Angel investor and publicity guru Peter Shankman is betting $5,000 that Yelp will go out of business or change its operating model in the next two years. In a public Facebook post, Shankman called out Yelp for shoddy practices including a lack of trust in who actually posts reviews and (alleged) burying of positive reviews for businesses that don’t advertise with them. He then went on to promise to donate $5,000 to charity on August 21, 2015 if Yelp is still in business.
Followed up with Shankman via email, he said that “it’ll die very, very hard. If both Facebook and Google both let me type in ‘Italian Food’ and the first thing I see are three reviews from people I trust, why the f*** would I use Yelp?” On his blog, he added, “If I log into Google Maps and find a restaurant, if anyone in my network (or extended network) has reviewed it, that’s what’s going to show up. If I’m friends with Mark, and Mark’s friend Michelle reviewed a restaurant, I have a web of trust there. Michelle, to Mark, to me. If I find out Michelle is a shill for the restaurant, that reflects badly on Mark, my friend. That’s the active policing that invokes trust, and that’s so profoundly missing on Yelp.”
It’s important to note that Shankman is an angel investor in companies that compete with Yelp in certain market niches, and that his consulting firm Shankman Honig specializes in what they call the “conversation economy.” Shankman also loves publicity stunts: To promote his agency, he jumped out of an airplane, and his first company launched with him promoting his consultancy by standing on Park Avenue wearing a sandwich board–which he successfully pitched to USA Today. In fact, Shankman has written a whole book on publicity stunts.
Will donating $5,000 to charity over Yelp’s business model be a part of that? We will see.