I had a chance to talk to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppleman for a few minutes after the announcement of the big funding from Elevation Partners. He and I talked about a range of topics but chiefly how they would use the funds.
Stoppleman said that the funds would be used in part for geographic expansion, with a focus on Europe, but other markets such as Asia potentially; although it’s not clear where right now. He said he would have liked to see Yelp grow outside the US faster but the recession slowed things down.
He also said that more cities in the US would be added; there are now 35 cities in the US with a Yelp community manager on the ground.
Some employees will be able to sell their shares, which will be welcome after more than five years of Yelp’s existence.
Mobile will be a key and continuing area of focus (and we discussed local-mobile games and “check-ins,” etc.). Stoppelman said that Yelp is doing its own spin on a fairly well-established mobile behavior: notifying friends of where you are. He also pointed to how this and some of the other recently announced iPhone app functionality are being integrated into Yelp.com.
He further explained that the cash would enable Yelp to confidently hire and operate largely independently of the business cycle — or at least avoid some of the cash hoarding that happens during downtowns.
Stoppelman also told me that Yelp would hire an unspecified number of engineers but about “200 sales people” — in addition to the almost 200 they have today. This is probably the biggest “news” here beyond the funding. At the end of that hiring process, however long it may take Yelp would have roughly 400 telephone sales people.
We spoke about the prospects for an IPO, but the conversation was very general there. It’s clear however that’s within the realm of possibility at some point.