Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Thanks, but No Thanks: Did Groupon Just Pull a Facebook?

There is a precedent for social buying site Groupon walking away from a $6 billion offer from Google, if that’s exactly what happened.

Let’s call it: The Zuckerberg Gambit.

That would be in reference to the famous series of no’s that the then flip-flopped co-founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, gave to a series of suitors who came calling with big bags of dough to buy the social networking site.

There were media suits from Viacom ($750 million). And Internet suits from Yahoo ($1.1 billion). And software suits from Microsoft ($3 billion).

And, often over the objections of his much older and more experienced investors, Zuckerberg declined to be acquired.

Instead, he got massive funding by Microsoft and others.

Presumably, he had a dream of much more and, as it turned out, he was right.

Facebook is now valued at upward of $45 billion, although it has yet to test out that lofty figure in the public markets.

And Zuckerberg is the king of all he surveys, from a social networking point of view, at least.

Perhaps most ironic of all: Facebook’s success is scaring Google on a daily basis, so much so that it turned its local eyes to Groupon.

Interestingly, both Facebook and Groupon share common investors–Silicon Valley’s Accel Partners and Russia’s DST Global.

Those investors have often spoken of not selling out, and their start-ups seem to have that proclivity too.

Chicago-based Groupon and its CEO Andrew Mason, for example, have turned down two big money exits so far this year–$3 billion from Yahoo and presumably the one from Google.

Talk about no exit.

While there are sure to be conflicting stories over the next few days–Did Google get cold feet first? Was there a tussle over a breakup fee, in case of too much regulatory scrutiny? Were the cultural differences too much?–one thing is certain:

Now, Groupon is going to have to go for it, as they say in sports, and try to turn itself into a real-live business.

One would assume they worried about the difficulties of being absorbed into the Borg at Google and about the definite regulatory hurdles that might have been impossible to leap.

And, perhaps, they just thought they could do better on their own.

In many ways, it’s an admirable choice–whether it is a wise one remains to be seen.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.