Conference Notebook: Yelp ‘Focused,’ Foursquare Denies Slower Growth

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A year and a half after taking Yelp public, CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is faring pretty well. Speaking at Business Insider’s Ignition conference in New York Tuesday, the 35-year-old entrepreneur candidly told Nicholas Carlson, “It’s good to be me.”  Yelp stock closed up nearly 8% on the day, putting the company’s market cap at $1.28 billion.

Stoppelman attributed much of the company’s success to a continued focus on product, and a methodical city-by-city approach to growth that contrasts with the kind of unwieldy land grab that has weighed down Groupon.

“In some of these other companies, you’re seeing transitions and pivots,” said Stoppelman, loosely referring to the ailing daily deal company. “We’re lucky enough not to be in that position right now. We’re still very much focused on what we’re doing.”

It doesn’t look like Yelp has plans to push across the local marketing stack anytime soon. Responding to a question of whether Yelp planned to position itself as a local operating system for local businesses like Groupon, Stoppelman said it was “hard to say what tangential businesses [Yelp would] get into” but “it’s safe to say we’re focused.”

Stoppelman reiterated that the big movement for Yelp remained on the mobile front, saying that within only a few years Yelp transformed from a “website with a mini app” to an “app with a really big website.” However, even as local search moves to mobile and further out of the grasp of traditional search engines, Stoppelman remains concerned over Google’s favoring of “house” content.

“If you restrict information, if you put your house property ahead of everyone else, you potentially harm consumers,” he said about Google. “If you think about China, there should be some news stories, for instance, that get out there to the public — but because the government controls the media, they can decide what the public reads.”

As to whether Google was evil? He responded: “Perhaps.”

Foursquare Denies Slower Growth
In a smaller session earlier in the day, Steven Rosenblatt, Foursquare’s CRO, rejected a Wall Street Journal report that the local discovery company was receiving a cool reception from investors due to slowing growth. He told the audience that more users joined the platform in 2012 than the previous two years combined. On the business side, Rosenblatt said the company’s new ad product was seeing solid adoption from merchants (both large and small), but the company “was not there yet in terms of what a packaged goods company could do.”

Steven Jacobs is deputy editor at Street Fight.