Groupon mobile app pushing smart buttons, may have $25 billion IPO in offing

by Howard Wolinsky

At age three or four, according to my parents, when I was bored, I would say: “Nothing in my hands.” I’ll take their word.

Groupon is aiming to solve that empty-hands problem and stay ahead in the daily-deal world it has dominated, and may be en route to a $25 billion IPO.

Groupon, the Chicago-based deal-a-day giant, in April will be serving up Groupon Now, a mobile app aimed at refreshing the already fastest-growing company in history while conquering its customers’ boredom and hunger.

With Groupon Now, you put your smartphone in your hand and push a simple button marked: “I’m bored.”

And the result is aimed at bringing some excitement to your life. Maybe a deal on skydiving, bowling, whatever might float your boat.

Groupon Now will have deals to feed the hungry.

Push another simple button, “I’m hungry,” and deals come out of the ether from restaurants close to where your smartphone places you. Smart as a button.

Brad Stone and Douglas MacMillan write in Bloomberg Businessweek how Groupon CEO Andrew Mason and his team plan to use the two simple buttons  “to remake Groupon, fend off copycats, and change your spending habits forever.” The writers contend that the buttons “will alter the topography of the multibillion-dollar market for local commerce.”

With Businessweek tagging along, Mason tapped his iPhone and saved $8 from Thalia Spice, situated near his Chicago office. Businessweek said that Groupon aims to be transformed “into a combination Yellow Pages, Valpak coupon packet, and price-conscious concierge for millions of consumers. ‘People could end up being driven to eat by what they find on Groupon and when they find it,’ [Mason] beams.’”

Little coupon savings are a big business. Groupon is expected to generate $3 billion to $4 billion in revenue this year, up from $750 million in 2010, according to two people familiar with the upstart's finances.

Groupon twice snubbed Google’s (GOOG) efforts to purchase the company for up to $6 billion. But Groupon may be on the verge of a huge IPO.

Businessweek cites sources saying Groupon “has been meeting with bankers to discuss a potential initial public offering that would value it at up to $25 billion.”

Meanwhile, copycat daily-dealers have their guns aimed at Groupon.

Ben Parr reported in Mashable that Groupon’s “biggest competitor, LivingSocial, is preparing to raise half a billion dollars in funding. Not only that, but the No. 2 daily deals service has an app similar to Groupon Now already on the market.” Amazon (AMZN) has backed LivingSocial with $175 million.