The big day is finally here: Groupon is now a publicly traded company. They grow up so fast, don't they?
All kidding aside, this is historic for a wide variety of reasons but chief among them: This is the first IPO in the daily deal industry, which could ripple out into a more mature Groupon and fiercer competition from places like LivingSocial and Google.
In fact, that's already started.
The search titan, for its part, is doing what it can to steal some thunder from Groupon's big day by unveiling its debut national discount -- $15 for $25 worth of goods from sporting goods/outdoorsy chain REI -- on Google Offers.
Nevertheless, Groupon's IPO has been a long time coming, and today is when things begin to get really interesting. We've seen the stock price be fussed with all week before finally arriving at opening at $20 per share, and has already risen to $28.50 as of press time. (But then again, that figure is from Google Finance, so we're choosing to assume those figures are completely accurate and unfiltered.) But, already, it's surpassed the $6 billion Google offered for the company late last year.
Still, critics are coming from all circles to warn against buying stocks. Earlier this week Howard Tullman enthusiastically praised Groupon for raising interest in Chicago business on the national scale, but advised and predicted many investors would -- and should -- wait until things die down on the IPO to sink money into it.
"Groupon's IPO likely won't have drastic changes on the industry initially," says Daily Deal Media Editor-In-Chief/CEO Boyan Josic. "But this could change down the road as Groupon is subjected to more regulation issues and perhaps the need for some third party verification, such as what we saw in the telecom industry." Josic also notes that already we've seen the group-buying industry instigate its own code of conduct to "eradicate unclear advertising and reduce the number of complaints... more organization and consolidation should be expected in the future."
Curiously, no one at Groupon was available for comment Friday -- which is odd since the company seemingly never shies away from the PR spotlight. A Groupon spokesperson had this to say, though, via e-mail: "Today's a significant step in Groupon's journey, but it's not the finish line. We're committed to innovating ways to change local retail for consumers and local businesses. It's great to pause and recognize what we've accomplished, but we're focused on building a long-term business that really changes people's expectations of local commerce."
An undoubtedly tie-wearing Andrew Mason weighed in briefly on Groupon's official blog, though, calling the IPO a "small milestone" for the company, and thanking his co-founders, employees, board of directors, customers, and merchant partners. "I feel incredibly grateful to serve as CEO of Groupon," writes Mason. "With our IPO behind us, I couldn't be more excited about what lies ahead."
Let the wildly irresponsible speculation about what, exactly, that could be begin!