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Yelp’s empire

In 2014, Yelp even managed to become profitable, an achievement that had previously eluded it. It’s a big milestone for a ten-year-old company; While Yelp’s $36.5 million profit last year is approximately what Google spends reupholstering its beanbag chairs, it was a big deal for a company that had spent its entire life wandering in a desert of red ink. “We’ve had to endure nearly 10 years of the bears saying, ‘Oh, a money-losing Internet company–what a surprise,’” says Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO and founder.

In fact, he says, Yelp could easily have crossed into the black years earlier, although it would have required pumping the breaks on hiring and other areas of investment crucial to sustaining momentum. “We always knew it was up to us to choose the time and place,” he says. “The nice thing about the last couple quarters was we didn’t actually slow our growth.”

Things have generally been going Yelp’s way lately. In September, a storm cloud that had been looming over the company for four years suddenly dispersed when a federal appeals court ruled against the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit accusing Yelp of giving better reviews to businesses that bought advertising. He faces a challenge when it comes to setting strategy now that Yelp is a publicly-traded company. In its early days as a startup, Stoppelman was able to make gutsy calls with a minimum of deliberation. Two that proved particularly crucial to long-term success were deciding to invest a large share of Yelp’s then-modest resources in developing an app for the iPhone when it first arrived in 2007; and electing not to devote significant time and money to Facebook’s first developer platform, which came out around the same time but quickly withered from a lack of support.

On the rare occasions that he has to make a snap decision, he says he’s glad to be able to draw on the credibility that comes from being a founder-CEO. “It’s helpful to be able to say: This company is my identity. I know how and why it was built in the first place and I know where to take it in the future,” he says.

That sort of maneuverability may come in handy as more and more competitors take the model Yelp pioneered of user-generated business reviews and iterate on it. After all, that old saying about opinions cuts both ways: Yes, Yelp has them by the millions, but it’s hardly alone.

Stoppelman is dismissive of efforts by the biggest of the Internet giants to muscle in on his turf. “The reality is it’s very hard for somebody in a particular core business to go completely outside that business,” he says. “If I had a dollar for every time someone said, ‘The new product from Google is going to kill Yelp,’ ‘the new product from Facebook is going to kill Yelp’ – I would be a very happy man if I was getting paid for those headlines.

And Fitzgerald notes that the number of reviews submitted by Yelp’s users, an important measure of engagement, has steadily grown by about 20 percent annually. “They’re continuing to scale the model,” he says.It’s clearly the case, however, that advertisers are willing to pay more to companies that can offer them not just consumers’ awareness but also their actions. Yelp’s $134 million purchase of the food-delivery service Eat24 in February was a big step in that direction; more quietly, it has been building out its transactional platform, which 60,000 local businesses now use.The future holds a lot more of that, Stoppelman says: “Whatever it is the consumer might want to transact with, we want that to be able to plug into Yelp.

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The Doorman App

Have you ever ordered something offline and when it was delivered to your house you weren’t there? Instead of coming home to find the product you ordered you find a delivery notice. Well, there is a new and innovative app called Doorman that is aiming to solve this problem.

Doorman is trying to eradicate this problem by allowing customers to schedule their own delivery times. Even if it is as late as midnight seven days a week.

Doorman was created by a former Pixar Technical Director named Zander Adel. Zander came up with this idea by looking at the retailers that offer same day shipping. Places like Amazon or Postmates. He goes on to explain that all of the shipping and deliveries are done through companies like FedEx and UPS. As a result of this customers have less control over the time their product is delivered.

Doorman fixes this by allowing customers to give these retailers their “Doorman address” which is a location of the company’s warehouse. The customer will then be able to specify exactly when they want their order delivered.

Doorman has already delivered over 25,000 packages in its first market in San Francisco and is preparing to spread to the east coast.

When looking at how awesome the name of this app is and how cool of an idea it is, I wish I could have come up with it first.

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Squeeze

As a senior in college, I am getting closer and closer to the day I have to take responsibility for my own finances. Luckily we live in a world with effective and innovative tools that can help me do so. One of those tools is an app called Squeeze.

Squeeze is a personal finance app that is designed to help users manage their finances. Tasks it helps with are saving money, reducing debt, and growing wealth by giving you access to price comparison tools for all of your bills. As well as other tools. Such as a spending tracker, financial analytics, and coaching on how to do these things.

