Amazon.com has just invested $175 million in LivingSocial, the daily deals site and one of Groupon's chief competitors. Though that number pales next to Google's rumored $6 billion bid on Groupon, it's still not shabby. Lightspeed Venture Partners, already a backer, also invested a fresh $8 million in LivingSocial, according to a press release.
VentureBeat caught a whiff of a possible Amazon investment in November, though it originally heard a smaller number: $100 million.
The Washington, D.C.-based LivingSocial, while still less well known than Groupon, has been growing steadily. It has about 10 million subscribers, to whom it offers savings of 50-70% each day on restaurants, spas, hotels, and the like. It recently added three new verticals: a Family Edition, Campus Deals, and LivingSocial Escapes. It just acquired an adventure company called Urban Escapes, and has expanded into Canada, England, Ireland, and Australia.
Just how does LivingSocial measure up against Groupon? On Wednesday, back when it expected an only slightly lower investment from Amazon (it reported $150 million), The Washington Post said it would bring LivingSocial's valuation up to $1 billion, a sixth of Google's rumored Groupon bid. But Hitwise.com did some website traffic analysis, and while conceding that "traffic to valuation is a gross over-simplification," it still noted that LivingSocial's market share appeared to be a tenth of Groupon's.
Amazon must be seeing something beyond what's in the traffic data--or just want some piece of the social buying action. LivingSocial, for its part, is of course pumped about the investment: "To be the biggest player in the local commerce space," said its CEO, Tim O'Shaughnessy, in a release, "there is no one better to work with than Amazon."