Earlier this morning I opened my laptop after a long break and learned that Yelp has gone public. Much like LinkedIn and Pandora, it is one of those early Web 2.0 companies that has found its way into the market, benefitting from the halo effect being cast by the forthcoming Facebook IPO. Yelp’s IPO is vindication for Roger McNamee’s Elevation Partners, which plowed $100 million into the travel and food information company, once it decided to pass on a $500 million buyout offer from Google. (Yelp is valued at about $900 million and has raised $96 million in the IPO.)
It is good news for founders Jeremy Stoppleman and Russel Simmons, both ex-PayPalers. It is good news for PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, who provided initial funds for the company.
However, in the celebrations and CNBC interviews, I hope to God that one of these Yelp executives remembers David Galbraith, who was also one of the co-founders — and, if my memory serves me right, is the guy who came up with the idea of Yelp, including the name. Levchin and Stoppleman had wanted to do something with “local.”
David is an architect by training and was co-founder of Moreover with Nick Denton, the founder and owner of Gawker Media. He later moved to San Francisco and dabbled with many ideas, including Yelp.
How do I know? Because I was there from the very beginning. Dave and I talked about Yelp quite a few times. He was passionate about the idea. But some back-room drama ensued and David left. Apparently, he fell out of favor. Also, the fact that he was not part of the PayPal alumni couldn’t have worked in his favor.
He moved to New York and started Wists — a wish-list-making web application much like Pinterest.
Galbraith, however, is a perfect example of what is a common (and growing) practice in Silicon Valley, something folks in our industry should be ashamed of — airbrushing history. Today there is a lot of talk about Twitter and its initial public offering, and it reminded me of Noah Glass, one of the key contributors to the idea of Twitter. I remember talking to him outside Ruby Red Labs at a party about Twitter. I don’t remember the exact conversation — I was a little tipsy and so was he — but I did end up writing a blog post about Twitter and accidentally launching that company. In the history of Twitter, he is not even a footnote.
History, they say, is written by the victors. Well, it was written by the victors up until the arrival of the Internet and the personal publishing on the web. Why? Because before the Internet, the guys who controlled the media controlled the messaging and how “reality” was created. Everything else got “massaged” out of existence. The Internet is changing that and allowing reality and alternative storylines to exist alongside the air-brushed version of the stories.
And for Dave, some of us have not forgotten. Now come up with something brilliant.