A new adventure
Today is my last day at Groupon. It’s been fun these past 13 months – with all the highs and lows that come with selling a startup to and working for a company re-discovering its legs after falling out of favor with commentators that once hailed it as the fastest growing company in history. But it’s not only my last day with Groupon, it’s also really the close of the Glassmap arc, an adventure I embarked on with a couple friends just over 3 years ago.
I’m truly honored to have had the chance to work alongside and learn from some of the most talented people in the world. The opportunity that Groupon is doggedly pursuing is extremely ambitious. Perhaps it’s not yet understood by the general public. Local brick-and-mortar commerce, the businesses and restaurants run by the folks in your neighborhood, hasn’t really changed since the introduction of the Internet and mobile. Meanwhile, e-commerce companies of all shapes and sizes have emerged, with more than a few ascending as heavyweight mainstays. However, the overwhelming majority of transactions still happen and will (for the foreseeable future) happen in brick-and-mortar. And that fundamental experience has remained unchanged: no one knows who you are when you walk in, no one knows what your tastes are, no one’s trying to predict what you’ll like, how you like it and when, and no one really cares if you had a good experience or not. These questions are answered in the e-commerce realm by technology, and bringing this technological sophistication (personalization, recommendations, inventory and yield management, etc.) into local commerce will be transformative. A lot of players are trying to realize this dream, but Groupon’s been the only technology company able to quantifiably alter real-world consumer behavior at a large scale and actually steer people through doors.
Groupon’s in a strong position to make it happen, but it doesn’t need me to make it happen. That’s the core reason for why I’m leaving. I’ve made contributions to some of Groupon’s key initiatives in this area, but I’m not critical. In fact at this stage of Groupon’s life, I’d argue that no one in the company is absolutely 100% critical. But that kind of pressure, that kind of scrutiny, when all eyes are on you – that’s when I feel truly alive. And that’s where I want to be. I’m stepping off here so I can take a new step forward.
I will be focusing my energy on exploring and working on a few concepts. At an abstract level, I tend to like concepts that have an underlying technological basis. The hard value of superior technology is easier to judge and more difficult to dispute than betting on market whims. If an initial product doesn’t find product-market fit, it’s relatively straightforward to re-package and re-formulate truly valuable underlying technology into another manifestation. For example, Glassmap was best known for our consumer social mobile apps. But the true innovation was the underlying technology of highly battery-efficient geolocation positioning and our relevancy engine. This allowed us to quickly re-apply the technology to SMB products, which subsequently caught the eye of Groupon (among other companies). The flexibility and resilience that real technology affords is valuable.
More explicitly, some areas I’m currently interested in include 1.) Low-Energy Bluetooth / iBeacon infrastructure and applications, and 2.) frameworks and techniques that make mobile app development faster and easier. I also want to keep working with great people and will have more time to share. I can be helpful in two ways: 1.) one-off, limited projects, technical (i.e. engineering) in nature or otherwise, and 2.) money (i.e. investment).
As I start on my next adventure, the adage It’s a marathon, not a sprint comes to mind. One step at a time, here I come!