Groupon Set to Diversify into ‘Local Trading Place’

By David Knight |

Groupon’s smart new international HQ in the heart of corporate Berlin was officially opened in a low-key event on Thursday evening by CEO Andrew Mason. The former Sat. 1 building on Oberwallstrasse has room for 1,000 employees in a variety of different roles.

Mason was conspicuous by his absence at the press conference following the ceremony, with the troubled company set to publish its latest quarterly figures in mid-August. But there was reason to be upbeat as it was revealed that Groupon plans to diversify its business from daily deal vouchers into establishing an online local trading place.

The building is a grand and very European one seemingly at odds with the ethos of Groupon, which proudly declares itself to the be the fastest growing company ever. And that wasn’t the only juxtaposition on Thursday evening.

Seth Winnick, acting deputy chief of mission at the American Embassy in Berlin, attended the event in place of the ambassador himself, while the Mayor of Berlin was another absentee. But the employees were out in force and determined to have a good time to celebrate the opening.

The mood in the press conference was another matter. No questions about Groupon’s current predicament were allowed, with the firm said to be going through a “quiet period.” Whether that will appease shareholders who have seen the value of their stock plummet in recent times is another matter – Groupon shares have lost two thirds of their value since the company’s IPO in November 2011.

But Veit Dengler, the head of Groupon’s operations outside of the US, revealed that there are plans to create an online local trading place to increase interaction with customers. Retailers offering vouchers would have the opportunity to create a calendar to entice users to return – a key problem in the Groupon business model so far.

Dengler was sitting alongside Jens Hutzschenreuter, Groupon COO of central Europe and co-founder of CityDeal which was acquired by Groupon in May 2010. The pair, like the rest of Groupon’s senior management, will know they are facing some serious challenges.

But while a slick and well-organised event will perhaps do little to hide the problems Groupon faces, the mood in the company – at least in Berlin – is not all negative.

Groupon employees crowd around their new building’s grand staircase waiting to hear from CEO Andrew Mason