“ Finding a great new sushi restaurant and sharing it with your friends should feel as good as unearthing the boomerang in The Legend of Zelda
Dennis CROWLEY, Co-Founder/CEO Foursquare in a talk to Students at Harvard’s iLAB.
Foursquare has grown its user base five times over since Facebook Places launched, which was by many feared as a big thread, and now claims 25 million users.
“My role as CEO is about over-communicating. I have to keep the message simple. I feel like a broken record, but it’s important to keep repeating our vision so that people understand how their individual projects relate to the overall goal.”
Since its relaunch in June, Foursquare’s usability has dramatically improved, resulting in people using it as a local search tool rather than claiming check-ins. “Making the physical world easier to use has always been the real goal,” Crowley told us in an earlier interview in Barcelona this year. “Check-Ins were always just an on-boarding mechanism”. It was also a matter of evolving mobile technology - from GPS systems on phones to data plans and battery lives.
“You have to be open to tearing everything apart and rebuilding it,” he said. “There will be a bunch of Lego pieces on the table and you need to figure out how to put them back together in a different way.”
//DENNIS CROWLEY ON THE #allnew4sq// — It’s been hashtag-teased for a while, now Foursquare 5.0, the biggest re-launch since its initial release at SXSW 2009, has finally landed. And: It’s really good.
When we met Dennis Crowley earlier this year in Barcelona at Hotel OMM, he already talked about Foursquare’s new focus on Explore and Radar, rather than emphasizing Check-Ins:
To get engagement going, gaming elements will still be an ‘On-Boarding Mechanic’ but “more and more people are just using the app to see what their friends are up to or to know what’s going on around them,” said Crowley. Dennis also had an impressive To-Do-List for Barcelona and I started back then to give the Explore feature a try as travel planning tool. It works! Especially now, that we have a ‘Save to Foursquare’ feature on unlike.net, I can take recommendations from our curated guides and easily add them to my lists on Foursquare. But it is this kind of branded content that will become more important for Foursquare to go beyond recommendations from your friends and social graph. Especially in Europe, where people check in a lot less and are less coupon-crazy, recommendations might be sparse and not provide a very fresh perspective. It does feel like Foursquare needs a ‘Sonar effect’, some ‘engineered serendipity’ to discover new places that feel exactly right. Sophisticating the data algorithm is therefore a major focus for Foursquare, and the 20 Mio users and 2 billion check-ins surely build a lucrative data basis for personalized recommendations.
So, what else is in store? In a TC interview, Crowley mentioned that there will be experimentation with the activity feed over summer, better recommendations, as well as a line-up of potential loyalty features. “We’ve got enough capital to continue to build the company that we want for a while,” responds Crowley when asked if he feels financial pressure. “We never wanted to be the company that tags on monetization on the end.” The recent changes hint at much more baked-in revenue potentials. Later this summer we “can expect more experimentation on the merchant-front to really connect people with places and places with people.”
Dream come true. With the now wide-spread adoption of smartphones and increasing data intelligence, Crowley says they are getting “close to finally making the stuff happen, that we’ve been thinking about forever.“ This latest re-invention will help Foursquare to tell the much broader story that they always had in mind: “help people navigate the real world better”. This is Crowley’s ultimate goal.
For brands and media partners the new version offers more prominent visibility of pages. (Not sure what exactly they’ve changed, but information-access seems more intuitive and click-efficient.) This also gives room for interesting back-stories on venues – from iconic sports events to legendary music concerts and historic figures that frequented the places. The History Channel is a great example for such location-based information, The CW Channel provides a list of Gossip Girl hot spots, you can dive back into 1950’s New York and follow Don Draper through the Mad Men venues – or see Dennis’ own History of foursquare. It is the historic events of venues that largely shape a city’s culture - and foursquare provides a great stage to tell that story.
We will get our radar on and keep exploring.
“DARE TO ASK” AT LONDON WEB SUMMIT — Behind the mic and on stage: Foursquare, Earlybird, Kraft Foods, Fab.com, Soundtracking and Uber.
“WE WANT TO BUILD SOFTWARE THAT CHANGES THE WAY PEOPLE NAVIGATE IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD” — In Barcelona, we talk with Dennis Crowley about Foursquare beyond check-ins, how it all started and why kids should get coding.