Could a Reversal Disrupt Groupon?

Or, If Groupon Flipped Their Model, Could It Unleash the Power of Networks?

by Venessa Miemis

Could a Reversal Disrupt Groupon?As I’ve been working on the supplemental infographic for the Future of Money project, I noticed that all of the interesting new sites and ideas for value exchange are essentially types of marketplaces. There are peer to peer marketplaces now for gifting, sharing, bartering, trading, renting, lending, and investing. Most are operating on the level of exchange between individuals, but very few at the group level. (spider sense tingling: opportunity?)

I poked around to find examples of group buying sites, but the area is still rather sparse. A few examples in China (Taobao, liba, TeamBuy, getgogive), and the largest example I’m aware of here in the US is Groupon.

Groupon works kind of like Kickstarter for discounts, leveraging “collective buying power.” They partner with local businesses in your area to offer discounts on products and services, then post a new deal every day. The deals are activated only after a minimum number of people commit to buy.

Sounds like a great model. Groupon apparently thinks so too – they’re looking for a $3 billion valuation. (saw tweet yesterday, don’t know accuracy of source). Either way, it made me think that while it’s interesting to present a daily offer to a consumer, what would happen if you flipped the model? What if you allowed people to pool around a desire, and pitch it back to the supplier?

It seems like this could be an effective way to not only get discounts on products that are usually cost prohibitive (i.e. solar panels), but possibly to assist people in self-organizing for group investment opportunities.

If it had some functionality that allowed you to specify your preferences and what you care about, it could send you alerts when an offer that might interest you had been proposed. It would also make sense if it could semantically understand offers and bundle similarly worded offers or duplicates. Then provide the option to share the offer across your social networks in order to build critical mass to get it activated.

I did find one example of a company that seems to be trying to do something like this, GotoGroupBuy, but it doesn’t appear to have much traction. (maybe not enough of a “social” aspect?)

No one has made an elegant version of this just yet, but as our social profiles become more robust and public, our social networks more connected, and our creativity around leveraging collective intelligence on the rise, it seems only a matter of time before these types of marketplaces exist.

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Venessa MiemisVenessa Miemis is a Media Studies graduate student at the New School in NYC, exploring what happens at the intersection of technology, culture, and communication. Connect with her at and on Twitter @venessamiemis.

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Venessa Miemis




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No Comments

  1. Steve Larson on November 17, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Oh I love those websites. There’s like a hundred of them in US. Most of them offer crappy deals but,, usually have the best offers. And your idea sounds genius! BUT those websites make good $$$ on publishing those offers. I imagine there’s no way they would make so much $$$ representing the other side – buyers.

  2. Sebastian from StyleFactory on November 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Great article and idea, Vanessa!
    We at StyleFactory tap into that idea and help people pool around designs and StyleFactory takes the most popular ones and tries to achieve great offers with suppliers.
    See more info here:

    It would be great to talk, find me @germanmade on Twitter.


  3. Sebastian from StyleFactory on November 17, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Hi Vanessa,

    great post! I love the idea and agree this is a potential future market. StyleFactory tries to tap into that market by having consumers pool around designs and then StyleFactory takes those to suppliers and tries to achieve great offers.

    Find more info here:

    Would love to chat, find me on Twitter: @germanmade.


  4. Renz on March 31, 2011 at 3:00 am

    great post! Here in the Philippines, group buying sites are growing like mushrooms. It’s doing pretty well and I’m not complaining because this means I have plenty of deals to choose from.

    The newest groupon site in the Philippines in fact is, . I wonder how they will measure up on the leading groupon sites like Cashcashpinoy, Ensogo, Beeconomic, etc.

    A friend in the US is also hooked on groupon sites. His wife told him to unsubscribe on the newsletters because he couldn’t stop buying. 🙂

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