Successful innovation spurred by false start: Andrew Mason, Founder and CEO of Groupon, named Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2011 Emerging Category Award winner
Palm Springs, CA, 12 November 2011
Mason honored for being nimble in the face of adversity and developing one of the most successful entrepreneurial ventures in the world
Andrew Mason, Founder and CEO of Groupon, has been named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2011 Emerging Award winner. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year is the country’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The award encourages entrepreneurial activity and recognizes leaders and visionaries who demonstrate innovation, financial success and personal commitment as they create and build world-class businesses.
Mason was recognized for seeing his original vision through despite initial roadblocks and continuing to innovate until Groupon emerged as a hugely successful online coupon service. The deal-of-the-day subscription service has attracted millions of consumers in more than 40 countries in just a little under two years. Mason was honored at the Entrepreneur Of The Year gala, the culminating event of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum® in Palm Springs, California.
The Forum is the nation’s premier gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. Awards were given in nine additional categories. The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners were selected by an independent panel of judges from approximately 300 regional award recipients.
“The best ideas are rarely the very first ideas, and the economy will grow when people feel comfortable enough to continue to experiment until they succeed,” said Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year, Ernst & Young LLP. “This sums up Andrew Mason. By continuing to tweak and improve upon his original idea, Mason has lead Groupon to unprecedented success in the 36 months since its formation serving over 1,000 daily deals to 90 million subscribers across 49 countries. And despite huge initial success, Mason, in the spirit of a true entrepreneur, continues to innovate, improve upon customer service and the company’s technology capabilities.”
The importance of mentorship
Andrew Mason was working in a development role for InnerWorkings, a print technology company, when he met founder Eric Lefkofsky, who would be instrumental to Mason’s career. Upon leaving InnerWorkings, Mason decided to pursue a master’s degree in Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where he began working on concepts for a website. When Lefkofsky learned of the project, he called a meeting with Mason, who drafted a three-page outline of his ideas that he pitched to Lefkofsky. Lefkofsky offered him $1 million on the spot to start his company. Needless to say, Mason only lasted three months at the University of Chicago.
If at first you don’t succeed
Mason approached that first company, a website called The Point, from a creative and not a business perspective. In fact, he had little experience with the business side of developing a website. The site was originally designed as a tool to help encourage charity through collective action. Ultimately, there were flaws in the idea, and Mason admits he was far too focused on the future to realize that the concept needed a larger subscriber base to work. However, he learned from this experience and was able to apply those lessons when starting Groupon.
A vision brought to life
After a disappointing start with The Point, Mason was eager to prove that the collective action concept had worth. He proposed that his new idea, Groupon, could launch in one month. His website team sprang into action focused on three main ideas: selling advertising, utilizing the fund-raising platform from The Point, and most important, making the end user responsible for finding enough friends to secure one of the daily deals offered on the website. For Mason and his team, this was a crash course in internet entrepreneurship.
Mason decided the concept needed to be a drastic change from other collective buying ventures for consumer goods, and decided to start with local businesses to secure the best deals, as larger companies have too much buying power. Local merchants were skeptical at first, so to reduce their risk, the team developed the concept of the “tipping point” – the minimum number of groupons that must be sold before the deal is secured. This is also the quantity that makes a deal worthwhile for the vendor.
Demand has grown so much that merchants now face the issue of too many customers. To solve this problem, Groupon has begun tailoring its offers to target the lifestyle needs of different consumers, directing daily deals to them based on prior purchases. By continuing to innovate, Groupon has increased its base to more than 80 million subscribers and more than 100,000 merchants. And Groupon itself has expanded to more than 10,000 employees worldwide.
Groupon is now shifting focus to mobile technology. The company’s newest concept is “Groupon Now,” which personalizes real-time deals for subscribers focused on options close to home, and delivers them right to their mobile device.
National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Emerging Award finalists:
In addition to Mason, The National Entrepreneur Of The Year Emerging Award finalists were: Amit Chatterjee, Founder of Hara, based in San Mateo, California, creator of an enterprise software platform for energy and sustainability management that dramatically reduces energy costs and risks to help substantially improve companies’ operating profit margins, increase shareholder value and enhance sustainability; CEO Corbin B. Church of Miche Bag LLC of South Jordan, Utah, a company that has developed handbags with changeable outside covers for women who want the ease of carrying the same bag but with different colors and prints from day to day; and CEO and Co-founder Tim O'Shaughnessy of LivingSocial, based in Washington, D.C., an international online and mobile service for group or crowd-sourced discounts. The company is represented in more than 600 markets across 25 countries, and its deal categories include daily deals, instant deals, escapes, adventures and family deals.
National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Overall Award winners
Reid Hoffman, Chairman, and Jeff Weiner, CEO, of LinkedIn Corporation were named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Overall Award winners.
Video and photos
To view video clips of all of the Entrepreneur Of The Year winners, please visit ey.com/us/eoy.
Photos of the winners are also available by request.
Founded and produced by Ernst & Young LLP, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program is pleased to have the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as a national sponsor.
About Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year
Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 140 cities in 50 countries.
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