Not long ago, daily deals giant Groupon was the toast of Chicago, a press darling that received the blessing of Oprah Winfrey, was commended by Forbes as the “fastest growing company ever,” and even reportedly spurned a multibillion-dollar buyout offer from Google.
A Chicago Tribune headline from last December summed up its place in the ecosystem: “Groupon’s Success Adds Luster to Chicago’s Startup Community.”
Things have changed somewhat, of course, with Groupon experiencing numerous setbacks since filing for an IPO in June. Among them, the company has been forced to amend its S-1 three times to satisfy SEC concerns over its accounting practices; it lost a COO who’d joined five months prior; and an email leaked to the press led the company to cancel its IPO roadshow. Early this week, a financial analysis firm released a report suggesting that Groupon may now be on a “self-reinforcing path to insolvency.”
If Groupon suddenly looks to leave a mixed legacy in Chicago, the city’s startup community is loath to acknowledge it publicly or privately. Indeed, talk with regional entrepreneurs and investors and two things quickly become clear: they say they still believe in Groupon; they also think no matter what happens to the company, their fortunes will not be tied to it.