Mark Pearson: Britain’s coupon king

Pearson holds his hands up. While he still won’t knock the deal – “it wasn’t really a blunder, it was just way more popular than we’d forecasted!” – he does acknowledge that the rogue employees’ tactics were wrong.

“In the hysteria of the day, they just took it on their own back to try and solve the problem. People made mistakes, but from what I’ve read, no-one lied.”

Others might disagree. Retail blog Bitterwallet uncovered several occasions when Groupola employees said they didn’t work there, when in fact it was easy to tell that they did. Mark Pearson’s partner was even quoted in the Sunday Times as being a happy customer who’d “heard about Groupola on Facebook before trying it out”.

Pearson remains unfazed. “What was done was done. I debriefed the team, I shouted at people. We even had some people leave the company due to what they wrote.”

Mark Pearson, the coupon king

Whether the episode did any lasting damage, it’s hard to tell. “iPhone-gate” certainly fanned the flames for Pearson’s critics. To his detractors, this was just one more example of an entrepreneur pushing right at the limits. He may be young, but he’s also successful and he definitely stirs up feeling.

Industry forums are awash with complains against Pearson.

“He’s definitely viewed as arrogant by most of us,” one affiliate network member explains. “Opinions of him aren’t too favourable, but most don’t understand his motivation. For Mark, the pound is more important than for others. That’s why he pushes so hard.”

One word that keeps cropping up when talking to competitors about Pearson’s business approach is: aggression. The man himself is unperturbed.

“We’re pushing as far and as fast as we can because we’ve got a lot to achieve,” he says.

“Yes, we have been aggressive, but we also want to make sure that we’re doing things properly. We’re leading the coupon industry.”

But what about all the name-calling claims of underhand tactics and black-hat SEO tricks?

“A lot of this is finger-pointing and staring, because this is the only way for them to slow us down or taint us. But you can go and ask all the merchants, all the affiliate networks, all the advertisers – they’re all working with me. Every single one. They could turn it all off, but they don’t. That says a lot to me.”

Even Pearson’s competitors are finding a way to work with him.

While Groupola, Pearson’s group-buying venture, didn’t do badly after launching last summer, he wasn’t satisfied with it: it wasn’t number one. So he scrapped it.

Groupola – scrapped by Pearson

Its replacement? “Daily Deals”. Pearson now works directly with his competitors, such as Groupon, to offer an aggregated daily email with everyone’s best group-buying deals.

“It means that all the best vouchers are in one place: yes, our competitors are there, but so are our own exclusive deals. It’s win-win for our customers. We want to make MyVoucherCodes the go-to place for vouchers, both in the UK and abroad.”

And he’s already started his international expansion. Outside the UK, Pearson is present in France (, Germany ( and the US ( He wants to be in ten new markets by the end of 2011. Which markets? He won’t reveal the full ranking, but Brazil is top of the list.

“There are so many countries with seven million-odd people, which isn’t huge. Brazil is closer to 100 million people – that’s the type of market we want.”

An ideal market is characterised by having broadband internet, high GDP per head, growing online spend, and a culture that’s comfortable using vouchers and coupons to save money.

Continue reading on page three.

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