Tour Groupon, The Funniest Startup We've Ever Been To (PHOTO TOUR)

Groupon tour slide

It’s nice to see that Groupon hasn’t lost its sense of humour, despite massive growth in every sense — employees, revenue, worth, and public awareness.

Cofounder and CEO Andrew Mason is still quick to crack a joke whenever he can, and as you’ll see in our photo tour, Groupon’s comedy writers and improv actors still seem to have a firm hold on the company’s culture.

So what’s Groupon been up to since we last visited their office about a year ago? (Besides reportedly attracting acquisition interest from Google… Mason refused to deny that the companies are in deal talks.)

Now that Groupon has thousands of employees (up from 140 a year ago), a huge number of customers and retail partners, and much stronger brand recognition, the company is starting to think about how it can tweak its product to take better advantage of all of its assets.

Part of that is already showing up: personalised deals and “Groupon Stores,” a self-service deal platform for merchants who don’t make the company’s main feed of deals. Mason promises there’s more to come, but wouldn’t reveal any specifics.

The company is also experiencing some infrastructure challenges as it continues to grow like a weed. With about 1,000 staffers now in its Chicago headquarters, it has outgrown the building, and now has to hold all-staff meetings and training sessions at a church down the street. But that’s, as they say, a good problem to have.

We start on the sixth floor of 600 W. Chicago Ave., west of Chicago's downtown, in an old Montgomery Ward building

Since we last visited, Groupon has moved its main office into a new floor of the building, complete with fancy frosted glass logos

A flashy LCD wall greets visitors

There's Groupon cofounder and CEO Andrew Mason's recent Forbes cover in the middle, surrounded by magazine covers of famous dotcom meltdowns, like MySpace, Netscape, and AOL. This is how Mason keeps himself grounded.

We're greeted by Dani Hurt, who guards a book where every job applicant supposedly has to draw a self-portrait. (We didn't find out about this until later!) Note the Groupon cat logo behind her.

We catch up with Andrew Mason, who is watching a clip of this morning's Groupon mention on Oprah

Apparently Oprah's mention, combined with a hot deal that day, has melted Groupon's servers

Mason, moments before he learns the site is down and has to leave us

We join up with our tour guide, Groupon marketing and communications manager Julie Mossler, who is posing here with some artwork she picked up at Goodwill.

Michael's room has wallpaper, a bed with burn marks, and lots of Cheerios boxes.

There's a tank for an (apparently escaped) critter...

There's a toilet full of Almond Joy bars...

There's an old iMac full of Van Halen MP3s...

And there are digital photo frames of Andrew Mason. Weird! Let's get out of here.

Out here, a glimpse at some of the marketing and sales department

Here's a batch of new Groupon editorial workers. To make up for the fact that they don't have much space right now, they have movies on all the time on that big-screen TV.

Anna Barnett is part of the Kansas City sales team, for example

Joel Hadley is part of the St. Louis sales team, and is trying very hard to grow a moustache

Fun fact: This part of Groupon's office used to be a test kitchen

Sales reps take a break

Across the river is a Chicago Tribune building, a big brick reminder of the newspaper classified industry that Groupon is helping to disrupt

Patti Cella is a sales rep for Minneapolis and was the first person to take maternity leave at Groupon

Salespeople Chris Rosburg and Brittany Sandstrom

We move to another part of the office, where the editorial team is working quietly

Copy editors on the editorial team

Brandon Copple, former managing editor of Crain's Chicago Business, now managing editor of Groupon

David Bowie poster

Josh Petuchowski, sales rep for Albany, closes a huge deal for waxing (that's what Groupon is all about, right?)

Woman riding a bird with sword in the air: Groupon's first try at a logo. (A joke, of course). The idea was to create a logo that was the least usable as possible for a business. (The pink sweater was only added later. You can figure out what was there before.)

Groupon's wall of headshots: Many of the customer service reps are improv actors, which is actually good training, because it encourages quick thinking and positive responses

A look up close at a few headshots

Employees tried to randomly guess how many Groupons for Gap the company would sell -- it came in at 441,000. Groupon says the winner was undetermined because they started erasing guesses so people could guess how many guesses would be written down.

Lastly, here's the fort, guarding part of the tech team that's working on top-secret projects, and Andrew Mason's desk

A peek behind the curtain -- some developers hard at work

In the rafters: A photo of Mason from college, brought in and hung up to celebrate his 30th birthday this past fall. Mason was reportedly mortified.

And that's about it! The Groupon cat sends us on our way...

Want to see what Groupon HQ looked like 850 employees ago?

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