Looking for a jazz joint in Chicago? Jazz Showcase in the South Loop is conveniently located. But how do you know what kind place it is? Well, there’s Yelp. With 50 reviews from people who comment on everything from the comfort (or lack thereof) of the chairs, to its appropriateness for kids (No), or groups (Yes), and its proximity to food (olive in your martini or restaurant next door), Yelp contains the highlights and lowdown on this and other jazz options. Beyond jazz, Yelp helps you discover activities (burlesque class anyone?), real estate people, and places to renew your driver’s license (in Chicago your better option seems to be a place on Diversey rather than on Lexington & Laramie) – who would have guessed? For these and numerous other reasons, Yelp continues to grab headlines for its genius idea of collecting reviews on businesses and making the data searchable for today’s mobile society. Okay, so there’s already Zagat and Google Local but Yelp gets the buzz for now.
The idea for Yelp is also an interesting story that illustrates the differences between a big company and an upstart, or startup as the case may be. Founder Jeremy Stoppelman was recognizably smart very early in life but he still pursued traditional options such as a degree in engineering. At a big company his boss assigned tasks that he completed early but follow-up didn’t happen quickly. Finding himself in state of boredom in a big company with lots of recruiters pursuing, Stoppelman jumped over to a group that founded PayPal. From there he moved to a new situation where a few smart people and a dog were instructed to play around with “crazy ideas.” As of now the dog’s crazy ideas aren’t known. The group dreamed up Yelp which is similar to Angie’s list – there few new ideas. Along the way Yelp has been sued for fake reviews but it claims to have a filter to sniff out fakers.