A rant for the haters of Andrew Mason

Posted on February 28, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I just read the news that Andrew Mason is out.  Before you hate, ask yourself, what the fuck have you done lately?  Every VC that opines or sneers, remember he created billions of dollars in value for his early shareholders. For those founders that hate, remember that he was a fucking kid, like any of us, who started something from nothing and scaled into the leader of an organization with tens of thousands of people.  We admire the founder who raises a $20M brow-raising growth round from a big name VC…Mason raised more than $1 Billion in private capital from Accel, NEA, Andreesen, Greylock, Kleiner and on and on…oh and by the way…CEO of Starbucks on the board…no bigs…lot’s of us founders hobnob with likes of Howard Schultz… it’s not the $1B raised that’s impressive…of course…raising a lot of money doesn’t mean you were successful, but even if you look at it objectively, with the current depressed public pricing, he created a multi-billion publicly traded company…fought his way through one of the most competitive, blood thirsty markets in the world, remained last man standing, while every other company in the space fell one by one…he fought this ridiculous battle and won… ask yourself, how would you have performed in this fight? Why is Groupon GRPN and Buywithme…oh wait…yea…to what end I don’t know…we’ll see who takes over, we’ll see where the company lands and how it evolves, but as a founder, Andrew Mason was a dazzling success…as a public CEO maybe less so…fine…but strictly as a founder, if we measure his run against what every founder reading this aspires to do…he will have outperformed all of you…remember that before you grin and make and off-color comment about how “Mason is finally out” or how “Groupon is a mess.”  The “mess” Andrew Mason created is 10x the scale of the greatest accomplishment you will ever have….dude built the fastest growing company in the world…respect

Oh, and for the overly smart analysts and financiers in the making on wall st, who are making jokes around the water cooler and discrediting Mason with “I told you so’s” as though you are somehow his intellectual or professional superior…unless your name is the one on the door to your office building…get real…you are not even in the same atmosphere.  

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18 Responses to “A rant for the haters of Andrew Mason”

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His letter was spot on. I loved it. He exited with grace and humor.

Great piece Jordan. Really puts all this “expert” commentary in perspective.

So very true that h’s just another dude like us, but one who pulled off something huge. Check out this link floating around on hacker news for a good example. THis is him asking for advice about selling his idea for GRoupo to investors way back in like 2006: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5301862

Maybe I shouldn’t have read this since I’m not really a “hater” and I don’t care about Mason but I don’t like the tone of the post … most of the entrepreneurs reading this don’t expect to have their name on big buildings and just aspire to build a profitable, growing and long lasting company. It’s not about “winning” or convincing famous CEOs to pour more and more money and it’s not a hip hop battle… Did he outperform me ? Probably. Depends on your angle. Did he outperform everyone ? Probably not. I think both my angel investors outperformed him by committing to a long term vision and growing steadily over 10+ years. And I’m much more inspired by them than by Mason.

Get real ? This way : http://gettingreal.37signals.com/

God points. This is only way way to think of success. I thought About that when writing and almost made an *

I hear you though, he seems like a stellar entrepreneur in many aspects and you’re obviously in a better place than any of us to appreciate that, but criticism is ok too and normal in this kind of position! Haters gonna hate and Analysts gonna analyze 🙂 Maybe he’ll make a Jobs-style comeback someday

I don’t know Andrew Mason, but Groupon was obviously an unbelievable company (until it wasn’t). Regardless of his performance as CEO (which is none of my business, really), I admire Andrew’s candor. Given the circumstances, his goodbye letter is nothing if not honest. That alone makes me respect him more than most CEOs.

When I read your post, however, the thing that jumps out is how incongruent it is with your credo:

“I think there is one metric that can be used to measure the value of a human life and that’s impact. How did you change things? How many people did you touch? How different is the world because you lived in it and how positive was the change that you affected?”

This is more than an asterisk, Jordan… it’s at odds with everything you wrote. Had I never read the “About” in your sidebar, my takeaway would be that you admire (1) people who make money and (2) people who make other people money. That’s a far cry from the more utopian measure of creating positive impact in the world. In fact, I would argue that *most* of the time these two measures of success are antithetical to one another.

