Groupon and the Clone Wars

Thanks to the overwhelming popularity of its local-discount offers, Groupon Inc. now generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, commands a valuation north of $1 billion, and has attracted some $170 million in venture capital–all in less than three years.

But that explosive growth–-Forbes called Groupon the “fastest growing company ever“–-has presented several challenges.

One of them is fending off the many “clones” that have sprung up to copy Groupon, some of which have nearly identical designs and layouts as Groupon’s site. Some legitimate venture-backed start-up contenders have also launched, such as Washington-based LivingSocial Inc., which raised $14 million in Series C funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners in April, and New York-based BuyWithMe Inc., which in July raised $16 million in Series B financing led by Bain Capital Ventures. And publicly traded companies such as Travelzoo Inc., OpenTable Inc., and The Knot Inc. are also jumping on the trend.

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