The Self-Made Man: Jeremy Stoppelman

TSB’s Self Made Man this week—Jeremy Stoppelman—is someone who, ironically, created a website that is the bane of many modern entrepreneurs:

Most of us know Yelp as an online forum for the world’s worst customers to complain about bad service that a) probably didn’t happen, or b) they probably deserved if it did happen, because they are terrible. But Stoppelman didn’t intend to give a new voice to a user base of people with absolutely no self-awareness when he created Yelp, and he’s made a fortune off it, so clearly there’s more to it than its lowest common denominator would make you think.

As a fun exercise, ask anyone who works with the public what they think of Yelp, and get comfortable. They’re going to have a lot to say.

Anyway, Jeremy was one of those kids who was interested in computers and business when most of us were playing with G.I. Joes, and he started investing when he was 14. He was basically Martin Prince from the Simpsons.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Jeremy worked for @Home Network, then moved to PayPal, where he was the VP of engineering. He left after PayPal was bought out by eBay and, at the urging of businessman Max Levchin, took on an internship at MRL Ventures.

He also got the flu. Unfortunately, he had a hell of a time finding recommendations for a decent local doctor, which got him and former PayPal colleague Russel Simmons thinking about starting an online community where people could share recommend local services to one another. Levchin gave their idea $1 million in initial funding, and they were off to the races.

After a few social networking features were added to the site, Yelp got so huge that Google offered to buy it from Stoppelman, who received a phone call from Steve Jobs urging him to decline their offer. Stoppelman described the call as “a moment where I said, ‘This is crazy. What just happened?’”

Not to be outdone, President Obama congratulated Stoppelman after he took Yelp public and rang the bell for the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.

Jeremy Stoppelman’s reason for turning down Google was that he loves “setting [his] own direction, the thrill of competition and winning just on [his] own” too much to get lost inside a merger with an already-huge company. In short, he’s just too much of a self-starter to work for anyone else ever again.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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