Yelping My Way Through LA

When Brad and I were raising our first fund in 2004, we’d plan to get to our pitch meeting an hour or so ahead of time and then go find a Starbucks for coffee and internet. We never even thought to try anything else. We just used the Starbucks store locator app and got bad cofee and better wifi.

But in five years, a lot has changed. Yesterday morning I drove from LA to Irvine California to pay a visit to one of the investors in our fund. As usual, I left plenty of extra time and arrived in Irvine an hour early.

There were plenty of Starbucks around but I ignored them, hit Yelp on my blackberry browser and did a search for espresso in/near Irvine.

That led me to a place called Javatini’s where I got a very well made cappucino delievered in a ceramic mug. It was a vastly superior cup of coffee and the wifi was free and fast too.

Today I drove up to Pasadena to see another of our investors. Again I left a lot of extra time and even though I sat on I10 for what seemed to me to be an eternity, I got there an hour early. I did the same thing, avoided Starbucks and sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a much better cup of coffee and a yogurt and fruit bowl courtesy of Yelp.

After my meeting I drove back to Santa Monica for a meeting at Mahalo with Jason and his team. I got back in no time and had a hankering for a fish taco (among my all time favorite meals). Yelp served up a place on the Santa Monica/Brentwood border call Kay’n Dave’s where I just finished a slightly spicy baja fish on light and fluffy home made tacos.

That’s three for three with Yelp in the past day and a half. I’m happy and I’m so done with bad coffee and bad food when I’m travelling.

Brands like Starbucks, Taco Bell, and McDonalds are powerful. But Yelp and services like it on a mobile phone have the power to disrupt the scale advantages of these national brands and allow the Javanitis, Kay’n Daves, and Father’s Offices of the world compete.

And that’s a good thing.