Canadian Startup Reflects on Being Acquired by Groupon

by Rob Lewis | Business

Last September Techvibes reported that Groupon had acquired a Vancouver startup. At the time we didn't have any details on the transaction but our source ended up being correct.

Groupon announced in December the pilot launch of Groupon Scheduler - an online appointment service giving merchants an easy way to manage their schedules and accept bookings directly from consumers.

Groupon Scheduler is based on technology from Vancouver's OpenCal, a startup founded in 2009 by Arash Shiva and Simon Vallee and officially acquired by Groupon in September 2011.

Shiva and Vallee were founding members of Vancouver's Sitemasher which was acquired by Salesforce.

Techvibes readers may recall that OpenCal co-founder Arash Shiva wrote The Bootstrapper's Guide to Internet Startups as a guest article eighteen months ago.

Today Vallee and Shiva are sharing their post-acquisition story and it's a good read. Here are the most interesting tidbits:

  • OpenCal was completely bootstrapped without the help of any investors or debt leaving them an uncomplicated corporate structure that was attractive to Groupon.
  • Vallee and Shiva approached Groupon first about a potential partnership as they saw the opportunity to help the daily deals site set itself apart from the rampant competition in the market they had pioneered.
  • As part of the buyout offer Vallee, Shiva, and the remainder of OpenCal’s five-person team were required to relocate to Palo Alto and the Vancouver office was closed.
  • According to Shiva, funding options are lacking in Vancouver as private investors just aren’t a tech-minded as American investors. “We definitely talked to a few there (Vancouver), but weren’t able to come to terms,” he says. “In Canada, you have to fight a lot harder to be taken seriously. Maybe because we haven’t had the Steve Jobs or the Mark Zuckerberg.”
  • Both OpenCal co-founders speak positively of the new experience they’re having with publically-listed Groupon: “We’ve had more access to resources with pretty much the same freedom we had when running our own company,” Vallee says. “It’s nice to return to a steady pay cheque and not worry about every single aspect of running a company.”
  • Groupon General Manager David Katz on the acquisiton: “It was exciting to find this great technology being developed in Canada. Particularly in that we were able to go outside Silicon Valley and bring insights from beyond our neighbourhood.”
Chicago, Illinois, United States

Launched in November 2008, Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in a variety of cities across the United States. We have about 200 wonderful people working in our Chicago office (a handful of whom you can see to your right), along with a smattering of people in Groupon's other cities. Our company philosophy is pretty simple: we treat our customers the way we... more

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

OpenCal enables online appointment booking and scheduling for service businesses. Businesses place a "Book Now" button on their website or use the included free website to begin converting more visitors into customers with the convenience of 24/7 online appointment booking. OpenCal's fast and flexible web application includes a drag-and-drop staff calendar, client tracking through an integrated... more

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Rob Lewis

Rob Lewis

Rob is the President of Techvibes Media and Editor-in-Chief of  His diverse background includes stints in International Trade Finance, Web Development, and Enterprise Software and he is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, British Columbia Institute of Technology, and Simon Fraser University. When not running Canada's leading technology media property, Rob can be... more

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