Steve Case & Ted Leonsis, Can These Two AOL Men, Save Social Local Commerce?

Steve Case,Ted Leonsis,Daily Deals, Groupon,Living Social,sxsw,sxswi

Steve Case (file photo: NMI)

Two of Washington DC’s powerhouse investors, Founder of AOL Steve Case, and owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, Ted Leonsis, work side by side on many deals. Both are heavily involved in Case’s investment company Revolution.

Leonsis has been involved with Revolution Growth since it’s founding, however he has no financial stake in Revolution Growth I investments. Leonsis and Case have worked together since the AOL days, where Leonsis was a member of active management for 13 years, retiring in 2006.

They continue to work together today, although both are invested as individuals and separately in daily deal competitors Groupon and LivingSocial.

While many know that Groupon’s typical strategy, at least pre-ipo, was to quickly buy up competitors across the country, Living Social has always been on it’s own and will most likely stay that way.

We’ve seen the turmoil that both companies have been going through as of late. Groupon fired it’s founding CEO poster boy, Andrew Mason and quickly installed Leonsis and Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkosky as Co-CEO’s until a new CEO can be named.

Back in the DC area Living Social has been going through some problems of their own.A little over week ago, the investors in Living Social basically took back the company with an emergency $100 million dollar investment, which according to many sources, including, rendered all previous stock, even employee stock, worthless.

(PrivCo EXCLUSIVE): LIVINGSOCIAL Receives Emergency $110M Debt (“Equity” In Name Only) Infusion From Existing Investors With Oppressive Terms, JUST DAYS FROM BANKRUPTCY, Effectively Handing Over Distressed Co. to Today’s Financing Participants…Implied Valuation Incl All Req’d Payments: JUST $330M, DOWN 94% FROM $5.7 BILLION In Dec. 2011 V.C. Round…Pure Equity Was NOT Issued Today (As Has Been Widely Misreported)…Instead, A Desperate LIVINGSOCIAL Accepted A COMPLEX Series of Secured-Convertible-Debt-Like Securities With Onerous Terms (PrivCo Has Confirmed Exclusively) Including: (1) Liquidation Preferences of SEVERAL TIMES the $110M In Debt (2) Mandatory Cash Dividends Due (3) “Super-Warrants” And/Or Large Lump-Sum Cash “Elimination” Payment, (4) Secured Against Co. Assets and Stock, (5) Repayment of the $110M “Loan” in 4 Yrs w Add’l Payments, and (6) Re-Pricing of Participating Investors Earlier Rounds…Employees’ and Founders’ Common Stock Now Worthless. (industry trade publication privco said on their site)

A former LivingSocial employee, on condition of anonymity, told that friends of hers in the sales department hadn’t seen a paycheck in nearly two months, before the most recent cash infusion.  A current LivingSocial employee, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, told us that the company was right on the cusp of some big ideas with both technology and sales and that no one wanted to see the company shut down.

Case was rater bullish on LivingSocial when speaking at the TechCocktail event at SXSW on Saturday afternoon. He said that despite what’s going on with the company, LivingSocial does have the potential to become the next AOL.

Many may recall how Case was instrumental in the biggest media merger of all time beween Time Warner and AOL. Although he is held highly responsible for the merger, he agreed to step down as CEO after that merger closed. While the outcome was far from the results they were expecting, AOL is still a big player in online media and is again seeing forward momentum.

Groupon has already pivoted since their value began declining shortly after going public. They now offer Groupon Goods, an almost Amazon competitor, that is the backbone to where the company is headed.

While LivingSocial hasn’t done anything that drastic just yet, they do have some new technologies in the works.

Case has never been one to turn down the long hall. At 54 he has plenty of time to see some of his investments pay off ten fold. ZipCar, a big investment for Revolution, was just recently sold to Hertz with a huge return to investors. The company was in a position where they didn’t necessarily need to take that deal, but it was right.

While four years may seem like an eternity to a startup, from reading all of the language in various stories about the recent LivingSocial bail out, the investors are giving the team four years to turn things around. Which, may be just enough time.

Meanwhile across the hall at Revolution, Leonsis has taken on much more responsibilities for day to day operations at Groupon.  “There is a ton of negative sentiment in the press about this company, and I think people don’t separate the signal from the noise,” Leonsis told The Verge, “We have $1.2 billion in the bank. We have basically zero debt. And this last quarter, we had an operating profit. Yes, with one-time write downs, there was a loss. But the fundamentals of this business are sound.”

With Leonsis balancing Lefkosky’s Yang, and Case and company giving Living Social four years more breathing room, two men from AOL may have just saved daily deals.

Watch this video with Case’s remarks, this past Saturday at SXSW, on Living Social:

Steve Case talks about the importance of crowdfunding to early stage startups.


Athens GA Startup Wagglez It All Began With A Honey Bee Dance

Wagglez, Athens startup,Georgia startup,startup,startup interview, startup video, startup rallySure there are plenty of daily deals startups out there. In fact, one of the most popular Atlanta startups is daily deal startup ScoutMob, but, none have as good a name as Wagglez.

