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Folks @ FailCon Singapore: Russel Simmons – Cofounder of Yelp

Russel Simmons is in Singapore on October 15th to speak at FailCon, a one-day conference for technology entrepreneurs, investors, developers and designers to study their own and others’ failures and prepare for success. Check him out on the panels ‘How to be a kickass CTO’ and the ‘Metrics of Success’.

Russ is a card carrying member of the Pay Pal Mafia, a small group of early hires at the legendary payment platform that have gone on to build their own successful companies. In 2004 Russ and his business partner Jeremy Stopplemen set out to tackle that oh-so familiar problem of where to find the city’s best coffee / dentist / bowl of char keow teow. Their company, Yelp.com, went IPO in 2012 and launched in Singapore just last month. With all this success behind him, we wonder, what is Russ going to speak about at FailCon?

As it turns out, Russ has a lot to say.

The importance of data

Since being founded in San Francisco in 2004, Yelp has grown to become one of the most popular and influential customer review websites but it didn’t start off that way. In this early interview, co-founders Russ and Jeremy explain that the first version of the site focused on asking friends for recommendations via email. Looking at the data they found that early users didn’t email friends for recommendations, but instead found a link buried in the site that allowed them to create their own unsolicited reviews. Today yelpers have written over 30 million local reviews.

His new company isn’t so lucky

These days Russ is working on Learnirvana, a two-person startup that’s reimagining the experience of learning. As Russ explains it, “my current company is an epic business failure, since it has not yet had any real success after a year.” The core product, Lentil, helps students learn not through countless flash cards and route memorization, but by combining ideas in knowledge modeling, psychology, and interface design to create a streamlined and rewarding learning experience. As Russ says, “I am OK with having a “business failure” if I love what am working on (and can afford to fund it, hah!)”

So what is it that keeps him going, even when his company isn’t seeing the astronomical growth that this start-up celebrity is used to? His response – “I am mostly happy and relaxed about work”.

Hear more from Russ and 13 other awesome entrepreneurs at FailCon on Monday, October 15th. Bonus! Use the code SGEwin to get a 20% discount on your tickets!


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