Skeptics initially scoffed at the idea that people would feed Yelp free reviews of local businesses.
Today, Yelp packs more than 61 million reviews of merchants in 27 countries in a service that attracts nearly 140 million monthly visitors.
Many technology observers were incredulous back in late 2009 when Stoppelman and his backers rebuffed a buyout offer from Google Inc. for a reported $500 million. Yelp now boasts a market value of about $5 billion, even after the recent sell-off spurred by concerns about Yelp's slowing growth amid competition for online local advertising revenue from the Internet powerhouse such as Google and Facebook Inc.
Yelp's success has left Stoppelman, with company stock worth about $400 million. Many other investors have profited too: Yelp's shares have more than quadrupled from their March 2012 initial public offering price of $15.
Stoppelman mused about Yelp's past and present during an interview with The Associated Press as the San Francisco company prepared to celebrate its 10 anniversary. The remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What was it like when Google tried to buy you?
It was an emotional decision. Yelp is my baby, so I wanted it to be in a place where it was going to thrive. As it became more of an auction process where it felt like there was blood in the water and the sharks were attacking, it just felt like it wasn't going to end up with Yelp in a good spot.
You got a call from Steve Jobs during this process, right?
He was very anti-Google, as it turns out. He was pretty upset with Google. (Jobs had accused Google of stealing ideas from Apple's iPhone to build Android, a rival operating system for mobile devices). He felt that Yelp was a great company and wouldn't be a great company if it fell in the hands of Google.
Toward the end of our conversation, I had to go into complete 'fan boy' mode. For someone like me, who had spent a lot of time trying to build cool technology products, it was literally like talking to a God.
You live and work in San Francisco. What do you think about the backlash against technology's impact on the city in terms of real estate prices?
Most cities would be falling over themselves to have the problems we have right now, which is like: "Oh my, we have too many jobs and people's compensation keeps going up, so therefore people can afford to pay more to obtain housing." It's not to say that we don't have very serious problems, but a lot of them are completely self-inflicted, which I find incredibly frustrating.
The other misperception is that everyone working in tech is a millionaire living in luxury condos and there is nothing left for anyone else. The reality is the vast majority of our employees are making anywhere from, you know, like $40,000 to $100,000. If you look at it, we are just like every other company. As rents go up, it hurts people here, too.
Where do you stand on another hot-button topic: the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley?
If we are focusing on technology jobs, meaning software engineering jobs primarily, by the time you are talking about a company, you are talking about the end of the funnel. The funnel begins in high school, really, or even earlier maybe. If you want women and minorities to succeed all the way at the end of the funnel in a tech job, you have to increase the numbers starting at the top of the funnel, at the earliest age, and then make sure they stay in the funnel and get all the way through.