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Yelp boosts Bono's Elevation

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Bono’s investment fund Elevation Partners has scored a hit with Yelp’s IPO.

Shares in the user generated directory and review site surged 64 percent on its first day of trading on Nadaq on Friday. Shares soared to $US24.58, giving Yelp a market valuation of $US1.47 billion.

The San Francisco-based company raised $US107.3 million in the IPO, pricing the shares at $US15 each.

Elevation Partners was the first significant backer of Yelp! Investing an initial $US25 million in January 2010 and $US2.15 per share and increasing its total investment in Yelp to $100 million through a planned purchase of shares from vested employees and other eligible shareholders and $US8.136 per share.

Based on Yelp’s first day of trade high point of $US24.66 per share, Bono and Co’s stake would have been valued at around $US287 million. Elevation did not relinquish its stock in the IPO and as part of the initial investment deal cannot sell any of its shares for a period of six months.

Yelp was founded by CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and hip-hop entrepreneur Russel Simmons.

Stoppelman has retained around 11 percent of the voting power in Yelp following the share sale, according to SEC filings. Bessemer Venture Partners and Elevation Partners each will each have about 22 percent shareholding.

According to its IPO prospectus Yelp had 66 million monthly unique visitors and that it had 25 million published reviews at the end of last year. Proceeds of the IPO will be devoted to expanding rapidly overseas.

In November Yelp announced that it was moving into the Australian market partnering with Telstra.

The Australian expansion was a first for the US site in its partnership with Telstra’s directories arm Sensis. Yelp traditionally does not partner with local carriers or directories companies but Yelp co- founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said it was important for the Australian launch to get accurate business data as it was difficult to acquire.

“This is the first time that we have worked with a traditional Yellow Pages company but in Australia it is particularly hard to access business data,” he said.

Under the deal Sensis provided 1 million business listings that allowed Yelp to ready the site for launch. Stoppleman said that Sensis would start selling on Yelp’s behalf once the Yelp community has built enough content to get audience traction, but could not predict how long that would take or give any audience measurement predictions.

The recommendation and search site has already expanded to Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain.

“We aim to bring Yelp to the entire world if we can. We have been prioritising cultural closeness but we do want to be everywhere,” he said. ®

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