Groupon Buys SideTour To Bring You More Intimate, Personalized Events

Groupon's acquisition of SideTour, a small startup that's built a reputation for carefully curated, one-of-a-kind events, gives the company a chance to make a play for the increasingly personalized local events space.

Groupon, the daily deals pioneer that has recently been attempting to rebrand itself as "the go-to place for consumers to find just about anything, anywhere, anytime," has acquired the two-year-old local events startup SideTour, the company confirmed Wednesday.

SideTour, a graduate of the TechStars accelerator program, runs online marketplaces in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., that connect locals with experts in their city who host unique, bespoke events for small groups. Unlike Groupon, the events on SideTour are not discounted, though many experiences sell for a reasonable $30, and anyone can host an event through SideTour.

SideTour competes in the increasingly crowded market for niche-y, one-of-a-kind experiences designed to delight even the most knowledgeable city locals, alongside startups like Eventbrite and Sosh. Examples of popular SideTours have included a tour of the 5Pointz "graffiti Mecca" in New York's Queens (shown below), an intimate jazz performance and authentic late-night fish-fry at a Brooklyn bed-and-breakfast, and tea with a former Wall Street investment banker-turned-monk.

Groupon says SideTour will continue to operate separately "for some time," but Groupon will begin to advertise SideTour events to its 43 million active customers via email, web, and mobile. Groupon has long offered discounted local experiences like dining experiences, a day at the spa, or a month of fitness classes, but the addition of SideTour's highly tailored, intimate offerings to the company's GrouponLive events division will give the company a chance to make the Groupon brand name "memorable" in customers' minds.

“We’re thrilled with the opportunity to showcase our fantastic events to a huge audience with a demonstrated appetite for great local experiences,” SideTour CEO Vipin Goyal said in a statement. “Groupon will extend our ability to find compelling and unique local experts and give them a platform to reach even more customers.”

It's likely a smart move for Groupon right now: In May, CEO Eric Lefkofsky told investors the company's local revenue, which includes sales made through GrouponLive, "accelerated" in the first quarter of 2013. And since competitor LivingSocial shuttered Adventures, its own local events division, in July, Groupon has a chance to claim a stake in the market for increasingly personalized local events space.

[Image: Flickr user a4gpa]

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