Yelp turned 15 last month, an age that seems shocking to those who remember its launch, but also seems just about right to anyone who’s ever read a Yelp review. To honor the occasion, BuzzFeed News’s San Francisco Bureau Chief, Mat Honan, penned a lengthy profile on Jeremy Stoppelman, the company’s CEO.
Stoppelman’s remarks range from standard Silicon Valley chat, pride in the company he built (which, given the positive expectation around Yelp’s Thursday earnings announcement, just might be merited), and frustration with other companies that occupy Yelp’s space...especially Google. Here are some of the most interesting facts from the piece, which you can read in full here.
sorry been eating vegan lately you'll have to Yelp it— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) August 9, 2016
- He’s still a vegan. In the profile, Honan witnesses Stoppelman (who he initially addresses as “Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s vegan CEO”) dine on Mission Japanese joint Shizen’s “roll made from beets, kale, and, uh, seaweed pearls.”
- He admires Elon Musk. Around 2000, Stoppelman was recruited by Musk’s X.com payment processing company, which would later become PayPal. “I met Elon, and I was blown away. I was like, I want to be like this guy! He’s only 28 years old but was much like he is today. He’s like, we’re going to take down Visa!” [Ed note: Visa remains.]
- Yelp runs sting operations to catch fake review rackets. “We have a team that tries to buy reviews from people, and then also try to identify businesses that are buying reviews. If we catch someone red-handed, we’d take screenshots of correspondence and all that and put up a banner saying on their business page, saying, ‘Hey, this business is trying to game the system, and here’s the evidence.’”
- Stoppelman believes Facebook and Google may cater to people’s worst instincts. “It’s like Google and Facebook did the same thing: Use the algorithm to optimize for maximum attention. And if you optimize for maximum attention, you’re leaning into human nature of rubbernecking at train crashes, and all the worst stuff that humanity can provide. And that’s where you end up. And I’m sure it was like rocket fuel for their business, but now we’re paying the price.”
- Then there’s Yelp. “We really started Yelp to do something noble. We wanted to help people connect with the best local businesses.”
- Stoppelman believes that Google wants Yelp to tank. Stoppelman says that for the past decade he’s been working on “finding a way to survive knowing that one of the most powerful companies in the world didn’t want us to succeed.”
- ...so he’s had to resort to the occasional bit of public shaming. “The only way that we could get them to do the right thing in the early days was by shaming them in the press. So that’s where this all began — they would do something egregious like steal our content and put it in every Android phone and the Google Places app.” (A Google spokesperson denies that allegation.)
- And don’t get him started on Google’s reviews. “Google’s reviews... It is kind of comical that they call theirs reviews! Most, probably like 60% or 70%, of their reviews are actually ratings with no text. But they have to compete against us, so they’re generous with what they call a review.”
- Like many a mythical prophet, Stoppelman might have predicted the truth without being believed. “The first seven years or eight years, there was a lot of eye-rolling in Silicon Valley about Yelp being a complainer, or I’m a whiner, or this is a stupid issue,” Stoppelman said of his calls for government regulations for big tech. “I think the reality is now the world has caught up.”