A sluggish GroupOn NZ launch

UPDATE: GroupOn NZ is off to a sluggish start. Yesterday, it offered 500 cut-price Fiji holiday packages, but had only sold around 60 when NBR checked in late in the evening. Today, the 24-hour offer has been extended for another 24 hours. It all seems a little bit blah compared to the frezny around the launch offers for TradeMe's TreatMe, and other local group buying sites.

GroupOn Australia MD Patrick Schmidt told NBR he was "absolutely thrilled" with the way the launch day had gone. It was the most successful travel offer for a group buying site, by revenue, that he was aware of. Mr Schmidt also spoke about his company's major competitors in New Zealand, his office and staffing plans, how he'd tapped a top TVNZer to run the local operation, and set a deadline for launching mobile, location-aware services. Read more of his comments here.

WEDNESDAY: Groupon, the granddaddy of group-buying sites, has launched in New Zealand this morning with a $499 Fiji holiday offer (flights not included).

The deal, which went live at midnight, had 34 takers when NBR checked in at 3.20pm. With 8 hours 40 minutes to run - and 500 Fiji packages on offer - it's fair to say Groupon NZ is not off to a flying start.

It faces a market clogged with Groupon clones that have already set up shop here. There number defies description in a single paragraph, but includes Grabone (majority owned by APN), Cudo (in which MediaWorks has a stake), Groupy (recently bought by Yellow), Spreets (now part of Yahoo) 1-Dayout and TradeMe's TreatMe.

Groupon, which setup shop in Australia ealier this year, gives every indication that its New Zealand operation is run by remote control. 

It's Auckland office number wasn't answered when NBR called, and an email inquiry took days to yield a reply. A Groupon Auckland Twitter account has yet to make a single tweet.

Initially at least, the newcomer seems happy to cede market reach to the largest voucher site, Grabone, with city-focussed deals restricted to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Given its success in its home market, none of the small army of Groupon clones will be writing off the newcomer. But so far, it's an underwhelming launch.

To goose along interest, Groupon NZ has a $10  friend-get-friend credit offer (earning members an account credit of up to $120).

GrabOne was quick to jab back today, offering a Mr Vintage T-shirt for $5 (including free delivery). Yes, it does include a GrabOne logo.

April 11: Groupon – the wildly successful US group buying site that has spawned thousands of imitators worldwide – is setting up shop here.

New Zealand is, of course, already lousy with Groupon clones, including Grabone (majority owned by APN), Cudo (in which MediaWorks has a stake), Groupy (recently bought by Yellow), Spreets (now part of Yahoo) 1-Dayout and TradeMe's TreatMe, among others.

From its sign-up page (whose design seems very familiar, thanks to the copycats), Groupon NZ appears to be banking on a friend-get-friend promo, with users getting a $10 credit (up to $120) for every person they email who also registers.

No launch date is given. Users can register for Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

The company was forced to go with the clumsy URL Grouponnz.co.nz, the more obvious Groupon.co.nz having been snaffled by Australian based Daily Deals.

GroupOn New Zealand registered with the Companies Office on February 16, and lists the Phillips Fox tower in Auckland as its address.

The three directors are erstwhile Groupon President and chief operating office Rob Solomon (who abruptly left the company on March 23, according to a Wall Street Journal report); Mark Hoyt, Groupon’s senior vice president for global operations; and Farhan Yasin, COO for the company’s international operations.

Can somebody say bubble?
Groupon launched as a small Wordpress blog in November 2008.

Its group buying voucher concept caught on like wildfire, and it now claims 70 million registered users around the US, Europe and Asia.

The company launched in Australia on February 15.

According to US business media reports, Groupon snubbed a $US6 billion offer from Google in late 2010.

The company is now talking with banks about an IPO.

Party like it's 1999
Last April, a private equity deal valued Groupon – which has not released accounts – at $US1.35 billion.

By November - shortly before Google's $US6 billion offer - private investors were being asked to buy shares at a price that implied a total valuation of $US3 billion. 

By January, a fresh private equity share placement pegged Groupon's worth at $US4.75 billion.

Initial IPO talk put Groupon’s value at $US9 billion.

The latest reports from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have Groupon listing later this year with an offering that values the company at between $US15 billion and $US25 billion – which would put it ahead of Google’s IPO.

But, hey, it's early in the week, so who knows what Groupon will be worth by Friday.

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