Groupon CEO Andrew Mason certainly didn't mince words when speaking about his daily deal business and its competitors when speaking at the D9 Conference on Wednesday.
In a live interview with AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, Mason's was fairly candid about Groupon's competition and dropping them into three categories: "straight up clones, sleeping giants and the ones out of left field." However, even though Mason only mentioned LivingSocial specifically, he did not give it or any other daily deal site an actual placement in one of those categories.
He did, however, offer a more descriptive opinion about other daily deal sites:
All the clones were drafting everything we were doing. I was a music major, so with music, we call that plagiarism, but in business it’s called competition.
On the heels of this statement, Mason asserted that Groupon is in the process of rolling out its own instant location-based service called Groupon Now. He said that it's different from Google Offers, which started rolling out this week in Portland, but it's hard to see the difference at this point in time other than the fact that you could get a discounted teeth cleaning on the same day and not just coupons for Jamba Juice or Walgreens.
Swisher also interrogated Mason as to why Groupon hasn't sold itself to a larger company yet, to which Mason responded coyly:
We are happy as an independent company. Any company should be happy being apart of either Google or Yahoo.
And as for that less-than-loved Super Bowl ad?
With the Super Bowl commercials, we try to have a sense of humor. Part of our purpose is to make life less boring for people. That’s what we do with deals, and the write-ups, and that’s what we tried to do with the commercials.
For us, who would seriously believe who would trivialize the cause like this? We gave ourselves too much credit. People believe corporations are more evil than I thought.
Mason is putting up a decent front, but based on most of his responses (including the ones cited in this post), he doesn't seem all that serious. Even if Groupon is the most successful and known daily deal site to date, it's a dangerous approach. Those "sleeping giants" he mentioned will certainly creep up on Groupon shortly, especially as some of the bigger players in tech (i.e. Google, Facebook, etc.) invest more heavily in daily deals.
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