New York startup Foursquare is something of the odd man out among the big-name social networks that came of age on the cusp of the smartphone era. It helped pioneer the concept of checking in to locales, a feature later copied by Facebook, Google, and others. But it never managed to enter the mainstream in the same way as peers like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. It reportedly struggled to raise new capital at a strong valuation, and in April ended up taking on $41 million in debt instead. But today, the company has announced a new round of venture financing, $35 million, a sign that investors are once again feeling positive about Foursquare's prospects.
Investors have renewed faith in Forsquare
Foursquare has changed its focus significantly over the last few years. It has largely abandoned the early, "gamified" approach of prompting users to check in so they can earn badges and beat out their friends to win the title of mayor. These features still exist, but today's Foursquare is more about exploration and discovery, trying to help people find new places where they might like to eat or shop nearby. It recently rolled out a new set of real-time push notifications with vastly improved GPS awareness based on some smart integration between their mapping and data science departments.
It's not clear exactly where Foursquare goes from here. The company announced today that its community is 45 million strong, but that's the number of total downloads, not active users. This means its user base is still far smaller than companies like Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr, all of which are competing for the same digital ad dollars. The advantage Foursquare has is a robust set of geo-specific data based on the more than 40 million tips and 5 billion check-ins left by its users. It has been building out its ad sales to local businesses and integrating details like menus into its location profiles.
40 million tips, 5 billion check-ins
As shown by the recent acquisition of Waze for $1 billion by Google and the Apple maps fiasco, robust location data is a very valuable part of any big tech company's arsenal. Rumors surfaced in August that Microsoft was considering a "strategic investment" in Foursquare. For now, the company has some fresh ammunition to continue building its location graph as an independent business.