Yelp's CEO isn't worried about Groupon or Google

Yelp's CEO discusses daily deals, Google's purchase of Zagat and going public during TechCrunch Disrupt 2011.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Yelp has gone through a bit of a reshuffling process with its daily deals process, but the company's co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman remains upbeat about Yelp's current state.

While speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 in San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon, Stoppelman went over Yelp's recent move to downsize its daily deals program while maintaining the site's well-known library of user reviews. He acknowledged that "it was tough to sell two products at the same time," but he isn't hampered by concerns about an over-saturated market.

"All it takes is a good deal and a good enough email list with a specific-enough" local market, advised Stoppelman, arguing that those factors pave the way to compete adequately with the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial.

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However, Yelp has developed a new approach to daily deals that points towards the other side of the company that got Yelp to where it is today as a leader in user reviews for restaurants and much more.

Now, local businesses can be more proactive and add promotions to their own Yelp pages within a few clicks. The idea here, Stoppelman said, is a more targeted approach in which businesses can reach customers who were interested in them rather than sending out an email to thousands of users who wouldn't have shopped there anyway.

One could argue that the point of promotions and deals is to attract new customers that don't know about a particular business, but this concept could has potential.

In the past few months, more than 8,000 businesses have participated in this particular program, and most of them have been posted by the companies themselves. The rest have stemmed from the efforts of Yelp's sales teams.

"Our core business still relies on a sales force," Stoppelman said, adding that the business can grow faster if you don’t need to add additional sales people to drive revenue. But he labeled that achievement as "the holy grail," so he's not pushing it.

Nor is he pushing to go public right away. Although Stoppelman revealed that Yelp is planning to do so within a "reasonable time frame," it doesn't look like it will happen any time soon as Stoppelman quipped that his motto is: "Do your best to under-promise and over-deliver." So maybe we'll see an IPO from Yelp come out of nowhere.

Regardless of the daily deals, reviews are still at the heart of Yelp and cannot be ignored. Yelp now has 63 million unique visitors monthly, and the site has seen traffic growth of up to 54 percent this year.

Stoppelman argued that his company has been successful for so long because it was able to do something that no one else has really solved in the form of word-of-mouth reviews online, citing competitors like Citysearch and even Google with its Maps, Places and Local services.

As for Google's purchase of Zagat, Stoppelman chuckled when he called it a "funny move," acknowledging that Zagat does have "some content on high-end restaurants," but there isn't much transparency on how that information is obtained nor how fresh it is.

To wrap up, when asked which company he worries about more, Groupon or Google, Stoppelman replied casually, "I worry about neither."


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