After Years of Challenges, Foursquare Has Found its Purpose — and Profits

In the spring of 2016, Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck went on CNBC to make a bold prediction: Chipotle comparable sales would fall by 29 percent in its first quarter. The network’s anchor seemed skeptical. The fast-food chain was reacting to some health scares at the time, but no one was predicting nearly as steep a drop in revenue. “What is the technology here? What have you got that enables you to do this?” the anchor asked.

.. Foursquare had reinvented itself as a location intelligence company for business

.. Glueck had been making the rounds for less than a year, seeding the market with all kinds of predictions based on his company’s data — how many new iPhones Apple would sell, or how well McDonald’s all-day breakfast launch was going. The Chipotle forecast was the boldest yet, and it held true.

.. The startup had accumulated mountains of data about where people shopped and traveled but hadn’t figured out how to monetize it. Today, that puzzle seems to have been solved: Foursquare is on the path to $100 million in revenue

.. The reward for sharing? Stickers. Badges. Friendly competition to become the mayor of a favorite bar. And, critically, being part of a community of people sharing recommendations on the best of everything around them.

.. “He initially thought this company would build a local Yellow Pages-type business,”

  1. .. Asset number one: The more than 11 billion check-ins tracking people in real life since 2009.
  2. Asset number two: The four million monthly updates to its Places database — changes in address, phone number, a Japanese restaurant that was now a spaghetti joint.
  3. And then there was the sleeper, asset number three: 100,000 developers tapping into the Foursquare API — its location technology — for free

Enormous companies like Yahoo and Pinterest were using it a billion times a year; for example, when you pin a photo in Pinterest and tag its location, that’s using Foursquare’s data. But Foursquare had never asked these companies to pay.

.. The company needed to think of itself as a location data company. Based on GPS and other location signals, Foursquare could tell what business a user was visiting — something no other company could do as reliably.

.. It asked those big companies to start paying for its API;

.. the developers on the other end of the line basically laughed and said, “Yeah, we were wondering when you were going to start charging.”

.. the flywheel concept, a visual metaphor for business. When first pushed, a flywheel moves slowly and with great effort. With every successive revolution, the pace quickens. To the outsider, it appears the momentum is sudden, but, in fact, it’s the product of a steady grind.

.. investors told him it would take eight to 10 years to make the business work.

.. Ninety-two percent of commerce takes place in real life, not online. That means Google can tell you about only 8 percent of what everyone is doing with their spending habits.

.. Foursquare has signed deals with Snapchat to improve its geo-filtering. More than one million users have agreed to leave location sharing on all the time so Foursquare can track and analyze their movements; through a partnership with Nielsen, that data is then being connected to consumers’ purchasing data, so that marketers can understand how ads people see directly relate to purchases they make.

.. “Three of the top five hedge funds are using Foursquare data to give them an investing edge.”

.. it’s a location intelligence company — something that should be measured the same way as a services-as-a-software or programmatic advertising firm