How Yelp got its (domain) name.

I love learning about how (start-up) companies got their name and matching domain name. As a domain name investor it helps me to better understand the naming and decision process most entrepreneurs go through at one point when they need to come up with a great name for their business idea. Very often the stories behind how a company got it’s name and the matching domain name are very interesting, funny or even exciting which made me decide they will make for a cool returning topic here on – so here’s the first in a series of posts about How start-up companies got their (domain) name:

Founded in 2004, Yelp is currently one of the largest ratings and reviews sites on the web and listed on the NYSE. As of 2014, had a staggering 132 million monthly visitors and 57 million reviews.

Co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman shares on Q&A site Quora that he initially wanted to call the site Yocal. He thought it was a neat play on “local” and “yokel,” but he wasn’t able to get the matching .com domain (Whois info shows is currently owned by Yahoo Inc but doesn’t resolve). With only a month away from launch and struggling to find a name, a guy in the same incubator was poking around online and saw that the domain was available for just $5,000.

Russ and I didn’t immediately like the name since it was “the sound of a dog being kicked”. Fortunately Scott Bannister (another guy hanging out in the incubator, who was also involved in the naming of PayPal) immediately loved it. He told us he’d buy it and sell it to us the next day when we came to our senses. In the ensuing discussion Jared Kopf (yet another incubator employee) put down his credit card and actually bought the domain. The next day it was transfered to the company (we paid back Jared) and the rest is history.

In a short video interview on their own site Jeremy also tells how Yelp got it’s name. After saying they initially thought the name sounded like a “cry for help” and how they were afraid for negative connotations they acknowledged the domain it’s many qualities such as short, memorable and the strong affiliations with Help and Yellow Pages after a single night of sleep.

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