Wow. There is money out there: a retail deals site called Groupon has raised a whopping $30 million Series B funding round led by Accel Partners, one of Facebook's early backers. Existing Groupon investor NEA, which led the company's $4.8 million Series A round in January 2008, also contributed.
Here is the gist of Groupon: there are currently editions for 26 U.S. cities. The site advertises a deal each day from a selected local establishment like a restaurant, nail salon, or gym. There's a heavy discount involved. But enough members have to opt into the deal in order for any of them to get it. Groupon takes a cut of earnings if the deal hits the "tipping point" and goes live; otherwise, the featured merchant does not have to pay.
They've been profitable since June, founder and CEO Andrew Mason told CNET. So why raise $30 million? "We want to roll out to another 50 cities or so next year," he said, adding that early in 2010 it hopes to expand to Canadian cities, "so it's just going to help us increase the rate of customer acquisition and focus on building new technology." He wouldn't say what that new technology is, but he did add that the company went from 10 to 120 employees in the past year and planned to continue to grow at that rate.
The company grew out of an existing start-up called ThePoint, which applied a similar "collective" model to community and activism projects, before switching entirely to the retail model.