Emerging Leader: Andrew D. Mason (BSM03)
What’s the deal with Andrew Mason? Perhaps it’s better to let the founder and CEO of the popular Internet business Groupon Inc. tell you in his own words:
“Andrew Mason is the founder and CEO of Groupon, which has been called ‘America’s Best Website’ by one of their television commercials,” he summarizes. “Andrew has been using his fingers since an early age, most recently to type this biography. A Northwestern University graduate in music, Mason’s achievements date back to his eighth-grade wrestling rookie of the year trophy at Mt. Lebanon High School in Pittsburgh. Andrew considers himself an online enthusiast and man.”
If you’re perplexed by that description, you’re likely unfamiliar with Groupon. The Chicago-based company, which Mason started in 2008, offers a deal of the day to events, restaurants, and other businesses. The deal kicks in once a certain number of subscribers have signed up, guaranteeing customers for businesses and a hefty discount for those who participate.
Mason’s idea has sparked a revolution of sorts. Groupon has spread to more than 230 cities and 29 countries. This year, one online news source pegged the company’s value at $1.35 billion.
And Mason, at the tender age of 29, stands at the center of it all.
If that sounds like an unorthodox way to make a fortune, that’s probably fitting: Andrew Mason isn’t exactly orthodox. Take, for instance, what he studied at Northwestern. Business? Marketing?
As a student at the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, Mason went in several directions at once. He played in a rock band and directed a remake of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. He even tried, unsuccessfully, to launch a new campus tradition.
“I tried to start a fake tradition where everyone brought their mattresses to the Arch and we stacked them on top of each other. I got a call from the school saying I would be responsible for all the mattress damage and ultimately shut it down,” laments Mason, who appreciated the Bienen School for offering him the flexibility to pursue other interests during his music education.
Groupon first took root in 2006, when Chicago investor Eric Lefkofsky gave Mason funds to start The Point Inc., an online social networking site to assist community organizing and activism. Two years later, Mason applied the same model to a site geared toward gathering groups of consumers rather than activists.
Since the explosion of Groupon, Mason has been featured by numerous publications. He was named to 40-under-40 list by Crain’s Chicago Business and recently appeared on the cover of Forbes.
Still an online enthusiast and a man, Mason lives in Chicago.