So, the tech bubble continues to inflate. Groupon, an online deals web site with over 80 million email subscribers, has launched its initial public offering (IPO) in an attempt to raise up to $750m.
As we wrote recently, LinkedIn's flotation and subsequent rocketing on the New York Stock Exchange seemed oddly reminiscent of the tech bubble of the late 1990s, although financials analysts argue that there is more intrinsic value in the companies going public this time.
Nevertheless, the figures being thrown around are somewhat ludicrous. Groupon
posted a net loss of $102m for the first quarter of 2011 and has a deficit of $522m, yet the company has already turned down a whopping $6bn offer from Google.
Groupon is clearly confident, so much so that, in a twist on the usual stuffy IPO system, chief executive Andrew Mason went all wacky and Google by writing a letter almost daring investors to get onboard, promising that the company would not be prudent in its dealings.
"We spend a lot of money acquiring new subscribers because we can measure the return and believe in the long-term value of the marketplace. In the past, we've made investments in growth that turned a healthy forecasted quarterly profit into a sizeable loss," he said.
"When we see opportunities to invest in long-term growth, expect that we will pursue them regardless of certain short-term consequences."
Mason added, with a flourish, that the industry is breaking new ground and will throw up moments of great despair, but also joy.
"As with any business in a 30-month-old industry, the path to success will have twists and turns, moments of brilliance and other moments of sheer stupidity. Knowing that this will at times be a bumpy ride, we thank you for considering joining us," he said.
There are echoes here of the letter written by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, which warned investors that the company was about risk taking and rewards for employees, not securing stable quarterly balance sheets.
"Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down. We will optimise for the long term rather than trying to produce smooth earnings for each quarter. We will support high-risk, high-reward projects and manage our portfolio of projects," they said.
Google's approach certainly worked. The question now is how Groupon performs when it hits the markets, and whether it can last. And you can be damn sure the folks at Twitter and Facebook will be watching like hawks.
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