from USA Today 04 Aug 14 edited by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
Yelp’s origin. Back in 2004, a few entrepreneurs thought it was high time to give consumers detailed information on local merchants. Their sites would offer listings & reviews aimed at digitizing what had always been word-of-mouth experiences. All three of those companies still exist, but odds are you instantly recognize only one: Yelp. “In the first year, we weren’t so sure,” Yelp CEO Jeremy tells USA Today. “The site we launched in October 2004 was clunky, and we were using it to write our own reviews. Then came the notion of the public contributing, and suddenly people got it. Now there’s a living, breathing community of Yelpers out there.”
Yelp now. The company, the market valuation of which is $5B, has enjoyed impressive growth. Its familiar logo is now planted in 27 countries encompassing 15 languages. More than 130 million unique visitors hit the site monthly, half of whom access Yelp via mobile. Some 74,000 local businesses participate in Yelp’s advertising program, putting the company on track to make a projected $365M this year.
Cultural Shift. The co-founder believes his company has been integral to a cultural shift of power from store owners to the shoppers. “We’re now in a world where customer service is paramount, where the good work, that local businesses are doing is amplified,” he says. “But to continue growing as we are, we need to address three key areas.”
1. Continuing to enrich the Yelp user’s experience, which lately includes the ability to include short, Vine-like videos with reviews. “Seeing a picture of a great steak on Yelp is one thing, but we think hearing it sizzle is another”.
2. Continued International Expansion, which included the $50M acquisition of Euro competitor Qype in 2012. More recently Yelp’s launching in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico & Japan.
3. Helping local businesses better.. “Beyond helping them connect with shoppers, we want them to understand how the metrics – we can provide – can help their mission.”
Potential Market Rivals include Google & Foursquare – which are beginning to target users searching for local businesses. Yelp rejected a $500M acquisition offer from Google in 2009. “Facebook is also a wild card”. “They’ve been halfhearted about soliciting reviews, but if they wanted to, they could create a Places app and really give Yelp a run for its money. After all, there are billions out there in small-business revenue, and everyone will want a piece. It’s easy to forget what life was like before Yelp, but when I travel to places we aren’t (there), I’m reduced to once again picking restaurants based on how many people are inside”. “I don’t know about you, but those days seem like a long time ago. Consumers are determined to spend their money wisely now, and we’re happy to be a part of that shift.”
Comments: What do you think of Yelp?