The idea was good.  Take a proven social shopping model successful Asia, Tuangou, and adapt it for Western consumer.

And for a while, the Groupon online spin on team-buying was the darling of not just the social commerce world, but the world of commerce, period.

However, Groupon’s social shine covered up what was essentially just another couponing site, the beating social heart of Tuangou had been stripped out, and with low barriers to competitor entry sales faltered, customers tired, and the stock crashed (from $28 to $4.53).

And yesterday, founder and CEO Andrew Mason was thrown out of his green Groupon corporate balloon/board.

Here’s the resignation letter offered as the charismatic CEO shuffled off this corporate coil. It’s worthy of archiving because the advice offered therein is instructive for all entrepreneurs in social commerce and beyond.

Have the courage to start with the customer… and deliver sustainable customer happiness

The problem of course, is that too often we fail to deliver customer happiness to either our business customers or consumer customers. And Groupon has been a case in point, and it has paid the price.

This morning the resignation letter, with all its trademark quirkiness about Battletoads, Terra Tubes and fat camp has been receiving Twitter love.

But to succeed moving forward Groupon will have to not only  start with the customer, but start with the customer smile.

 

People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why . . . you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!

I will miss you terribly.

Love,

Andrew