UNION SQUARE — Yelp, the user review and recommendation company, opened its East Coast headquarters in Union Square on Wednesday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn were on hand to welcome the 7-year-old business, which has created 65 new jobs in the city and plans to add even more New Yorkers to staff its Fifth Avenue office.
Bloomberg, who said he frequently uses the Yelp application on his iPhone, hailed the company for uniting New Yorkers with local businesses. The mayor called the site the perfect platform for the city’s 8.4 million residents, who he said were "not shy about expressing their opinions.”
In addition, the city is home to 160,000 small businesses, many of which rely on Yelp for advertising and promotion, Bloomberg said.
“There’s no doubt about it, New York and Yelp are made for each other,” Bloomberg said, before ceremonially bestowing on Yelp’s New York office the site’s highest honor: five stars.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, who co-founded the company in 2004, said research has shown that an increase in star ratings on Yelp has led to higher revenues for small businesses.
To illustrate Yelp’s effectiveness, Stoppelman and the elected officials on hand invited Jay Sofer, owner of Lockbusters, the highest rated locksmith on Yelp in New York City, to tell his story.
“Three years ago, I was living in my mother’s garage, broke and unemployed,” Sofer said. “[Now], I’m standing here as a thriving business owner, and that’s all because of Yelp.”
Positive reviews on the site consistently generate business for his company, he said, which has grown so much that, this year, Sofer hired two full-time employees and purchased another company vehicle.
Sofer said he couldn’t believe that he was now standing in front of television cameras and reporters. His mother, he said, couldn’t believe his success either.
“She’s happy to have her garage back,” Bloomberg joked.
When Sofer left the podium, he gave Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman a hug.
“Job growth in this country relies on small but fast-growing and successful businesses, and New York is no exception,” Stoppelman said. “It’s a great city that we’re proud to be a part of.”
At the event, Bloomberg noted that high-tech jobs in the city have grown by 30 percent in the past five years. The social networking site Twitter opened a New York office earlier this month. Google has more employees in the Big Apple than anywhere outside of its California headquarters, the mayor said.
“And with top universities bidding to build a new science and tech campus here, our long-term digital future, I think, looks as bright as it could be for any place in this country,” he added.
Bloomberg also said that New York had passed Boston in digital venture capital investment.
“And we’re gaining on Silicon Valley,” the mayor continued. “We will not rest until we’re No. 1.”