What If Groupon Failed?

A couple weeks ago, I was inspired to ponder this question after reading a terrific post by tech blogger Alex Wilhelm, in which he quickly hypothesized the impact that Groupon’s failure would have on Chicago’s tight technology labor pool.

Then I was interviewed by John Pletz for a story he did in Crain’s about the potential Groupon IPO and what it would mean for Chicago’s tech scene. After I got off the phone with him, I thought further about the pending IPO as well as its polar opposite – a Groupon failure.

Now, I’m not a fatalist by any means; in fact, I tend to be an optimist, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big cheerleader for Chicago’s entrepreneurship community. I want nothing but Groupon to be a wild success so its impact can cascade down upon our fine city.

But this thought experiment became interesting, so I began to write down some of the implications of a Groupon failure; many were real, some tongue-in-cheek. So I figured I’d share them and start the conversation.

What if Groupon did fail?

What would the impact be on Chicago – economically, politically, socially, culturally, and emotionally? How would our community change, and how would the world change?

Here’s what I came up with:

  • As Wilhelm pointed out, there would be thousands of layoffs, creating a developer/programmer glut. Fortunately, the high demand from other tech firms would quickly absorb the excess supply.
  • It would feel like a punch to the gut to Chicago’s tech, entrepreneurship, and investor communities.
  • Other deal sites might breathe a sigh of relief…until they realized their industry leader’s demise might be a sign of the times.
  • Lots of VCs around the world would lose lots of money, potentially leading to another bubble burst.
  • Consumer spending would take a big hit but maybe savings would rise.
  • The SEC might click their heels that they wouldn’t have to deal with Groupon anymore.
  • Media and Silicon Valley pundits would be saying “I told you so.”
  • The Wrigley Building might have a “Space For Rent” sign on it.
  • An attractive URL might become available.
  • Eric Lefkofsky might drop off the Forbes billionaires list.
  • Andrew Mason could reunite his college band and finally go on a world tour.
  • Eric and Brad Keywell would go on to bigger and better things, like reinvent the business model of the U.S. government.
So, what else do you think might happen?


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