If you think daily deals are dead, you are correct. Even the category leaders, Groupon and Living Social, agree. Groupon has been shifting away from daily deals and into new lines of business for the past year. Yesterday Living Social announced it will move away from cute email discounts to persistent, all-the-time deals.
However, one company is keeping the dream alive against all odds. If all goes as planned for nCrowd, a distant third-place player in the daily deals market, it will eventually be the only player in the daily deals market.
The Atlanta-based company has now acquired 22 failed competitors in the past two years for a total subscriber list of just over four million. They are (deep breath): Bargain Bee, Crowd Cut, CrowdSavings, Deal Daddies, Deal Garden, Dealmobs, Dealster, Daily Deal Squad, Faveroo, Get Grouby, Huge Daily Deal, Joffer, Lucky Monkey, Muncharoo, PLAYHawaii, Qpon Day, Saveology, Savvy Avenue, Spreebird, St. Louis Daily Deals, Tippr, and Urban Dealight.
Today the company announced the latest additions: Spreebird, which it acquired from a company called Local Corporation, and the deals business of South Florida business Saveology.
nCrowd has financed the deals with its $7 million Series A, led by Noro Moseley Partners, as well as venture debt and cash from operations.
Never mind that the disastrous crash-and-burn moments experienced by Living Social and Groupon business have made the business model toxic to investors. Never mind that daily deals are now seen as a short-lived fad, or at the very least, limited in how much it can scale.
nCrowd is operating according to the thesis that, if it sticks around long enough, it’ll have a nice little business. Technically it already does: nCrowd is cash flow positive.
And there are plenty of targets. If you remember back to 2010, daily deals sites were multiplying by the day. There were even Groupon clone kits you could buy to launch your own daily deals site within minutes.
Then oversaturation happened. And then inventory dried up as merchant horror stories surfaced. People stopped opening the cute emails, and the whole thing collapsed. The sadness was already palpable at the 2011 Daily Deal Summit, a conference conceived in frothier days for the once-booming industry. Daily Deal Summit has even moved on to a new buzzword. It’s now the LoCoSummit, focusing on local commerce.
That scorched earth hasn’t hindered nCrowd. The company is a proud contrarian. That, or delusional. Either way, it’s keeping the daily deal dream — and itself — alive.