The quiet period is over! Our IPO process was a wild ride, but we’re excited to get back to business and are focused squarely on the future. The last six months have been the most productive in our history, seeing the launch of great new services like [Groupon Now!](http://www.groupon.com/now), [Groupon Rewards](http://www.groupon.com/joinrewards), [Groupon Getaways](http://www.groupon.com/getaways), and Groupon Goods. And with the addition of product and travel deals that are handpicked to make perfect gifts, [Grouponicus](http://www.groupon.com/grouponicus), our corporate wintertime holiday (currently only celebrated in the USA), is off to a roaring start. We sold over 650,000 Grouponicus deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – an increase of over 500% from last year – saving consumers millions of dollars, and delivering tons of business to our merchant partners.
A huge thanks to our customers and merchant partners, who continue to embrace Groupon with a passion that makes us feel like we have the best jobs in the world. We’ve got even more lined up for the next six months than we did in the last six months, so stay tuned! We’re back to communicating like a normal company again… well, as normal as we can muster at Groupon.
Today, Groupon opened for public trading on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol GRPN. Jason Child (CFO), Jeff Holden (SVP Product), and I had a great time on the road over the last two weeks answering the questions of prospective investors and sharing the Groupon story. We are excited to welcome many of the people we met as new shareholders.
Our IPO is a small milestone on our journey, but one that warrants a few words of thanks. Thanks to my cofounders—Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. Thanks to shareholders. Thanks to our employees. Thanks to our board of directors. And last, but not least, thanks to our customers and merchant partners. I feel incredibly grateful to serve as CEO of Groupon. With our IPO behind us, I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead.
As a fast-growing company, we’ve done a lot of hiring this year, including on our senior executive team. Since the beginning of this year, we’ve made a total of 8 additions – that’s 57% of the total executive team. It would have been great if I could say that we batted 1,000%, but that’s rarely the case; after five months at Groupon, Margo Georgiadis, our COO, has decided to return to Google (her former employer) in a new role as President, Americas.
We’ve built a fantastic team that has proven itself highly capable, so this change won’t have an impact on operations. In fact, we are using it as an opportunity to reorganize in a way that reflects our evolving strategic priorities. Sales, Channels, International, and Marketing will now report directly to me.
Here’s a note from Margo: “Groupon is a great company and I feel privileged to have worked there even for a short time. It was a hard decision to leave as the company is on a terrific path. I have complete confidence in the team’s ability to realize its mission.” We wish her well.
Here’s a great way to start the week… We’re excited to announce that the minds at Pelago (creators of Whrrl) have officially joined the Groupon family.
We’ve always liked CEO Jeff Holden, the Whrrl team and the technology they’ve developed. Their obsession with real-world serendipitous discovery, or “Anti-Search,” is core to Groupon’s mission. It’s about discovering what you didn’t know you didn’t know, right in your own backyard. Jeff intimately gets consumer buying behavior and the importance of a great user experience, and his team is this awesome combination of data-driven creatives…the people who create smart products that are really fun to use.
With Jeff overseeing Groupon product development and many Pelago people taking integral roles in future Grouponnovations, Whrrl will be retiring on April 30, 2011. You can read more about that on Pelago’s blog, here.
So here’s a warm welcome to Jeff and the team!
As press interest in Groupon has grown, I’ve found myself increasingly uttering two words that have always annoyed me: “no comment.” We like to be as transparent with our customers as possible, but, just as people don’t walk around naked, there are some things that we as a company don’t talk about (for obvious reasons).
The least we can do is be transparent about the things we won’t be transparent about, which are listed below:
* Plans relating to capital-raising, including a possible public offering
* Pre-announcements of new products
* Our competitors or the competitive landscape
* Statements on core business metrics, including margins or profitability
* Any projections regarding revenue, growth rates or other financial metrics
* Strategic transactions or partnerships with other companies
While we’ll clam up when asked about the above business-y stuff, we’ll always be straight forward about things that affect the experience we’re creating for customers and merchants.
I’m excited to announce that Groupon has come together with Tencent Collaboration Fund and Yunfeng Capital to launch [GaoPeng.com](http://www.gaopeng.com/) in China! As the pioneer of the space and the market leader in over 40 countries, we’re pleased to share our learnings with the GaoPeng team and bring a Groupon-quality customer and merchant local e-commerce experience to Mainland China.
