Groupon buying in groups

Contact: Jarrett Streebin

While Groupon’s critics continue to roar about its ‘easily replicable’ model, the Chicago-based startup is busy working on something that won’t be so easy to replicate: market share. The coupons Giant is buying up ‘Groupon clones’ all over the world, further strengthening its foothold in the coupons market. Just this week it bought Twangoo, Grouper and SoSasta. As of its latest three buys, the company is in South Africa, India, Israel, Singapore, Russia, Japan, China (Hong Kong) and Germany (we won’t count Brazil since the acquired site proved to have bogus deals and fake profiles). The startup is also in the midst of a lawsuit in Australia over the URL and should be setting up shop there soon.

At this clip, it will be in all of the major markets by the end of this year. Groupon is also in the midst of raising a mammoth $950m funding round from investors such as Digital Sky Technologies, Andreessen Horowitz and T. Rowe Price (the valuation of which was certainly helped by its recent talks with Google). According to the filing, $345m of that will be for founders’ and executives’ stock. That still leaves $600m for international expansion, much of which is rumored to be going toward Groupon China.

Groupon’s nearest competitor, LivingSocial, isn’t taking this lying down. On Wednesday it bought Let’s Bonus, a 200-person coupons startup with offices in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and Mexico. And in November it invested $5m in Australian coupon site Jump On It. The Washington DC-based startup just raised $200m so it shows no signs of slowing down, either. This will be a busy year for these two and the clones.