, a social networking site for sharing reviews of local establishments, announced Wednesday that private equity firm Elevation Partners will be investing up to $100 million
in Yelp. Initially, Yelp is raising a $25 million Series E round of funding from the firm and Elevation Managing Director and co-founder Marc Bodnick will be joining Yelp’s Board of Directors as part of the deal.
"We have been able to grow and scale our business quickly, even in the tough economic environment of the last year -- a clear indicator that we've only begun to realize the potential of local search," said Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp CEO and co-founder. "This investment in Yelp provides us with even more capital to focus on scaling our already proven business model and we are thrilled to have Elevation as a new partner."
The company's biggest and most recent news before today's announcement came in December, when, seemingly at the last moment, Stoppleman decided to refuse Google's $550 million
acquisition offer for the site.
Yelp grew a lot last year, with expansion to the UK and Ireland and the launch of Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Palm Pre applications. In December, Yelp saw 26 million unique visitors on its site, which now hosts over 9 million reviews.
But the service still has room to grow.
Notably, Yelp's iPhone app recently received an update to allow users to "check-in" to establishments to let friends know when you're there. This functionality mirrors exactly the fundamental purpose behind another popular iPhone app, Foursquare, demonstrating once again that augmented reality is really heating up. Competition in that niche will be undoubtedly fierce this year.
The new funding from Elevation Partners will be used to maintain and reinforce Yelp's market leadership.