"If we can't have Groupon, then no one can!" Is that what they're saying in Mountain View?
Google was recently unable to acquire the king of coupon sites but that wasn't the end of the story. Just yesterday, Google went live with Google Offers, a competitor to sites like Groupon and Living Social. The initial launch will be in Portland, Oregon with expansion to New York and San Francisco soon to follow. It will be interesting to see how successful Google can be with this model. Groupon is certainly the "Kleenex" of this space; their name has become nearly synonymous with the concept of online deals. That said, the model is simple and Google should have no problem duplicating it and putting the necessary funding behind establishing relationships with interested businesses. This may turn out to be worse news for the Living Socials and smaller sites than it is for Groupon but it's still a move that puts the pressure squarely on Groupon to avoid complacency.
Not to be outdone, Groupon took a cue from just about every other major company in the online space and poached one of Google's top executives, Margo Georgiadis. The former Google VP of Global Sales and Planning will be joining the Groupon team as their new COO. Google has lost plenty of employees to Facebook, Twitter, Apple and others, so it's likely that they'll be able to cope with the loss of yet another talented top executive. That notwithstanding, Groupon may come out ahead in this exchange if Google Offers suffers the same fate as Google's other notable, social side projects like Google Buzz and Google Me (what happened to that?!). If Georgiadis can provide the leadership, direction and knowledge that Groupon seeks, they may have the online deals niche locked up for the foreseeable future.
It seems like Silicon Valley is becoming a real-life soap opera, with Google playing the central role. There's the Google/Microsoft feud over desktop apps and search, the Google/Facebook fight over which one is the most pervasive online company in everyday life, the Google/Apple battle over mobile operating systems and now the Google/Groupon competition over online deals. Of course, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook aren't big fans of one another either but that just adds to thrilling nature of the twisting and turning plot line! Grab your popcorn, this is far from over. [Wired and TechCrunch]