Nine years ago I co-founded Yelp, a website that helps you cure the munchies at 3am -- and find all kinds of local businesses. Ask me anything about me, the origins of our website, the PayPal Mafia, my vizsla Darwin, what it’s like to build a company and take it public, why I don’t have a corner office, or my opinion on refined sugar (hint: don’t love it).

My Proof:

Edit: Thanks, Reddit. I've got to go feed Darwin, but this has been fun!

Comments: 500 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

ken27238642 karma

What are your thoughts on the claims that Yelp is holding positive reviews of businesses hostage and and not allowing them to be public/viewable?

jeremy_stoppelman-5 karma

There has never been any amount of money you could pay us to manipulate reviews. We do have an algorithm that highlights the most useful and reliable reviews on our site which is about 75% of contributed content. I started Yelp to solve my own need of finding a great doctor, obviously we needed to protect consumer against fake reviews and spam to make sure the site is actually helpful (anyone remember CitySearch?). That's why we pioneered the development of a review filter, a technology that other competitors like Google have since tried to mimic.

pippo983 karma

Is this independently audited?

jeremy_stoppelman98 karma

Yes. This was recently examined in an HBS study. (See section 3.4) ... You can also run a test yourself on Google to see if advertisers are given preferential treatment. For example: (Why are these advertisers not "deleting" the negative reviews if this is a feature they've supposedly paid for?)

twistedturns140 karma

Are you now regretting your decision to have this AMA?

jeremy_stoppelman24 karma

Absolutely not. I should have done it years ago, keep the questions coming!

twistedturns68 karma

How is $30k a fair salary to pay employees in San Francisco (the highest cost of living in the country)?

jeremy_stoppelman0 karma

I assume you're talking about the compensation for a local sales rep? There is commission on top of that, 30k is just the base.

sleepystork56 karma

Can companies pay for positive reviews?

jeremy_stoppelman7 karma

Certainly shady businesses or "reputation management" firms do sometimes try to buy reviews. However we are constantly pursuing them with our own undercover sting operations. When we find businesses guilty of trying to purchase reviews we warn consumers by posting a consumer alert on their page and revealing the evidence

I_smell_awesome34 karma

hi. How are you doing today? Also, what did you have for breakfast this morning?

jeremy_stoppelman28 karma

Coffee, 2 eggs, and half a cantaloupe.

I_smell_awesome45 karma

Holy hell, I ask that in damn near every AMA I see and no one ever answers it.

... I don't know how to respond now. Thanks?

jeremy_stoppelman27 karma

You're welcome. What'd you have for breakfast???

___hi30 karma

I am a big fan of yelp and use it all the time. But there are a couple negative comments about your company that I'd like you respond on. To be clear, I hope these aren't true because I use yelp ALL THE TIME.

  • 1) how small business's reviews get hidden on yelp until they pay you a fee?
  • 2) FAKE REVIEWS - whats up with that? how can we trust you if we hear about fake reviews and companies buying these fake reviews to make their restaurant/business seem better?
  • 3) how do you track these fake reviews? i hope you delete them..

thanks for doing this AMA!

jeremy_stoppelman14 karma

  1. Not true. In fact, millions of businesses don't us pay a dime and have fantastic reviews (only ~57,000 of the ~20 Million listed on Yelp pay us) as you browse around the site you'll see reviews on any popular place. Word-of-mouth amplified at no charge.
  2. We have a review algorithm that filters approximately 25% of contributed content automatically. We started our work on this in 2005 as soon as the site took off to ensure that the reviews consumers were reading were as reliable as possible. This idea and technology is something our competitors are now mimicking (hi Googlers!)
  3. We use techniques similar to the way PayPal detects fraudulent payments or Palantir may have found Osama Bin Laden (hint mining big data).

SHv224 karma

Taking this a different direction than most are in the thread...

What's your favorite place to get takeout?

jeremy_stoppelman1 karma

It used to be Burma Superstar until they had a bit of an "E. Coli problem" :S

Louis_winston23 karma

Are the reviewers on yelp your customer? Or are they your product?