Squeeze will sync users’ online banking, credit cards, consumption habit, and evaluate pricing on the users’ recurring bills. The creators of Squeeze look at the app as being an all in one financial solution to managing their personal finances. Squeezes’ financial management app has often been compared to other sites like Expedia and Travelocity. This app also brings together the users mobile phone, the internet, and internet plans all into the app and compare their prices to others constantly.

I personally feel that this app would be a great tool for anyone to use in order to manage their finances effectively and in a new way.

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Digital Trends 2017 Overview

Every year, We Are Social and Hootsuite release an annual report covering major trends in internet, social media, and mobile use. This report is massive – they released a deck of over 100 slides with graphs and statistics about the growth or decline of internet usage across hundreds of countries. You could spend a whole day or more digging into the specifics of this report and what it means to internet based businesses, but here are a few snapshots:

We can see a sharp increase of mobile device usage as well as a definite growth in “other devices,” though the total usage for this category remains small. This keeps in line with Google’s recent shift toward valuing mobile-friendly websites over non-responsive sites. As Internet entrepreneurs, we should keep in mind how much people value the ease of accessing the Internet from mobile devices, and build our websites and apps accordingly.

We Are Social’s analysis of what Internet usage means for businesses is spot on. Gone is the day that having a strong Internet presence was just an option. The Internet has become engrained into our very way of life, and should be treated as such from the business side of things. Internet usage and access should be factored in to every business plan and model. Not only do we need to understand how our customers think and what pains them, but we have to know how the behave on the Internet and what the best ways of reaching them digitally would be.

Facebook is absolutely top dog when it comes to social media platforms. It will remain one of the best ways to reach a lot of customers at once and it shows no signs of slowing down. Facebook along with Google dominates the online advertising world. We can expect to see more advertisements being integrated to the Facebook platform and should capitalize on this social media giant by advertising on Facebook as well as other online places such as Google. It is also moving toward a serious social ecommerce platform, which can be a tremendous advantage for Internet-based businesses.

You can view the entire presentation on Digital Trends in 2017 on Slideshare.

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Rooster Teeth – A T-Shirt Company in Disguise

When Rooster Teeth was founded in 2003 it was little more than a few friends making a non-sense video series called Red vs Blue, spun out of the Halo video game saga. RvB, as it was soon known, then became the house hold staple to many teenage and college aged young men. Over the next decade this small comedy study grew and began producing content such as Achievement Hunter (a video series of their friends playing games, think Twitch.tv), The Know (an internet news source for all things gaming related), my personal favorite RWBY (a very well done cartoon series), and much more.

Now located is Austin, Texas this company has expanded it’s content offering and company size too. With the 2014 acquisition by Fullscreen Media they received the monetary backing to continue to grow their venture as a subsidiary. New animation engines and additional staffing were added to improve the already impressive body of content.

All of these entertainment accolades aside, one must wonder how the company makes money to exist. The answer is remarkably simple, through their loyal fans. Some subscribe to a membership model giving early, and sometimes exclusive, access to content. Most buy paraphernalia such as posters, sweatshirts, and t-shirts. The CCO (Chief Creative Office) laughably joked that they weren’t a content company at all, they were just a really well disguised t-shirt company.

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Sean Parker

Sean Parker the co-founder of the music service Napster and the former founding president of Facebook started his internet entrepreneurial days a little bit differently than most. Parker showcased himself in the tech world by hacking into computer networks and companies around the world. This led to the FBI to his front door when he was only 15. Sean was forced to do community service with other trouble makers.

During his time doing community service, Parker would meet Shawn Fanning. Together they would start a small internet-security company that helped firms get rid of hackers. This business would ultimately be unsuccessful but would create a successful friendship.

Parker’s next project put him on the map for the CIA. It earned him an internship with them and a check for $80,000. Parker would use this to convince his parents to put college on hold while he pursued yet another internet project.

Parker along with Shawn Fanning would start a file sharing service called Napster in 1999. Napster quickly became popular with music lovers. The music sharing aspect of Napster attracted tens of millions of users. This made Napster a target of the music industry which led to its fall. This would leave him without a place to live and with very little money.

Parker was saved when he noticed the new online service called Facebook. Parker saw so much potential in Facebook that he met with the founder, Mark Zuckerberg. They instantly became friends and Parker was named the company’s founding president.

Some of you may have seen the movie The Social Network and know how this story ends. But if you haven’t seen it. It does not end well. At least the Facebook part of the story. Parker had a long history of partying, which led to him being arrested for suspicion of possessing cocaine. This would be what made him leave Facebook.

Although his time at Facebook was cut short. It didn’t completely end his career. He would later help bring Spotify to the U.S. Which we all know was a massive success and still is.

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