Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More IPOs Are Needed

By Eric Jackson, Senior Contributor12/15/10 - 06:00 AM EST

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Last night, I watched the Charlie Rose interview with Groupon Founder and CEO Andrew Mason. It was the first time I've seen him speak and, aside from a bad sense of humor, I was impressed.

What grabs your attention is that these guys started a company and reportedly got a $6 billion buyout offer within two years -- in the wake of the deepest recession since the Great Depression. Tony Robbins should make them a case study to pump up his audience at future motivational seminars.

Different reports circulated this past week that Groupon does annualized gross revenues of $2 billion before splitting profits with the merchants they refer business to. That kind of growth demonstrates how -- in an era of Facebook and Twitter -- good ideas and businesses can propagate like crazy.

What's more impressive about Groupon though is it's turning down Google's(GOOG_) generous buyout offer. Instead, it opted to go it alone and grow its business. Here's what Mason said about why it did that: "Here is what I can say. I think every choice we make in the company comes down to a core of this idea we have of what Groupon could be and the place it could play in the world and in the rest of the 21st century. And every choice we make is which option will it make it more possible for us to get there? " So I think whatever we decide to do with the company, the people that we hire, the deals we run, every itty-bitty choices, how do we build this company into something that transforms the way people buy from local businesses."

If the offer on the table for Groupon was $6 billion, Google was offering to pay four times what it paid for YouTube four years ago and double what it paid for DoubleClick three years ago.

We're just not used to people saying no to that kind of money.

Four years ago, Facebook turned down a reported $1 billion offer from Yahoo!(YHOO_)(YHOO). Eighteen months later, Microsoft(MSFT_) invested $240 million in the company at a $15 billion post-money valuation. There were calls at the time that the price was completely unrealistic and showed how desperate Microsoft was to stay relevant. Yet, today, most analysts say the company would be worth $30 billion to $50 billion if it went public.


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