I can never figure that out.

jeremy_stoppelman13 karma

Internally we refer to the Yelp community as "the source" (lifted from the newspaper world's - protect your source) which means we must protect and nourish the community lest we lose everything. Without Yelpers there is no company.

cant_help_myself19 karma

Seems like a lot of hip internet companies were founded by Stanford/Harvard dropouts. You got your degree from Illinois. Any advice for CS students out there itching to make it big?

jeremy_stoppelman14 karma

For me joining a fast growing startup ( which merged with Confinity/PayPal) gave me invaluable experience both in coding and later engineering management. I also built an incredible network of colleagues and saw the entire company lifecycle from young promising startup to public co. I think if you can spend a few years at a fast grower with a great "promote from within" culture that's a good risk-reward balance. The Zuck and Gates undergrad dropout approach is certainly a risky one. I dropped out of business school, don't think that really counts ;)

NotAnAverageTaunTaun14 karma

Seeing all of the negative responses in this AMA by people thinking that Yelp is somehow corrupt, I'm curious to know about the craziest response you've ever gotten from a business owner! Any stories about confrontation by Yelp users?

Also, what is your favorite flavor of Pop Tart? (Was curious to see what a non-sugar-lover would say in response... kale sounds about right)

jeremy_stoppelman13 karma

There is the story of a business owner who decided to swing by a reviewer's home to "discuss" a review, but ended up leaving with the police instead. Another very public example of the wrong approach to candid feedback would be Amy's Baking Company in Phoenix, a recent star of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares and the first business Gordon has ever quit on As for Pop Tarts, I already mentioned I was anti-sugar so I guess it'd have to be kale and whole wheat... do they make those?

MNBI14 karma

What's your single most important management tip, and who/where did you learn it from?

jeremy_stoppelman20 karma

This one I got from PayPal, but I'm a strong believer in doing 1 on 1 meetings with each of my reports every week. Sometimes I feel like the company's psychiatrist, but I do feel like listening to people and hearing about their problems (personal and professional) cleans out the cobwebs and keeps the organization humming.

samp61512 karma

Jeremy- can you explain how the PayPal Mafia came to be and how you being part of it has helped Yelp succeed?

jeremy_stoppelman19 karma

My best guess as to why so many folks from the early days of PayPal (the so called "PayPal Mafia") went on to great success was because while most Internet companies tanked in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble, PayPal succeeded alongside eBay. So a number of talented people learned how to build and grow websites, got capital, and were ready to do it again from around 2002-2005 a time when few others were working on entrepreneurial endeavors. Max Levchin gave Yelp it's first million dollars, so yeah the Mafia ended up being critical to Yelp's creation. Also a number of our first hires were Paypal people too.

Blackarch9 karma

Are there any hilarious reviews that have stuck out to you over the years?

jeremy_stoppelman15 karma

Have to say this particular listing sticks out in my mind. Here's a particularly noteworthy review about Bicycle Shorts Man:

muteddin7 karma

Where'd the name come from?

jeremy_stoppelman11 karma

Short, memorable, and rhymes with help.

DarkSideOfTheNuum6 karma

What's been the most unexpected change for you in going from a start-up to a big publicly traded company?

jeremy_stoppelman3 karma

I guess the biggest surprise is how little has changed. I still spend a ton of time with product and engineering, we do seem to get a lot more press attention these days, but perhaps most fortunately I haven't had to invest a lot of time with Wall Street (if you pardon the pun)... our CFO Rob Krolik handles most of that.

mrnismo924 karma

1) In what ways (other than growth) was the Apple partnership valuable for Yelp?

2) Dude, you're so fresh.

Keep up the good work!

jeremy_stoppelman9 karma

  1. I'm a huge Apple fan boy and to have the greatest device maker in the world choose to rely on Yelp's reviews was a dream come true for me and the team. When it launched we saw an impact to traffic and downloads and I think it signals to the market that Yelp unquestioningly leads in quality and quantity of local content which is essential for consumers to make an informed local purchase decision.
  2. No YOU are.