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500 Startups Backs First Middle Eastern Startup, Jeeran, A Yelp For The Arab World

Jeeran_logoEarlier this year, young venture capital fund and startup accelerator 500 Startups announced some changes that indicated its intent to move beyond adolescence into adulthood, and expand its scope beyond the U.S. The firm raised a new, bigger fund, added new partners, and increase its focus on identifying and investing in talented international entrepreneurs.

Dave McClure and company have already invested in startup incubators in Mexico City and Beijing, along with taking its “Geeks On A Plane” tour to India last December. This spring, partners McClure and Christine Tsai told us that 500 Startups is redoubling its effort to build ties and make investments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East in particular. And today, beginning to walk the walk, we’ve learned that the fund has made its first investment in the Middle East — in a startup called Jeeran.

TalkFavorites.me Is A Hyper-Local, Hyper-Objective Reviews Engine

Screen Shot 2012-06-25 at 3.05.06 PMWhile the name may be a bit unruly, TalkFavorites.me is a rating system for the best stuff near you. There are no reviews to AstroTurf, no business details to mess up, and no horribly-written screeds against unfairly-judged businesses. Instead, you vote for the best stuff in your area and then consult those lists as you look for, say, the best pizza in West Chester, Penn.

We spoke with TalkFavorites.me founder Chris Dima about his product. He describes it as Yelp without the fuss and the goal is to basically make top 10 lists of everything everywhere. He’s launched the site outside of Philadelphia and he’s going to try to expand it to other markets soon. You can try your own Zip code to see if anyone has voted near you.

TripAdvisor Aims To Beat Yelp With Social, Revives Restaurant “Local Picks” Facebook App

Local Picks TripAdvisorTourists rave about a city’s well-known restaurants and distort their review averages. So today travel site TripAdvisor starts highlighting beloved eateries from people who live nearby in Local Picks, a Facebook app it’s relaunching. Originally released in 2007 but shut down from 2010 until now, Local Picks pulls in reviews of 850,000 restaurants from TripAdvisor, re-sorts them to more heavily weight the opinions of actual locals, and auto-shares your reviews to your Facebook Timeline.

TripAdvisor hopes to mine the virality bonanza of Facebook Open Graph to beat Yelp, which has yet to implement the auto-sharing feature that’s helped other apps boost growth. In a video interview with the public company’s CEO embedded within, TripAdvisor’s Stephen Kaufer tells me Yelp “doesn’t in my view address the social aspect of where your friends’ favorite restaurants are.”

Yelp Partners With Bing To Enhance Bing’s Local Search Pages

yelplogoMicrosoft’s Bing is on a roll…in terms of new partnership announcements, that is. Today, Bing and Yelp are announcing a co-branded relationship that will bring Yelp’s local business content to Bing’s Local search pages. The pages will display “Powered by Yelp,” beginning today with full U.S. availability expected over the next few weeks.

Yelp will bring its reviews, photos, business attributes and more to the Bing search engine, reinvigorating Microsoft’s efforts at taking on Google Place pages, which recently became Google+ Local.

Twitter, Yelp Board Member Peter Fenton On How Enterprise Is Learning From The Consumer Web

timthumbPeter Fenton joined Benchmark Capital in 2006, after spending seven years as a partner at Accel. Not yet 40, Fenton already sits on the board of directors at companies like New Relic, Polyvore, Twitter, Yelp, and Zendesk. Starting at Accel in his late twenties, the young investor focused his attention on the enterprise — on backing smart software and infrastructure companies. In 2009, for example, the young VC helped lead SpringSource’s $400 million+ sale to VMWare.

Yet, Fenton saw promise in startups like Twitter, investing in the microblogging service back when it employed just 25 people — and got in early on Yelp, too. Becoming actively involved in consumer web companies, Fenton came to recognize a marked difference between how these startups approached their users (and their market) and how enterprise players were doing business. Today, he tells us, a sea change has come to enterprise, which is being driven not only by a fundamental transformation of company culture but by new generation of users — namely those pesky, plucky Millennials.

Qype, The Yelp Of Europe, Claims Top Dog Status With 860,000 Places Reviewed, Expands Daily Deals

qype logoJust as we get news of some consolidation in the local content market in the UK, some news of expansion, too: Qype, the Yelp of Europe (and Yelp’s closest competitor in the region), today announced that the number of places reviewed on its site has reached 860,000, with the number of monthly unique visitors now at 25 million. It claims that this makes it the biggest reviews site in the region, about five times bigger than its closest competitor, the U.S.-based Yelp.

And while companies like Groupon are trying to move beyond the daily deal to become the platform for local commerce, Qype is doubling-down on the concept, expanding its own deals offerings with a free service to attract more local businesses to the concept.

Yelp’s Post-IPO Earnings: $27.4M in Revenue, Up 66% From A Year Earlier, But Net Loss Triples

yelp logoIn its first ever earnings report as a publicly-traded company, Yelp said it earned $27.4 million in revenue, up 66 percent from the $16.5 million it made in the same time a year ago.

However, the company more than tripled its net losses, mostly on rising costs associated with supporting a larger sales staff. It lost $9.8 million, up from the $2.7 million it lost in the same time a year earlier. That loss of 31 cents per share was about double what analysts had estimated. Analysts had predicted a loss of 15 cents per share, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Looking at the sheet, Yelp’s loss expanded mostly on sales, marketing and administrative costs. Sales and marketing costs rose to $18.8 million, up from $11.3 million the year before. On the earnings call, the company said much of this headcount growth came from international expansion, which it has yet to fully monetize. In the first quarter, Yelp launched in 11 new markets, eight of which were international.

Hoppit Launches The World’s First Ambience Search Engine For Restaurants

Hoppit_logoFinding a good restaurant – even in a city you’ve never been to – has never been easier. Thanks to Yelp, Urbanspoon and its various brethren, a good place to eat is generally just a few clicks away. What if you want to find a restaurant with a very specific atmosphere, though? Say you’re in the mood for a pizza at a relaxed place where the noise level is just right for a good conversation? Chances are, Yelp won’t be much help there, but the newly redesigned Hoppit is putting these kind of searches at the core of its service. The New York-based startup describes itself as the “world’s first ambience search engine for restaurants and bars.”

5 Small Business Social Media Success Stories

This series is supported by Bantam Live, a web-based collaboration workspace with “Social CRM” for small business teams. For more information visit BantamLive.com.