Andrew Mason (BSM03)
If you’ve never heard of Andrew Mason (BSM03), perhaps a few words from the young entrepreneur himself will clarify: “Andrew Mason is the founder and CEO of Groupon, which has been called ‘America's Best Website’ by one of their television commercials.” He adds, “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 a man.”
And if you’re still perplexed by that description, you’re likely unfamiliar with Groupon.com. The Chicago-based company, which Mason started in 2008, offers subscribers deals of the day at regional events, restaurants, shops, and other businesses. A deal kicks in only once a certain number of subscribers have signed up for it, guaranteeing a significant influx of customers for businesses and a hefty discount for participants.
Groupon has spread to more than 230 cities in 29 countries, and countless comparable companies have popped up worldwide. Earlier this year, one online news source pegged Groupon’s value at $1.35 billion. Mason, at the tender age of 29, stands at the center of it all.
It’s certainly an inventive way to make a fortune; in fact, “inventive” seems to be Mason’s overall mode of operation. While at the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, the enterprising piano performance major was always stretching in many directions at once. As well as playing in a rock band and directing a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Mason was attempting to pioneer a new campus ritual.
“I tried to start a fake tradition at NU 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 took root in 2006, when Chicago investor Eric Lefkofsky gave Mason funds to start ThePoint Inc., an online social networking site to assist community organizing and activism. Two years later, Mason applied the same model to his new site, Groupon, geared toward gathering groups of consumers rather than activists.
Since the explosion of Groupon, Mason has been featured in numerous business and current event publications. He was named to Crain’s Chicago Business’s "40 Under 40" list of successful young businesspeople in 2009, and he recently appeared on the cover of Forbes.
Still an online enthusiast and a man, Mason lives in Chicago.
Posted September 23, 2010.