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Atypical Career Path Works for Yelp’s GC

Laurence Wilson, Yelp Inc. general counsel
Image: Jason Doiy/The Recorder

San Francisco’s Yelp Inc. has so far been a typical Silicon Valley success story. Founded in 2004 by members of the so-called PayPal Mafia, the company has made its investors and employees a lot of money.

Co-founders Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons and board member Max Levchin were all senior engineers at PayPal Inc. in the early 2000s, and along with other early employees and investors in the payments company have been big players in the Bay Area’s startup scene.

Venture capital firms including Valley stalwarts Bessemer Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital Partners and relative newcomer Elevation Partners, which counts U2’s Bono on its investment team, put money into Yelp at an average price of $1.12.

Just over a year ago, the company went public at $15 per share, netting about $96 million, and the shares haven’t dipped below that point since and were recently near $27.

Venture capital investors would almost certainly rate the company five stars out of five. For businesses and users of the website, the opinions can be less than stellar. The company does not edit reviews and does not take responsibility for any of the user-generated content on the site, prompting some businesses to howl over reviews they think are unfair or misleading.


Berkeley, Calif.-raised Laurence Wilson, Yelp’s general counsel and first in-house attorney, does not have the profile of a typical corporate lawyer. For starters, Wilson has never practiced law at a firm.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from UC-San Diego, he graduated from Stanford Law School in 2001. In between his undergrad and law school years, he spent two years as a paralegal at Morrison Foerster‘s San Francisco office and knew pretty quickly that he wanted to forgo the Big Law route in favor of something with a more entrepreneurial bent.

So after finishing up at Stanford, Wilson went to work for an angel investor focused on the health care field, doing generalist duties for a couple of projects, primarily Claremont Partners, a San Francisco-based company that manages health care plans.

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Mystic Maggie

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