ally Marotti takes a look at the trials and tribulations of “Groupon” which is celebrating 10 years in business.


Groupon launched a decade ago this fall with a two-for-one pizza deal at Motel Bar in Chicago, a humble beginning that preceded a whirlwind rise and an even faster fall.

Its business model resonated with deal-seeking customers and small merchants scarred by the Great Recession.

Users waited each day for the company’s emails to land in their inboxes, offering a deal from a local business that only kicked in once a certain number of vouchers was sold. Groupon hired a team of writers to rope people in with wit and sarcasm, and it offered incentives to users who spread the word to friends.

The company became one of Chicago’s biggest tech success stories since the dot-com era. Even now, after years of shrinking, Groupon is still held up as a triumph of the city’s tech scene. It employs more than 1,500 people locally. Two of its founders, Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, rank among the highest-profile entrepreneurs in the city and have gone on to form billion-dollar tech companies that use big data to battle cancer and make heavy machinery more efficient.

But the growth at Groupon was too much, too fast. Company leaders have spent the past several years trying to figure out what Groupon should be, backpedaling on growth and reducing the company’s reliance on those wry daily emails.

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