Group buying startup LivingSocial heads abroad, opens in London

LivingSocial, one of the two most prominent social buying startups in the United States, has decided to expand to the United Kingdom through organic growth. The company’s opening a London-based version of the site and plans to open to a number of other big British cities over the next year.

Unlike Chicago-based rival Groupon, which landed in Europe through a recent acquisition of German clone MyCityDeal, LivingSocial is going on its own.

Social buying sites have been growing at a rapid clip, with at least 90 variants in the U.S., according to Yipit, a deal aggregator that tracks dozens of these startups. The model is relatively simple. The company posts a deal that’s available for just 24 hours. Usually, it’s a service at a local business like $25 for $50 worth of food at a neighborhood restaurant or 50 percent off a spa treatment. If enough people sign up for the deal, it’s on. There are also built-in viral mechanics; the deal might be free for someone who successfully refers three friends, for example.

LivingSocial is one of the biggest players in the space with $44 million in venture funding from investors including AOL co-founder Steve Case. The leading rival, Groupon, has just over $170 million in funding.

LivingSocial most recently raised funding in April, with a $14 million third round of financing, and says it has 85 million users.

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