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UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture 2011/12: Nicolas Hantzsch, Groupon UK & Ireland

By news editor, on 19 December 2011

The eighth lecture of this series took place on 8 December. UCL Classics student Carolina Mostert summarises the talk below.

Nicolas Hantzsch’s talk did not feel like a lecture. It sounded more like an adventure story, something very unique and unusual. Nicolas completed a degree in informatics in Germany, moved on to financial studies and joined Pacific Stock Exchange. He then worked for a Dutch investment bank, an experience which left him with mixed feelings. After joining My City Deal, which can be described as a “Groupon copy”, he quit and enrolled in a Master’s degree at UCL. Fed up with academia, in a very ‘Bill Gates’ fashion, he dropped out of the course: he was going to be an entrepreneur. Then, the adventure with Groupon began.

“It’s been a roller coaster”, are Nicolas’s words to describe his experience. When he started at Groupon, he started at the bottom: what’s important at the beginning, he explains, is to learn the value chain at the heart of Groupon. “We are like a newspaper”: on a daily basis, Groupon has to offer new deals. Some of those will make the headlines, the bigger ones, and the other ones – although they’re not as flashy – must still appeal to people. Every Groupon deal, however, has an aim: to offer its customers the opportunity, and excuse, to always try something new.

Nicolas stressed the importance of the sales cycle, which he sees as “the most exciting” part of the business. It can be very short and be completed in only one day or it may take up to three months; it can be a nightmare. Its first step is the research process, which entails, for example, finding new businesses to deal with. In the process, the role of the analyst is important: he keeps in touch with the salesperson and has the business contracts thoroughly checked and corrected.

However, the main difficulty for Groupon is not merely to find restaurants, shops and other places to do business with. What Groupon looks for is understanding and confidence in the staff of the restaurant or shop that will offer the Groupon deal. Many people will arrive, Nicolas explains, the majority of them claiming a 50% discount: staff must be prepared, trained to treat what Nicolas refers to as these “Groupon customers”. Then, there will be a “win win” situation: for Groupon, for the company Groupon sets up the deal with, and for the deal’s consumers.

Nicolas Hantzsch is now Director of Groupon UK & Ireland. How does he envision the future? On a personal level, Nicolas will soon no longer be managing Groupon Ireland and will be diving into a new adventure called Groupon Now. “I will be in a start-up mode again”, something that – you can tell – thrills him.

Nicolas sees in this business “the potential of being the next big thing after Groupon” and believes that it will “pull instead of push”. When asked about the one lesson he valued the most, Nicolas answers “people management”: he learnt to hire and fire, to deal with people, to reward them in order to keep the job passion between them alive. Most importantly, Nicolas repeats several times how in the Groupon environment “the hierarchy is flat”: colleagues are friends, the job is fun.

Written by Carolina Mostert, UCL Second year student studying Classics.

The UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lectures are organised by UCL Advances which is affiliated to UCL Enterprise.

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