Athens Georgia based Wagglez takes it’s name from a dance that honey bees do when they get back to the hive to tell the other bees where the honey is. It’s that same principal Wagglez is hoping to achieve with deal seekers.

By delivering relevant local deals straight to the smartphone ,Wagglez eliminates the need to clip coupons or use a daily deals site like Groupon.

When a user fills out a profile on Wagglez, their data (minus their personal info like their name) is saved and delivered to participating merchants. Merchants can then analyze the data to see which offers and promotions are working with which demographic. They can then use that data to offer more strategic offers that will benefit both the consumer and the merchant.

Wagglez wants to make the daily deals experience as easy as possible for the end user. There’s no need to print coupons, all of the participating merchants create the deals themselves, along with the stipulations to take advantage of the deal. This makes the experience as easy as walking into a participating merchant and redeeming your Wagglez deal.

Wagglez is incubating at the FourAthens incubator in Athens Georgia along with several other up and coming tech startups.

Wagglez wants to be as relevant to visitors as it is to locals. The idea came about when founder Chris Bell and some of his fellow University of Nebraska alums went to a football game in Seattle. They didn’t know where to go or what to do. They were eventually pointed to a bar which some other fellow cornhuskers had taken over. For travelers, Bell is hoping to make Wagglez a platform where out of towners can easily find the best things to do with the best deals as well.

Bell was unable to be at the Startup Rally event in Atlanta Monday as he and his wife are expecting a baby, who will also become a Wagglez user. In his place we got to talk with Matt Downing, who even does the Wagglez dance for us in the video.  Check it out below.

For more on Wagglez click here

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Monster Offers Is Daily Deals On Steroids With Nearly 60,000 Deals

Monster Offers, Daily Deals, startup,startupsOrange County California daily deals startup Monster Offers is a daily deals startup on steroids. Where most daily deals startups, outside of sites like Living Social and Groupon, focus on one particular area, Monster Offers is aggregating daily deals across several platforms. This gives the user a one stop destination to search for deals on just about anything.

Monster Offers gathers deal offerings from such discount providers as Groupon, Living Social, DealFind, Goldstar, and nearly 100 others. Assisted by a new partnership with Sqoot, Monster Offers can now save you tons of time and money, putting at your fingertips thousands of daily deals from 100 or so deal providers, with many offering discounts of up to 99%, all searchable in one easy location – from your web browser, your Smartphone or other handheld Smart device.   The service, now available from both websites, identifies where you are geographically and begins populating the freshest and best deals near you. And based on your location, you can then filter your search based on keywords or by category, and then sit back and check out the recommended deals (including the National Deal of the Day)!

Indeed, there are hundreds, if not thousands of daily deals providers that provide unique offerings to today’s consumers, recently reported to be $2 Billion in industry sales annually. Monster Offers has had success, and remains well positioned in this growing marketplace, with its unique, one-of-a-kind approach through the Monster Offers Smartphone apps, and now adds a web-based search platform. Displaying thousands of deals each day, Monster Offers aggregates them in one convenient place, eliminating users having to wade through countless irrelevant offers just to find one that they’re interested in. The company remains dedicated to its corporate mission of delivering a robust and user friendly interface that allows buyers to organize their deal information based on geographical setting, business type, category, and keywords.

Monster Offers looks broadly across the other daily deals sites to return something that can be as national or hyper local as the user needs. This comes in handy especially for travelers who may have a local daily deals routine.

Other features include:

  • Hyperlocal list of daily “Monster Dealies” in up to 14 categories and 60 subcategories in your local market, all easily accessible with the press of a button.
  • View deals from hundreds of daily deal providers, including Groupon, Living Social, EDeals, iCoupon, Goldstar, DealFind, Zozi,, Signpost, Double Take Deals, and many more.
  • Get the best deal in the country with the “National Deal of the Day” — straight from the Monster Offers “Monster” himself.
  • Utilizing IP addresses, map deals from the pool of over 30,000 potential offers, available right to your physical location in real time through your web browser, or the Smartphone App available for download.
  • In the Monster Offers App, adjust your preferential settings to a specific radius that reflects your daily travels.
  • Share deals with friends and family through social networking sites (including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and more).


Official: DC Startup Living Social Lays Off 400

Livingsocial,daily deals, dc startup,living social layoffsWe reported early this morning that Washington DC based daily deals starutp Living Social was planning on laying off 400 people. That came to fruition later this morning and was announced by company spokesperson Andrew Weinstein.

Weinstein confirmed all 400 layoffs and said that they were spread across sales, editorial and customer service. They are also looking to streamline all of their operations and with that they are centralizing customer service to an office in Tuscon Arizona. Customer service jobs that were based at the companies DC offices are either being cut or moved to Tuscon. There may be some job openings at the Tuscon customer service office later on.

This may not bode will for Living Social who just received a major tax break from the DC government. Under the deal for the $32.5 million dollar tax break, LivingSocial is supposed to move to a massive, centralized headquarters and keep 1000 employees in DC.

