By Lyons, Dan
Newsweek , Vol. 159, No. 16
Byline: Dan Lyons
Silicon Valley is the new Las Vegas.
Groupon, which runs the largest coupon website in the world, went public last November, and already it is having problems. In March the company announced it was revising down the financial results it previously had reported for the December quarter, its first since going public. The news has sparked an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
But Groupon has been shaky from the get-go. Before going public, it raised $1.1 billion in funding, but its founders got most of it, leaving less than $200 million for the company itself. Groupon's original IPO filing used an accounting trick to make the site look profitable when in fact it was losing money. (The company deleted the trick after the SEC complained.)
Unfortunately, these hijinks aren't accidental screw-ups by a bunch of naive, inexperienced kids struggling to manage a fast-growing company. Indeed, they are symptomatic of a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs. These young bucks are apparently running companies as a kind of get-rich-quick game where the goal is to get away with as much as possible and where ethics are for suckers.
Take the San Francisco-based Zynga, which generated $1 billion in revenues last year selling virtual goods to people addicted to its cheesy Facebook games like Mafia Wars and Farmville. …