Groupon went public on Friday, and it was reported to be the largest IPO since Google. I don’t get it.

The founders took $900 million in cash from the company before it went public. Which suggests they think the company is overvalued (and they want their money while it’s there) or they don’t plan to stick around to find out. Either way, it’s not a vote of confidence.

There was a long, fascinating article in Business Insider last week that looks at the history of Groupon. It’s a tale of start-up woes and poor management, a revolving door for top talent, out-of-control sales commissions, and spurning an offer from Google reportedly out of fears that the deal would be rejected by the SEC on anti-trust grounds.

Here’s a sample:

[CEO Andrew Mason] can’t hang on to a COO. The SEC  is asking questions. Industry executives are calling him a ponzi schemer. Early employees are demanding six-figure pay for 9 to 5 hours. One even filed a lawsuit. Merchant customers are screaming. And Mason and his board, having helped themselves to $900 million of cash that could have gone to the company, are are now being blasted for incompetence and greed.

 

It’s a cautionary tale about rapid growth (and entrepreneurs reading their own press clips). Take a few minutes and dive in. Then I’d love to hear your takeaways.

Photo by Dan4th Nicholas (Flickr).