Living Social is also trying to calm the editorial and social swell from the announcement. Many journalists, bloggers and investors in daily deals, are starting to worry that the once hot space is “over”.  Weinstein told CNN “We think this actually puts us on the right path for long-term growth and profitability,”

Groupon, Living Social’s biggest rival and the big winner in the daily deals space, is going through turmoil themselves. It’s been widely rumored that the board of directors at Groupon is looking to replace CEO Andrew Mason. Their stock has performed dismally since going public and there has been a lot of executive turnover at their Chicago headquarters.

To add to LivingSocial’s problems, a month ago Amazon reported a $169 million dollar write down on it’s $175 million dollar investment in LivingSocial.


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Groupon To Go Head To Head Against Square On Mobile Transactions

Groupon the daily deals site is reportedly interested in entering the Mobile Commerce field to compete with the likes of Square and most recently PayPal. The company who is embroiled in controversy in almost anything it does, from how it reports it’s profits to how it stock raises, wants to handle your money.

Business Insider is reporting that it’ll charge 1.8% transaction fee and a $0.15 per transaction charge for payments that they process. Whereas Square charges 2.75% with no per transaction fee and  PayPal Here charges 2.7%, also with no transaction fee. In a risky move, Groupon will provide not only the device that retailers can charge customers, but also an iPod Touch to take the payments with. Like Yahoo, which recently made waves by releasing a semi browser for the web, and an iOS application, Groupon which keeps failing and is being mishandled would rather throw as many things against a wall and see what sticks versus fixing what’s wrong and instead is trying to hide from this.

Source: Business Insider

San Diego Startup: Monster Offers Releases 18 Localized Daily Deals Apps

San Diego based Monster Offers has teamed up with app development studio Iconosys to release 18 new daily deals apps to Android powered smartphones.

The 18 daily deals apps go by the name of Monster Dealies and Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Last June Inc magazine said the daily deals space could be worth $3 billion dollars this year in revenues. A BIA/Kelsey estimate suggests the revenue could reach $4 billion dollars by 2015. It’s also been revealed that a lot of consumers who aren’t taking advantage of daily deals sites and apps are leaving a lot of money on the table.

“The new ‘Monster Dealies’ apps bring to your Smartphone or Smart device those killer discounted Daily Deals that are specifically tailored for your local market or GPS-designated location. In view of the now huge size of the Daily Deal market, we think an app like this makes abundant sense, as it scours the landscape to highlight what you care about and what you want to see, while cutting out the noise and the deals that are clearly outside your particular target area. Why should you ever pay full price for a meal, massage, movie or show ticket again in your local area? Our Monster Dealies apps bring the best discounted deals to your Smartphone or Smart Device, so you are plugged in and ready to save money 24-7.” says Paul Gain Monster Offers CEO

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Denver Startup: DailyCloset To Open Monday

dailycloset, daily deals, groupon, nibletzA new woman owned, Denver startup in the daily deals space is slated to open tomorrow. The #startup called DailyCloset, is going to offer daily deals on a variety of women’s clothes and accessories.

DailyCloset realizes that the daily deals space is getting crowded. They plan on differentiating themselves by making their #dailydeals more socially appealing to their users. Users will be encouraged to comment and share the deal of the day via their Facebook account.

“In addition to providing a product for purchase, we utilize the featured item as a centerpiece that engages visitors and stimulates conversation,” said Charles Cunningham, Chief Marketing Officer with “We want to see users talking about the product and respectfully share their opinions, whether good or bad.”

DailyCloset is going to kick off their site tomorrow morning at 9am EST at their first deal will actually be free while supplies last. DailyCloset has teamed up with AJ Morgan to give away hundreds of free sunglasses. Each user will be able to get one pair of free glasses and all they have to do is pay DailyCloset’s flat rate shipping fee.  After they run out of the initial free pairs they will have more available for $4.00. The deal lasts for 24 hours like all the deals on DailyCloset.

DailyCloset will also have a weekly drawing for a free handbag tied in with liking the site on Facebook. Every day at 5pm EST DailyCloset will post a new daily deal. The deal will end at 4:59pm the next day.

The free deal starts at 9am Monday.


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Seattle Daily Deals Site Tippr Gets Proactive; Refunds Customers For Possible Fake Bose Headphone Purchase

Every daily deals site’s worst nightmare recently came true for Seattle-based Tippr, however their handling of the situation saved face and customers.

One of Tippr’s merchants recently ran a deal for a pair of Bose headphones at the low-cost of $49. The merchant had said that the headsets were genuine and that they were authorized to sell them. However as Tippr CEO Martin Tobias told Geekwire they started to have their doubts and then worked with Bose directly to vet the validity of this deal.

“Upon further investigation and in partnership with Bose Corporation, we were unable to verify the merchant’s inventory levels nor the authenticity of the product to our satisfaction,” Tobias tells GeekWire in an email.  ”There are apparently quite good fake versions of these headphones in the market and we were concerned that the merchant may have been attempting to ship knock-offs instead of factory authorized product. So out of a preponderance of caution, and looking out for the interest of our Tippr customers, we decided to refund all customer’s money rather than risk them getting a potentially faulty or poor quality product.”

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