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Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of social-shopping site Groupon, was part of a panel discussion at Google’s Chicago office last night on innovation and startups. One of the questions he was asked was to sum up his management credo in just two words. “Cultivate ownership,” Mason answered. Then he told a quick story.
When Groupon was launched in Chicago in November 2008, the seven employees were “just a bunch of rascals.” They included one twentysomething guy who, though “supersmart,” had so little gumption that Mason thought he’d end up working at Shoney’s when he was 45. But given responsibility for a specific area, the guy flourished and now manages a staff of 65.
Mason also gave a shoutout to Eric Lefkofksy as the outsider most responsible for Groupon’s success. Lefkofsky is a Chicago-based serial entrepreneur who, though his Lightbank venture capital firm, was Mason’s original backer and adviser.
Groupon is en fuego. It is up to 11 million subscribers, offering group coupons for restaurants and retailers in 160 cities in 22 countries. In its 20 months, Mason said, the site has saved customers $300 million with its daily deals.
It also has its own pilot fish, according to this post on WiseBread. Say you can’t use your Groupon discount or you think it’s worth more than you paid, you can sell it on sites such as CoupRecoup and DealsGoRound.
The discussion was organized by the Chicago Innovation Awards—Groupon was a 2009 winner—and hosted by Google, which is one of the contest’s silver sponsors this year.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.