Groupon’s Mihir Shah at Where 2.0: Tech Unit ‘Deeply Integrated’

Chicago-based Groupon is pushing hard in Silicon Valley to build a major tech presence on the back of Mobility, a mobile services firm purchased last year. One piece of evidence: a billboard on the 101 touting the company as a place to work.

At Where 2.0 today in Santa Clara, VP and GM Mihir Shah said the company has put together “a really large team” in Palo Alto from the product and tech perspective. “It is very integrated with everything else. We are not just some outpost in the Valley.”

Shah said mobile is especially critical to Groupon’s development. “We’ll have a mobile app across all platforms,” he said. “Over the next few years, we are focusing on how to build the product from the bottom up.”

A hit out of the box for the mobile team has been a barcode scanning app for merchants, which allows consumers to bring their phones to stores without printing out a Groupon. “A lot of merchants are getting very tech savvy very fast,” said Shah.

Looking forward, Shah said Groupon will use mobile for instant deals, which are ideally suited for mobile. He said Groupon will typically show three to four restaurant deals for lunch, for instance. Instant deals enable merchants to really control their own destiny, offering deals on the fly for down times, for instance.

The big thing from a corporate point of view is such an offer gives Groupon broad coverage it could never get from just offering one or two deals a day. “The big thing is scale,” he said. “Now you have coverage.”

Groupon, of course, does not have the space to itself. Last week LivingSocial launched in Instant deals in Washington, D.C., with 31,000 takers.

Another area that Groupon may be looking at is the secondary market for Groupons that aren’t being used. “Offshoots (of the main Groupon product) will spring up. We’ll look at whether they make sense for us.”

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