This past Friday I had the opportunity to visit Groupon’s headquarters in Chicago. With video crew in tow and Groupon’s own Julie Ann Mossler (Communications Director) as my very adept guide, I spent a couple of hours touring both of the company’s buildings, the main offices at 600 W. Chicago Ave and their additional space at 303 E. Wacker.
While there I met hundreds of Groupon employees, toured a number of different divisions including sales, customer service, development, editorial and even the guys behind the engaging/funny emails. I didn’t get the chance to meet Andrew Mason, who was getting married the next day, but I did leave him an “amazing” wedding present taped to his computer monitor. Congrats Andrew!
Groupon is in a Quiet Period, so interviews were off limits as Julie graciously reminded me about 100 times, but I can make some observations from walking around:
Groupon seems to be still growing and I saw room after room of empty workstations just waiting to be filled. At one point the company was hiring upwards of 150 people per week.
I love the atmosphere and energy of the Groupon work force. There were a TON of young people everywhere. The teams working on different countries have their own little groups and fly their flags proudly creating a very competitive mood. The walls in the lobby are adorned with old magazine covers of companies that have had their moment on the limelight – Myspace, Yahoo, Friendster, Napster. When I asked Julie about them she told me that they were there as a reminder to “keep us humble”.
Groupon’s walls are filled with letters from customers – some of which you’ll see posted below. White boards are filled employees’ art, doodles, slogans, anything. Some are funny while others are super creative. You really get the sense that that there are some very talented people there.
The conference room names are awesome. Some examples: No Diggity, Unavailable, Disappointment Beach, Away Bleachers, My Place or Yours. There’s even a conference room that doesn’t physically exist – so if you’re new and happen book it in your Google calendar (the company uses google apps) – you’ll never find it. Kinda funny.
I came away impressed with the overall culture that Groupon has built. The place has a lot of energy and fosters innovation and breeds competition.
While we weren’t able to interview anyone about operations due to the Quiet Period, I didn’t get the sense that there was any panic, something which seems to be the on-going theme in blogs, newspapers and other publications. I got the feeling that the leadership group has a plan and they’re sticking to it. Recent news about Groupon gives you a much different picture than what you actually see when you’re there.
Groupon seems to be a media target, but what people need to keep in mind is that this company is only three years old. It employs thousands of people and does over a billion in revenue. If you take a step back and consider what they’ve accomplished in such a short time, it’s pretty damn impressive, IPO or no IPO.
I was fascinated by the sheer size of it all. The people, the space, desktops, floors, it just never seemed to end, and I know we missed a lot. Another very cool thing, the execs have the same workstations as other employees. No one is locked away in some grand office. Everyone is together, creating a very open atmosphere. If Julie hadn’t pointed it out, I wouldn’t be able to tell Andrew’s workstation from that of any other employee. That speaks volumes.
Everyone talks about Groupon being super cocky, but you don’t see that when you’re actually there. You see a family; yes a confident family, but one that also feels like they’re all in the same boat together. To say “us vs. the world” would be too corny, but it’s not far off from what I felt while I was there.
Bottom line – I’d work there. Have they made mistakes? Sure. Do they have challenges ahead? Of course – who doesn’t? I can tell you this much – I’m definitely rooting for them.
Enjoy the short video teaser, and look for the full release on Friday which will also include over 200 photos that we took.