AIB Featured Business Leader – Jeremy Stoppelman
American business executive Jeremy Stoppelman co-founded one of the world’s most popular online review sites, Yelp, after his first year of business school. He commenced his MBA at Harvard in September 2003, and after the successful completion of his first year, decided to take a leap into entrepreneurship. Today, Yelp has built a community of writers who have contributed millions of reviews across the world and continues to expand each day. In Australia alone, SocialMediaNews reports there were 1,650,000 active Yelp users in September 2016. For a summary of Stoppelman’s remarkable business journey so far, see below.
Early life and career
Born in Virginia in the United States in 1977, Jeremy Stoppelman grew up with an interest in both computers and business, and began investing in stocks at the young age of 14. He aspired to be a video game developer and took computer programming classes in his teens. Stoppelman then attended the University of Illinois where he obtained a Bachelor of Computer Engineering. According to SFGate, “he was the kid who loved to tinker, who inadvertently blew a few things up, and who learned programming in middle school”. His LinkedIn profile details his specialties as “general management, internet technologies and software development”.
Post-college, Stoppelman went to San Francisco and landed his first job with @Home Network just before the dot-com boom. SFGate added, “He was the kid who became a sought-after nerd and was – after his second job out of college – given $1 million to dream up The Next Big Thing”. After working for @Home Network, Stoppelman secured an engineering job at X.Com, before becoming the VP of Engineering after the company was renamed PayPal. It was at PayPal where Stoppelman met Max Levchin – a future Yelp investor. After PayPal was acquired by eBay in 2003, Stoppelman left and decided to embark on the MBA journey.
The inception and success of Yelp
During the semester break of Stoppelman’s MBA, Levchin encouraged him to undertake an internship at MRL Ventures. During this internship, the idea for Yelp was formed after having a hard time finding a doctor when he came down with the flu. Stoppelman and former PayPal colleague Russel Simmons, who was also at MRL Ventures, began planning an online platform where users could share recommendations for local services. They then pitched the idea to Levchin who provided $1 million in initial funding.
From its inception, Yelp went from strength to strength, sparking interest from Google. Famously, Steve Jobs called Stoppelman to persuade him to turn down any acquisition offers from Google, which was exactly what he did. Stoppelman turned down a formal offer in 2012 before officially going public. He told Cleveland, “I’ve been through a couple of mergers – they’re not that fun. It’s easy to lose your focus on this grandiose mission you established yourself as an independent company. Once you see you’re succeeding in a particular area, you start seeing the future – here’s what it looks like in 10 years. And so setting your own direction, the thrill of competition and winning just on your own, those are really exciting things that I’m glad we still have, and it keeps me fired up every day.”
Today, Yelp has grown exponentially and Stoppelman maintains the position of co-founder and CEO. He is said to have a very hands on leadership style, with a desk among employees rather than his own office. He also continues to drive the vision and product experience for the company, personally overseeing product development and associated aspects. In an interview with Reddit, he said “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 the people and hearing about their problems cleans out the cobwebs and keeps the organisation humming”.
What do you think?
With an estimated net worth of more than $100 million, it’s clear that Jeremy Stoppelman has gone from business school to extreme entrepreneurial success in just a few years. I’m keen to hear what you think about his journey – what do you find most interesting? Comment your thoughts below.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Yelp; LinkedIn; Cleveland; SFGate; Reddit and Social Media News
Image Credit: Ad Week