Being Honest

Just in case you haven’t heard, Groupon founder & CEO Andrew Mason was fired earlier today.

I had the privilege of meeting and talking to Andrew last July (though trust me, we’re not “buddies”), and the one thing I remember most was his resilience and indomitable spirit. Even then, he was honest: people didn’t (don’t?) have a high opinion of Groupon. Yet nonetheless he had such a passion for Groupon, his baby, that it was hard for it not to be infectious. I came in a skeptic wanting to make a joke about a Ponzi scheme, and left with the feeling that he had a bigger goal than just offering people like you 20% off your movie ticket. I remember talking with him about his plans to solve some of the many problems that face small businesses and merchants today, to become the “operating system” for local commerce. His eyes lit up as he talked about how Groupon would help merchants grow and build bigger, more successful businesses than ever before possible. It’s yet to be seen how that all plays out, but it’s funny how almost everyone who criticizes Groupon still purchases one every now and then. (No? You don’t? Don’t worry, I’m sure your wife or girlfriend does.)

Back to the point: getting fired sucks. I’m sure getting fired so publicly feels like shit. But it’s hard not to have immense respect for his honestly in the letter he wrote to Groupon employees earlier today (reproduced below). I’m not debating how he ran Groupon – but before you rush to criticize the guy, I’ll point you to The Man In The Arena.

The letter speaks for itself:

(This is for Groupon employees, but I’m posting it publicly since it will leak anyway)

People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company - it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be - I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness - don’t waste the opportunity!

I will miss you terribly.




Now read this

The Man In The Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and... Continue →