An open letter to Groupon’s Andrew Mason from his biggest critic

VentureBeat readers: This open letter to Groupon CEO Andrew Mason is my penultimate post focused on the daily deals site. I will still write for VentureBeat, but about a range of other topics, including mobile payments, startups, local search and technology trends. I am still short $GRPN stock. If you’re interested in my take on today’s payments announcement, you can watch this clip from CNBC. Or, you can read what I wrote when I broke the Groupon payments story in May. (At the time, Groupon wasn’t commenting.)

Dear Andrew,

After more than a year on the Groupon beat, I’m retiring. Pop the champagne!

I’m almost done. I have one more story to write, and then I’m done writing about Groupon. (It’s a story that I’ve been working on for the last few months.)

It’s not because there isn’t more I can say. Trust me, it’s taking every ounce of restraint I have not to do a point-by-point rebuttal of your interview with Julia Boorstin on CNBC. Groupon Payments? No, I won’t write a full analysis of that, either. It’s actually a pretty good product, but it won’t come close to offsetting all of the massive revenue growth you promised investors that didn’t materialize. By my math, you can make more money running one daily deal for a a couple of days then you can processing all of a Groupon Payments customer’s transactions for five years.

My primary goal in writing about Groupon was to help small businesses understand the complexity of what they were actually signing up for when deciding to run a Groupon. When I first started writing, there wasn’t a lot of information that a business could tap, aside from the information provided by Groupon sales reps. Today, a lot of information is available just by Googling. As for investors, if they had believed me when I said Groupon stock would go to zero when I was on CNBC in April, they would have made a lot of money by now.

I haven’t been paid anything for all of my writing about Groupon or any of my TV appearances. I did it because I believed that helping small businesses was the right thing to do. Through my interactions with hundreds of small business owners while researching Groupon, I’ve sharpened my understanding of what doesn’t work for small businesses. I think I’ve figured out how to crack local in a way that truly will work for small businesses in the long run and help them better connect with customers. So I’m going to focus the energy I’ve spent on Groupon on that and some angel investing.

But enough about me. Before retiring, I wanted to give you one more opportunity to have a Q&A. Given what’s happened to Groupon’s stock during the last nine months, it’s clear that Wall Street has lost all confidence in the abilities of Groupon’s management team. (Today’s bump notwithstanding.)

I can’t think of a better way to rebuild confidence in your company than to go head-to-head with your biggest critic.

I figure we can chat for 30 to 60 minutes on video. I’m happy to present the entire unedited conversation to my audience. I can even talk to some folks I know in the TV business and see if they’d be willing to feature it. (I can’t guarantee that will happen, but I do have a decent track record in talking about Groupon on TV.)

I won’t tell you the questions ahead of time and I won’t agree to any restrictions on the questions I will ask. But you probably have a very good idea already. It would be a good way to rebuild credibility with Wall Street. Maybe we could even do it in front of students at our alma mater, Northwestern. It’s been a while since I’ve been back on campus.

I’ve always been impressed at the number of small business you have activated. There are ways to correct the imbalance in the value proposition you have.

I hope that we’ll have the opportunity to finally meet. If not, best of luck in turning around your company.

Rocky

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