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Groupon’s Dispatch From the Front Lines of Optimism: View

June 3 (Bloomberg) -- There are lots of reasons to feel on edge about the future -- but don’t try to impose any of them on Andrew Mason, the 30-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Groupon Inc. Yesterday, his online-coupon business filed to go public, with Mason blasting out a message that is worth remarking on for its youthful exuberance.

The rest of the economic landscape is defined by debt-ceiling quarrels in Washington, Greece’s bailout and America’s stubbornly high joblessness. Mason’s gaze is elsewhere. In the stock filing, he declares that Groupon “is better positioned than any company in history to reshape local commerce.” Skeptics insist that is chutzpah from a man whose company lost $114 million in the first quarter.

But consider the facts (and as you consider them, also consider that Bloomberg LP has a stake in the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which in turn has a less than 5 percent stake in Groupon): Mason’s subscriber base in the past two years has climbed to 83.1 million, from about 150,000. Groupon has also become a one-company economic-recovery engine: As of March 31, the company employed 7,107 people, up from 37 in mid-2009.

What comes next? Mason admits he doesn’t know, but his entrepreneurial zeal (and honesty) is welcome. “As with any business in a 30-month-old industry,” he writes, “the path to success will have twists and turns, moments of brilliance and other moments of sheer stupidity. Knowing that this will at times be a bumpy ride, we thank you for considering joining us.”

Groupon’s chances of success are impossible to predict --as up in the air as the Republican presidential field or the Mets’ future. The “risk factors” in Groupon’s prospectus include more than 40 ways the company could come unstuck. Even so, hats off for trying. And if it doesn’t work out, investors can’t say that young Mr. Mason didn’t warn them.

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