Yelp, the online reviews site for local businesses, intends to go public in the first quarter of 2012. The San Francisco-based company will reportedly file its IPO with the SEC by the end of the year, and has hired Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to lead the IPO in hopes of achieving a valuation between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.
Yelp, founded in 2004, has not stated whether or not it has a profitable business model, but the company has already raised more than $50 million from VCs, including Benchmark Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, DAG Ventures and Elevation Partners. In its last funding round in January 2010, Yelp was valued at $500 million.
Yelp has not officially confirmed its IPO schedule but has made abundantly clear its intentions to go public. In April, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told the Wall Street Journal that his company intended to go public, and had already begun its search for a chief financial officer with IPO experience. In July, Stoppelman found his man in Rob Krolik. Prior to joining Yelp, Krolik helped Shopping.com go public in 2004.
Yelp should be encouraged by the recent slew of successful social media IPOs, but should take advantage of the tech bubble before it bursts. A number of recent tech valuations show cause for concern: Two companies that make no annual revenue, including social bookmarking service Delicious and photo sharing service Color, have been recently valued at $30 million and $41 million, respectively. More than a dozen Internet companies planned their IPOs in 2011, which is the most in any year since 2000, around the height of the first dot-com bubble.
In May, social business networking site LinkedIn enjoyed a tremendous IPO. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company originally priced its shares at $45 each, but as LinkedIn began trading, shares surged to above $90 per share and settled in the $80 to $85 range, roughly double their offering price. The IPO made LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman a billionaire.
Groupon, the Chicago-based daily deals giant, finally went public Nov. 4 after several delays. Groupon pegged its opening share price between $16 and $18, but within its first minutes as a public company, shares soared to about $28. Shares have settled around $25, and the company's market value is nearly $18 billion, even though its June filing with the SEC stated that the company was still not profitable.
Yelp, which once turned down an acquisition offer from Google worth $500 million, has roughly 60 million monthly visitors, and Yelpers have written over 22 million local reviews for the site. Yelp not only helps small businesses gain traction, but it also makes its money by selling ads to these local businesses.
If Yelp's tentative IPO date holds, the company ought to go public soon after social gaming company Zynga, which plans to go public in the week before Thanksgiving, and Facebook, which must go public by law before the end of 2012.