Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman on Abortion and Antitrust Reform

Many large companies have chosen to remain silent on the abortion debate, but Yelp and its CEO Jeremy Stoppelman have chosen a different path.

The San Francisco-based online review site is among the few companies that cover travel costs for employees and their dependents who need to travel out of state to get an abortion, a thorny topic that is about to become the hot topic. of many boardrooms if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade. If Roe falls, about half of US states are expected to ban or impose greater restrictions on abortion.

Antitrust reform is another big topic for Stoppelman, 44, who has been a vocal critic of Google and what he sees as the company’s monopolistic practices. He recently spoke to the Associated Press about Yelp’s stance on abortion, the COVID-19 pandemic, and antitrust legislation. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: The company has spoken out very strongly in support of abortion rights. Do you have any fears that this will put you in the crosshairs of conservative politicians, especially in light of what happened with Disney in Florida?

A: There is always a risk in taking a position. But our calculation is: this one is worth it. It is very important to our employees, especially our female employees. And I think it has quite broad support. I’ve seen research that suggests that more than 70% of people in the United States think women should have the right to choose, along with their doctor’s input. As a business leader, you tend to do things that attract attention in one way or another. When you feel strong and feel like it’s the right thing to do – and the right thing for the company – you just need to move on.

Q: Why do you think many large companies have been silent on this issue?

A: I think it’s really disappointing to say the least. If you go back before the Trump administration, there was a lot of advocacy on the part of the CEOs and the companies behind them. They were speaking out about important issues, whether it was bathroom bills or small businesses trying to discriminate. There were many companies that were eager to get up. Maybe what happened was in the Trump era, there was an element of risk and government backlash. I think this has created a silencing effect when it comes to corporate leaders speaking up. I don’t think it changed our behavior.

But certainly, many of the usual suspects kept quiet. Obviously, we’ve been talking about various social issues for a long time and we remain involved. But we used to have a lot of friends talking to us. And we would like to encourage those who are considered, or are on the fence, to participate.

Q: You’ve been an advocate of antitrust reform. What do you think the prospects are of getting something in Congress this year?

A: There are a number of bills in Congress right now. Very promising. And I think the general tone in Washington is a radical departure from the past. There is a specific bill by US Senator Amy Klobuchar that we support, which is anti-self-preference. One of Big Tech’s most notorious behaviors is when they have a competing property or product of their own, they interfere and alienate consumers. And I think that’s very destructive to the competition. When we look at this through our analysis, we find that Senate Majority Leader Schumer has the votes to pass it. So we really think it’s time to bring it to the ground. And he’s made a suggestion that it will happen in early summer, so we’re looking forward to that.

Q: The government said there could be around 100 million cases of COVID-19 by the end of this year. How do you predict this will affect the business?

A: Our big move was going remote. So we decided in 2020 that Yelp would be remote first. Surprisingly, perhaps, it was very successful for us. Our employees are feeling really good about this. There is more time for family and hobbies. And we saw continued productivity.

This has been our great adaptation and it will extend far beyond the pandemic. I tweeted – perhaps controversially about it – but I believe remote work is fundamentally a better way to work. It is a better operating system for modern companies. It’s a disruptive innovation. Since industrialization, we have a way of working: entering an office. The average trip for Americans is more than half an hour each way, unpaid. And that seems very inefficient and outdated. Granted, it wasn’t until recently that video conferencing really provided a serious competitor to the traditional office. But I think more companies will adopt remote control. The advantages are very high.

Q: And how are you anticipating the rise in COVID cases to impact your business if Americans become more hesitant to go out to eat? How do you expect the site to be impacted?

A: For restaurants and retail, we see a continued recovery in the first quarter. If there’s a terrible variant, people get scared and huddle inside. People go to stores and restaurants less. When it gets safer, people go out more. This shows up in our data.

So it can have effects on the business. But we’ve been in recovery mode for some time now, and certainly people are trying to get on with their lives and get over the virus. But it’s hard to predict if the virus will actually fade into the background like other viruses, or if it will have some new twists we didn’t expect.

One thing that has always been true about Yelp is that our platform is broad, so when consumer spending shifts from, say, restaurants to something else, that other category is often captured elsewhere on Yelp. We saw that during the height of the pandemic, when consumers were spending more time at home, they tended to spend more on home services. Yelp has been particularly resilient during the pandemic and past recessions, in part because of our horizontal platform.

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