We look forward to working with Tencent Collaboration Fund and Yunfeng Capital to deliver unbeatable deals from top local businesses, starting in Beijing and Shanghai this March!
Five days have passed since the Super Bowl, and one thing is clear – our ads offended a lot of people. Tuesday I [posted an explanation](http://www.groupon.com/blog/cities/our-super-bowl-ads-and-how-were-helping-these-causes/), but as many of you have pointed out, if an ad requires an explanation, that means it didn’t work.
We hate that we offended people, and we’re very sorry that we did – it’s the last thing we wanted. We’ve listened to your feedback, and since we don’t see the point in continuing to anger people, we’re pulling the ads (a few may run again tomorrow – pulling ads immediately is sometimes impossible). We will run something less polarizing instead. We thought we were poking fun at ourselves, but clearly the execution was off and the joke didn’t come through. I personally take responsibility; although we worked with a professional ad agency, in the end, it was my decision to run the ads.
To the charities (for which we expect to net over $500,000) and [others](http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/#41483118) that have spoken out on our behalf, we appreciate your support.
To those who were offended, I feel terrible that we made you feel bad. While we’ve [always been a little quirky](http://www.groupon.com/pages/world-of-groupon), we certainly aren’t trying to be the kind of company that builds its brand on creating controversy – we think the quality of our product is a much stronger message.
Thanks for taking the time to read,
I’m extremely excited to announce that Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has [joined the Groupon Board of Directors](http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110210006880/en). As CEO of one of the world’s most iconic brands, Howard is an invaluable addition to Groupon. 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.
To make room for Howard and future additions to the board, a few of our existing (and fantastic) directors stepped down following our [most recent round of financing](http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/10/groupon-raises-like-a-billion-dollars/). Along with Howard, the Groupon board currently consists of me, my co-founders Eric Lefkofsky (also the chairman) and Brad Keywell, Peter Barris, Kevin Efrusy, and Ted Leonsis. Stepping down will be John Walter, Harry Weller, and Jason Fried.
Everyone on our board has made major contributions to our success, so I’m extremely pleased that John, Harry and Jason will remain close to the company. John Walter, former CEO of R.R. Donnelley, taught me about the importance of culture – Groupon wouldn’t be nearly as cool a place to work if we didn’t have John. Without the support of Harry Weller from NEA, we might have never received the funding we used to conceive and grow Groupon – he’s also been our most prescient advisor, predicting trends like the rampant cloning of Groupon far before the rest of us. Jason Fried is a product genius, and will continue to help us simplify and refine our features as a member of our advisory board.
I’ve been spending the day listening to the negative feedback about our Tibet Super Bowl commercial, and want to take a crack at explaining why we created this campaign.
We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously – that’s why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money at [SaveTheMoney.org](http://savethemoney.groupon.com/). Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called [The Point](http://www.thepoint.com), and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our [G-Team initiative](http://www.groupon.com/g-team). In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva.
When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact – and this is part of the reason we ran them – they have the opposite effect.
The firm that conceived the ad, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, strives to draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands. When they [created this Hulu ad](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m71m-LBqFQ), they highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu. Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. Why make fun of ourselves? Because it’s different – ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers. We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes – even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?
We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes. That’s why organizations like Greenpeace, buildOn, The Tibet Fund, and the Rainforest Action Network all decided to throw their support behind the campaign ([read Greenpeace’s blog post here](http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/news-and-blogs/campaign-blog/save-the-whales-save-the-money/blog/33238) and the Rainforest Action Network’s post here). In fact, the feedback led us to make changes to the end of our ads that further encourage our fundraising. To that point, if the ads affected you, we hope you’ll head over to [SaveTheMoney.org](http://www.savethemoney.org) and make a donation (which we’ll match) – we’re hoping to raise a lot of money.
The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.
After a two-year holdout, we finally decided to run real television ads. In the past, we’ve depended mostly on word-of-mouth and limited our advertising to online search for a couple of reasons. For one, we don’t know if television ads are worth the money. More importantly, television ads are such a huge creative statement, and so hard to do well, that we were worried it’d be near impossible to find an ad agency that could make ads we’d be confident in airing.
This year, we realized that in spite of how much we’d grown, a ton of people still hadn’t heard of Groupon, so we decided to give in to our Napoleon complex and invade the rest of the world with a proper Super Bowl commercial.