Count us among those who would encourage Eric Lefkofsky, Brad Keywell and Andrew Mason to take the $5.3 billion Google is rumored to be offering for “the fastest growing company ever,” as Forbes has described Groupon, and put it to good use.
Remember that Groupon morphed out of ThePoint.com, which Mason, a Northwestern alum, created while a graduate student at the University of Chicago because he was interested in social causes and fascinated by the concept of a tipping point. ThePoint, which is still around but has received a fraction of Groupon’s attention, aims to help organize collective action for social causes. At its core is the notion that it takes a tipping point of committed people to enact change. That concept became the basis of Groupon, where a certain number of consumers have to agree to buy a deal before it takes effect.
The downside of selling to Google is that Groupon’s original mission of encouraging consumers to try a new experience by giving them a good deal might get lost in translation. But in our opinion, the company already has experienced mission drift, as seen by its Groupons for the Gap, a store that most Americans already are familiar with. Where’s the new experience there? So perhaps it’s time to move on and find a new problem in the market that needs attention. Here’s an idea: Why not start Lightbanks in the inner-city to help those with good ideas but no capital create businesses, jobs and wealth where it’s needed most?