“Arms Dealer” Martin Tobias Talks Tippr Strategy Vs. Groupon
Where the heck did all these group-buying websites come from? With the rise of Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, and dozens of other smaller daily-deal sites, suddenly it seems like every Web entrepreneur and his brother are out to make a quick buck. So maybe the better question is, where is this all going?
Tippr.com is the Seattle representative in this scrum. The local-deals startup—which rolled out its site in February, based on patents purchased from Mercata, an old Paul Allen-backed dot-com—has been on an expansion and acquisition tear recently, punctuated by its purchase of Austin, TX-based FanForce, which was just announced today. Chief executive Martin Tobias says Tippr now has 21 employees (up from four at the start of this year) and 20-25 open positions around the country.
The company has a pretty compelling expansion strategy. It couples consumer-facing deals sites in different geographies (10 U.S. cities and counting) with a technology platform approach that is the focus of its latest acquisition. Tobias, the sometimes controversial entrepreneur and investor, did not mince words about the FanForce deal today. “They realized what they were doing was covered by my patents,” he says. “It’s a great fit, we love the management team. We love their drive. These are serious startup guys.”
Tippr’s and FanForce’s software is targeted at “anyone in the publishing business,” Tobias says. That means everyone from niche blogs and online communities to big newspaper groups, radio and TV companies, and tech companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google. The idea is that these sites can hook up to Tippr’s platform, and quickly start making money on daily deals and collective coupons from local businesses. “They’re all sitting there saying, ‘Hey, Groupon is competing for the local merchant marketing dollars.’ They have all called us,” Tobias says.
While Groupon shares revenue with merchants, Tippr’s approach is to cut in the Web publishers. If the right publishers eventually sign up (think MSN, Hearst, or Viacom, hypothetically), the market could be much larger than that for a single branded site like Groupon. That’s a big “if,” though.
In the meantime, Tobias declined to give any stats on revenue or percentage growth just yet. But he says, “The numbers are big…I’m making a [boatload] of money and I’m growing, and I have too much work to do.” Which is why he says he’s hiring aggressively.
Entrepreneurs I’ve talked to around town seem to think Tippr could be on to something big. But the window of Wild West opportunity—rumor has it a couple guys in a garage can make $300,000 … Next Page »