The Groupon Story –From WordPress Blog to $5Bn Company [Lean Startup]

Lean Startups are a hit talk these days. You aren’t an early stage techology entrepreneur, if you aren’t talking about lean startups and MVP.
And on a different note, Groupon is quite a rage too, though for a much different reason (Google’s $5Bn acquisition bid).

We connect the dots for you and you’d be surprised to know that Groupon is actually one of the most amazing example of lean startup – the company was literally started as a blog (running on WordPress).

Interestingly, Groupon didn’t even had the .com domain (paid $250K for the domain), and was started as a subdomain of ThePoint (groupon.ThePoint.com), a failed venture of Andrew Mason, Groupon founder.

Groupon’s first version was a simple blog that carried all the deal details – deliverd as normal posts.

“All we did was we took a WordPress Blog and we skimmed it to say Groupon and then every day we would do a new post with the points embedded. It was totally ghetto. We would sell t-shirts on the first version of Groupon. We’d say in the right up, ‘This t-shirt will come in the color red, size large. If you want a different color or size, email that to us.’ We didn’t have a form to add that stuff. We were just, it was so cobbled together. It was enough to prove the concept and show that it was something that people really liked. The actual coupon generation that we were doing was all FileMaker. We would run a script that would email the coupon PDF to people. It got to the point where we’d sell 500 sushi coupons in a day and we’d send 500 PDFs to people with Apple Mail at the same time. Really the first, until July of the first year was just a scrambling to grab the tiger by the tail. It was trying to catch up and reasonable piece together a product.” – via

A blog or a simple Google group could have done the trick with the first version, in order to test the market – and that’s what Groupon did.
This looks quite straightforward now – but take a step back and ask yourself – If you were starting Groupon, would you first build a scalable product or go after deals/get consumer attention?

Lesson Learnt – Test your market before you you start building a giant machine. Have hypothesis and validate that with customers.

What’s your take?
Do watch this interview with Andrew Mason, Groupon founder.