What Groupon should know about Silicon Valley

Groupon has been in the news for announcing its IPO.  However, this blog focuses on comments that arose prior to the IPO announcement.  Groupon prided itself for being a Chicago based company that survived its startup stage without being a Silicon Valley Company.  CEO Andrew Mason proudly bragged that Groupon was “not made in Silicon Valley.”  However, it is hard to ignore the fact that they have a fast growing office in Palo Alto.

Did Mason watch the movie Social Network? In the movie, Sean Parker convinces Mark Zuckenberg to take Facebook to Silicon Valley because that’s where the action is.

Regardless of how true or fictional Sean’s Parker’s involvement with Facebook might be, the truth is Silicon Valley is seen as a hub of innovation.

Groupon, in spite of its priding itself as being a Chicago based company, still knew that to really flourish as “the on-line coupon company,” had to open a branch in Silicon Valley –  specifically, in Menlo Park.

But there’s more that Groupon needs to understand about Silicon Valley.

First, Silicon Valley is open to ‘failures.’  Yes, you might strive to be successful, but in that path, it is really okay to fail.  As a matter of fact, if you fail and can pull yourself back into success, you are seen as a true SVL warrior.

Second, ‘group-think’ does not mean blind followers – supporting a product/service because everyone thinks it’s cool.  Group-think in Silicon Valley is supported by highly intelligent, smart folks that might be curious about something but give it as much thought and criticism as it deserves. Be ready for diverse feedback and comments.

Third, we have a saying here in Silicon Valley – “Change happens in ‘Nano Seconds.’ If you’re wondering how long a “Nano Second” is – probably the length of Spaghetti.  Okay, so it’s an over statement.  But be ready for changes to happen fast –that means coming at you as well as you are making it happen.  If you are in a standstill for a long period of time, be ready for someone to take the lead.

Fourth, don’t burn your bridges.  I just don’t mean with VC’s or high level executives.  Do not undermine the power of the ‘individual contributor’ or the vendor/supplier you are doing business with to maintain your reputation.  A bad reputation is just as viral as a good one in the Valley.

Fifth, Learn how to play hard as well as work hard.  Groupon, your response to the IPO backlash using the ‘cheeky feline’ showed how you can have fun even when criticism is thrown your way.  Up the ante with serious play.  Also remember that leaving early to watch a Giant’s game is totally acceptable, but so is an all nighter in order to get a project completed.  Behind a serious CEO is some heavy duty sports. Larry Ellison engages in extreme Sailing and BMW raising. Andrew Mason, you might consider keeping that band alive! Perhaps heavy metal?

As consultants in the Valley, what advice would you have for Groupon as they continue to take the Valley?

angel.rampy@coachangel.com' About Angel Rampy

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