By Eric Johnson for Recode
Starting with its very first episode, the HBO TV series “Silicon Valley” satirized the idea that tech entrepreneurs were “making the world a better place.” But Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said people in his industry really believe that – or, at least, they used to.
“That’s something that I would say most people in Silicon Valley would like to believe,” Stoppelman said on the latest episode of Recode Decode.
“I think we’re waking up to realize a lot of big companies, presumably under pressure to grow and satisfy Wall Street, are focusing more on growth and making money than sticking to some core set of values that are aspirational.”
Stoppelman said the ongoing crisis of techlash is a reflection of some leaders’ inability or unwillingness to commit to corporate values early in their businesses’ existence, although he agreed with Apple CEO Tim Cook that “not all companies are created equal” in that regard.
“In some ways, Silicon Valley as a whole has lost its purpose,” Stoppelman said. “If its purpose really was, ‘Hey, we’re really trying to have a positive impact,’ just focusing on technology and growth might not be enough. You might actually have to make decisions that hurt growth.”
On the new podcast, Stoppelman also talked about Yelp’s years-long feud with Google. Yelp contends that Google has unfairly favored its own local listings in search results, something Stoppelman said the Google of the past would have criticized.
“The 2004 Google — the Larry Page-Sergey [Brin] Google — would make absolute fun of the search results you see today,” he said. “They pointed at Yahoo and said, ‘Look at Yahoo! They’re trying to trap you in their ecosystem. They don’t want you to get to the best of the web.’”
Scrutiny of big tech, he noted, is one of the few political issues that seems to have bipartisan support in the U.S. right now. But ultimately, despite some welcome regulations in the EU, Stoppelman said Yelp is carrying on with the assumption that the status quo is not about to be upended stateside.
“Obviously, we live in reality, and the government is not the speediest at dealing with these situations,” he said. “So we just find our way.”