February 20, 2013

LivingSocial Lands New Money from Old Investors


A memo to employees released earlier today suggests that LivingSocial has some very big plans for the future, and they start with the completion of an impressive round of funding. LivingSocial, now reportedly the second largest daily deal company around, managed to raise $110 million from its existing investors, proving not only does the company have some impressive plans afoot, but that its investors like the chances of those plans succeeding.

The memo, generated by LivingSocial CEO Tim O'Shaughnessy, detailed the massive fundraising effort, calling it "a tremendous vote of confidence in our business from the people who know us best, our current board members and investors."

While O'Shaughnessy didn't detail just who threw in how much – and whether or not one of LivingSocial's largest investors, Amazon.com, threw in on this round – it was clear that LivingSocial had sufficient pull to raise some money.

LivingSocial had previously raised a substantial sum of money – some reports put it in the hundreds of millions of dollars – in order to pursue the number one slot in daily deals, currently occupied by Groupon. But when Groupon went public and lost about two thirds of its market value, LivingSocial was in a very precarious position.

LivingSocial's own valuation dropped following Groupon's stumbling IPO, which in turn gave rise to big losses and job cuts, at one point sending 9 percent of its work force – about 400 jobs in total –packing.

This in turn yielded unusual forms of fundraising, such as the issuance of preferred stock or dividend-paying shares, moves that can dilute control of the company but also serve as an inducement for investors who find themselves reluctant to invest further in a company in which some of their money has already been lost – sometimes referred to as a "down round."

O'Shaughnessy, for his part, said that the company has "an aggressive roadmap," but wouldn't talk about what specific landmarks, toll booths and intersections were on that roadmap. He did, however, point out that the company has several investments lined up in terms of marketing and technology, as well as an improved focus on mobile technology to provide not only a suitably aggressive expansion, but a shot at productivity.

Indeed, that mobile focus may provide the best chance at recovered fortunes of all. With a deal focus for mobiles, LivingSocial can offer promotions that are geographically targeted, allowing businesses to buy in and offer deals to users who are in the neighborhood.

For instance, let's say a group of friends are out on a bar crawl on a Friday night. All of a sudden, just as the third round of Guinness arrives, one in the group gets a LivingSocial offer on his/her smartphone from the wing place down the street, which is offering quarter wings for the next 50 visitors. The group calls it a perfect opportunity and heads on down, while the business gets a whole new string of business it wouldn't have had without the deal.

That's just one option – there are plenty more hypothetical scenarios to put in play just as well – but it illustrates just how valuable a venture like LivingSocial can be in terms of drumming up business. Will LivingSocial's strategy ultimately succeed? Only time will tell, but the investment in mobile and marketing should prove helpful in the end.




Edited by Braden Becker



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