Maybe you’re conflicted? Maybe you’ve just changed? Seems like it’s one or the other because your two views seem irreconcilable.

I thought about impact as a metric for success when I wrote this, and if they were at odds, and arrived at no as an answer. I can cie a human life by impact and I can value success as a founder by different metrics as obe’s professional endeavors are not the summation or even a proxy for life as a whole. I didn’t say “andrew mason” is a great human being, I just said he’s a success by professional standards

“I just said he’s a success by professional standards”

Who’s professional standards?

Any entrepreneur or founder who has ever tried to build a company. He did the near impossible…how can you not respect that the same as a basketball player who dunks from the three point line…it’s extraordinary

I actually have to say, I reread this through your lens and the 10x accomplishment sentence is not consistent w my feelings on impact. I should have inserted the word “professional” or “entrepreneurial” before accomplishment in that sentence. It was my intended tone but I see how that could read more broadly

I have no real opinion on Mason but agree with Emmanuel re: the tone of this post. Quite fiery but hey, a rant is a rant. What you briefly hit on is something worth exploring further – “as a founder, Andrew Mason was a dazzling success…as a public CEO maybe less so.” It’s rare for founders to last as CEOs even to the point of exit, much less to stay on for 1.5+ years after an IPO. Bezos, Jobs and Ellison are the exceptions, not the rule. There are different skill-sets involved in founding a company and leading one as a CEO. Very few people have both of those skill-sets. Clearly Mason had the former and not the latter. Perhaps someone will come across with an e-commerce background, build on the nascent success of Groupon Goods and the brand, sunset the daily deals and turn GRPN into a massive e-commerce powerhouse. And none of that would have been possible without Mason.

I’d have to respectfully disagree with you, Jordan. I do respect (a lot) his initial start and his guidance of his company, but (1) I found his cavalier attitude of laughing-off missteps as a public company to be tasteless and disrespectful (toward his colleagues, plus others) and (2) his letter used self-deprecating humor to shade the facts that he lost almost as much value as he created. At the end of the day, yes, he created something out of nothing (which is commendable), but he didn’t respect the great opportunities that came with it. Your note reads like a generalized ad-hominem argument — ie, “You can’t criticize because you didn’t do what he did” — but given the consistent missteps and flippant responses from the CEO, it’s only fair to analyze his tenure in two distinct parts, one to commemorate, and the other — not so much.

It’s a very strange thing harnessing an ethos that enables your company…it may be that “cavalier” was the only possible ethos that could have survived as long as he did…there’s a lot of nuance that I think is lost in the judgement of a bunch of outside eyes looking in. You’d be amazed at what a smile and a wise crack can do to elevate a team grinding away at an insurmountable problem. I’ll accept that he may not have adapted for life as a public CEO successfully, but doesn’t change my perspective that whatever mix of intellect and character he embodied, and however disgusting it may appear to you, there is outperformance that validates te ethos he constructed

Love your spunk Jordan! You tell it like it is! Nobody is perfect and Andrew did grow a company that provided a lot of value and is still doing so. I hope Groupon continues to do well and I’m sure some company will be lucky enough to have Andrew provide leadership/advice.

“Oh well, I fucked up”. That’s not taking responsibility. Success in building something big is not an absolute yardstick for whether one is great. I am not passing judgement, neither am I in awe because he rode a great new category at incredible speed. He does not seem to have built a sustainable success or a company whose culture is admired and under his watch early investors took over one billion off the table at the probable expense of later entrants. I don’t know if you spent the first bubble inside a tech company, but there was a lot of that going on and in the long term it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Too little evidence to either shoot the guy or put him on a pedestal, but the body of public evidence is not exactly in his favor. “With great power comes great responsibility, and all that”. Bottom line : let’s choose our idols with care.

interesting perspective and wise words at the end. i would counter “let’s choose our scapegoats with equal care”

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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