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Not long after that transaction, Ha-Lo declared bankruptcy.
In early 2000, Starbelly sold itself to another company called Ha-Lo Industries for 0 million, much of which went to the author of those words, a man named Eric Lefkofsky.
Eric Lefkofsky is the co-founder and chairman of Groupon, which filed last week for an IPO valuing the company at billion, as well as its largest shareholder, with a pre-IPO 22% stake in the company.
Lefkofsky’s track record, reflecting failures and successes, bears certain hallmarks: rapid revenue growth accompanied by big losses, a penchant to sell stock early on, and lawsuits filed by investors, lenders or customers who feel they have been wronged.
Lefkofsky began his first venture, athletic-apparel maker Brandon Apparel, which he and Keywell bought after graduating law school together, in 1994.
But Groupon’s IPO has brought an uncomfortable spotlight onto Lefkofsky.
While some attention focuses on his ambitions as an investor in tech startups, others see a “spotty history” and draw parallels between the past and the present.
In March 1999, Lefkofsky and Keywell founded Starbelly.com, which sold promotional t-shirts and coffee mugs.
In August 1999, Starbelly raised million from Chase Capital and Flatiron Partners, a deal that valued it at million -- even though the company was on track to post a .5 million loss on 3,000 in revenues during its first six months of operation.In July 2001, Ha-Lo filed for bankruptcy (under a new management, the company later emerged from bankruptcy as Halo Branded Solutions).And again, lawsuits followed, including a class-action suit naming Lefkofsky as a defendant.“It ended up being a huge failure,” Lefkofsky wrote on his blog.At first, the company -- like Groupon -- saw fast growth, with revenue rising from million to million. “We over-leveraged the company and it eventually crumbled under the weight of that debt,” Lefkofsky wrote. It was written in an email by the co-founder of a company called Starbelly.com, which labeled itself a B2B provider -- back when people greeted that phrase with a straight face.