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Groupon starts hiring in Australia [Want a job working for the world’s largest collective-buying network?]

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Collective-buying behemoth Groupon is coming to Australia and is now hiring. The company that triggered Australia’s recent obsession with deal-sites, such as Ouffer, Cudo and recently acquired Spreets, will initially be trading under the name StarDeals and is rumoured to be considering the former MySpace HQ to set up shop in Sydney.

Despite fierce competition in the Australian marketplace and a local legal dispute, Groupon is continuing its push into Australia. The Chicago-based outfit broke the news that it would be entering the Australian market last December under the name StarDeals.com.au.

Why the strange name change, despite the incredible brand recognition it has already amassed?

As explained by Groupon CEO Andrew Mason on the company’s blog on 4 January, Australian collective-buying site Scoopon “purchased the Groupon.com.au domain name, took the company name Groupon Pty Limited, and tried to register the Groupon trademark”.

Mason offered Scoopon, which also owns popular daily deals website CatchOfTheDay.com.au, $286,000 for the domain and name and claims founders Gabby and Hezi Leibovitch initially accepted the deal before experiencing a change of heart.

The matter will be decided in court, in the State of Illinois, in a trial starting on 5 February 2011.

Quiet before the storm?

While this protracted start has kept local competitors guessing as to Groupon’s next move (alongside the obligatory, perhaps harried remark that Groupon has ‘left it too late’), Anthill sources have confirmed that the web-business has already commenced hiring.

As observers might expect, the roles that need filling largely involve business development and sales responsibilities. In fact, over the past two weeks, Groupon has quietly hired approximately 15 sales staff for Sydney and five for Melbourne.

As was learned from the sale of Spreets, for $40 million to Yahoo!7 last month, such outfits depend heavily on sales personnel to constantly feed ‘deals’ (daily and weekly) through the service to willing email and social media subscribers.

A group buying website servicing one city has the potential to promote a possible 365 deals per year (or 417, if you add weekly deals to the mix). A group-buying website servicing three major cities is likely to require a possible 1,095 (or 1,251) deals per year, and so on.

Indeed, the numbers are great, but so are the rewards.

Groupon reportedly turned over $800 million over the past 12-months through its US activities.

It is difficult to estimate the company’s Australian potential. However, Australian experiences indicate that there is gold to be found in them there hills.

But it’s not just about sales

Anthill has learned that the Australian business will start recruiting for other cities, such as Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide in a matter of weeks, but is also looking for recruits with an interest in research and social media.

The organisation is apparently keen to explore other business development segments to target, beyond the obvious glut of day spas and full-body tan-jobs currently on offer by the Australian encumbents. A researcher’s role is likely to involve exploring new growth areas of specific interest to Australian consumers — and provide new areas for business development.

Social media ‘peeps’ are being sought to help build and maintain dialogue with Australian social media users. It is easy to imagine that such a role would require the diplomacy and finesse of a PR veteran coupled with tech-savvy chutzpah of a ‘digital native.

These are all tough roles to fill. From all accounts, digital sales staff, in particular, are currently a rare animal in Australia. The explosion of digital retail businesses over the past 12-months has created a demand that the market is having trouble supplying.

While a number of firms are involved in the recruitment process, Anthill has learnt that MitchelLake is playing a hands on role in the process. This makes sense, as MitchelLake is one of few Australian agencies with a focus on innovative growth companies, digital agencies and IT.

MitchelLake is also one of few Australian agencies with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and operations in San Francisco, representing one of Silicon Valley’s lager venture capital outfits.

Will Groupon move into former MySpace HQ?

In other news from the Anthill rumour-mill, Groupon has apparently been checking out the former head offices of MySpace in Sydney, since the offices were vacated in mid-January.

The Australian staff of MySpace was among a reported 500 redundancies (nearly half its workforce) largely from the social media network’s international operations, in preparation for a sale of the company this year or next.

Traffic to MySpace’s once dominant website fell dramatically last year, losing nearly quarter of its users in the year to November.

It is unknown whether such ‘bad mojo’ is likely to influence Groupon’s tenancy plans. However, there are few words more appealing to a prospective renter than ‘broken lease’.

Would you like to work for Groupon?

While no advertisements on the MitchelLake currently (at least, overtly) identify Groupon or Stardeals as a prospective employer, MitchelLake promotes its positions available through its Twitter feed (@mitchellake), RSS and also on its website job board.

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