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yelplogo022708.pngLocal review site Yelp has raised $15 million from DAG Ventures. The rumor first popped up on Epicenter, last Friday, as a $30 million round at a $200 million valuation, but that valuation hasn’t been confirmed by the company.

This round comes as San Francisco-based Yelp continues to grow. The company launched its site in early 2005, and hit the one million review mark in May last year. It’s accelerating: Since May, it has gained another 1.3 million reviews. Traffic is correspondingly picking up. It had 8.3 million unique visitors in the past 30 days, it claims.

The company started in San Francisco and in its early days spread through word-of-mouth, but it has also featured high in search results when you look for restaurants on Google. It has opened up in other cities, and once a city gets enough active users Yelp will hire a city community manager, who does things like put on events for local Yelpers, as they’re called.

In-person events have been a part of the company’s strategy since it launched, but it doesn’t track how significant these efforts have been in generating traffic.

The company promotes a sense of competition among reviewers, for example to be the first to review a restaurant. If you’re first, you might get featured on the site and in its email newsletter to users.

The funding will be used for more sales team hires, a new office in New York, and presumably more community managers. The company faces competition from InsiderPages, which was bought by local search engine CitySearch a year ago (our coverage), along with other startups, and local information efforts by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Yelp seems to have established itself as the place for reviews: many competitors I’ve seen have Yelp reviews somehow integrated into their own interfaces.

The company previously raised money from Bessemer Venture Partners, Benchmark Capital and angel investor Max Levchin, for a total of $31 million to date.

Sample review screenshot:


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