Groupon is in negotiations with Wall Street banks about an initial public offering that would value Andrew Mason's deal-a-day site at $25 billion, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. That's $2 billion more than Google when Eric Schmidt took the company public in 2004. Ever since Mason smartly negged Google's $6 billion buyout offer, the venture capitalists have come a-courtin'. But Mason has hustled to parlay all the bubbly attention into actual growth. The company doubled its subscriber base in the past three months. It now has 70 million users in more than 500 markets. And Mason's even working on getting Groupon its very own button on cash registers. Last year, he raked in $760 million in gross revenue. But that revenue doesn't account for the money paid back to local merchants. And the 70 million doesn't account for how many people signed up for 41 percent off Pompei the Exhibit.
When Google was poised to go public in 2004, investors were hoping it would be the next big thing to happen to tech since Netscape's 1995 IPO launched a thousand start-ups. Now Mason is the front-runner for that bonkers IPO the tech industry is itching for. It's true that no one is skeptical about whether there's real money to be made online anymore — not to mention the matter of inflation. But it's still hard for us to wrap our heads around the assumption that a company that had indexed the Internet and was getting to work on mapping the world around us is worth less than amusing copy and coupons at a local store, especially when so many competitors are at nipping at Mason's heels.