Spotlight on… Jeremy Stoppelman

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is photographed at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, Calif., Thursday, October 6, 2011. Ran on: 11-18-2011 Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman sits at the company's headquarters in San Francisco.

Jeremy Stoppelman is the CEO of Yelp, Inc., which he co-founded in 2004. The idea for Yelp came to Stoppelman and several colleagues during a summer internship program at MRL Ventures. In 2012, Stoppelman turned down an acquisition offer by Google and took the company public.

Stoppelman sat down with Inc. Magazine to discuss how his company Yelp, Inc. turned from a business flop to a huge success.

Stoppelman says he initially sought to create an online community where users could share recommendations for local services; however, question-based review design limited the number of reviews.

“What we realized was word of mouth is the way we want to find great local businesses because that’s what we all naturally do, and if we could create something online that could capture word of mouth, that would create an amazing resource to find the best local businesses,” says Stoppleman. “But users weren’t getting it and they just weren’t taking to it. They might ask a question but they weren’t inviting friends and it really felt like this wasn’t going to work.”

Finding a way to reinvent

When users did not understand the review process, Stoppelman needed to find a way to reinvent. Luckily he found the silver lining.
“There was this one silver lining which was just a couple days before launch literally as an afterthought,” says Stoppelman. “Our co-founder Russ peered over his monitor and says to me, should there be a way to write a review without being asked a question and I literally remember pondering it thinking ‘I don’t think anyone’s gonna have to use this feature, no one’s gonna write a review.'”

“‘Lo and behold, that ended up the saving grace of all things. Consumers immediately got what we were all about and we started seeing people express themselves connecting with other users, writing lots of reviews of their favorite local businesses, getting really excited and passionate about our concept.”

Moral of the story: Stoppelman believes that entrepreneurs should always look for the silver lining when looking to reinvent. Because a silver lining always exists.

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