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Facebook? Google? Groupon? Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley isn't worried

December 7, 2010 |  3:37 pm

Dennis Crowley is betting that the second time is the charm.

Crowley sold his first start-up, Dodgeball, to Google, which ultimately shut it down. Crowley chalked that up to bad timing of the acquisition, which came on the heels of Google's 2004 initial public offering.

Now he's giving his new location-based social networking service, New York-based Foursquare, a spin. And he’s determined to make it work even in the face of rising competition.

That's what Crowley told Kara Swisher at All Things D's Dive into Mobile conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Crowley "We're much smarter about things now," he said.

And that includes staying independent. Crowley acknowledged that Foursquare had conversations with Facebook and Yahoo, but ultimately decided it was best to go it alone.

Foursquare raised $20 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation of about $100 million, plenty to fuel its momentum through the end of next year, he said. His company is not yet profitable but it is generating revenue. Crowley said his main focus is hiring talented engineers and growing the number of users as quickly as he can. It recently surpassed 5 million users.

"The point is not to become profitable now, but to grow," he said.

Foursquare is a service that lets users tell friends where they are by "checking into" a location on their mobile phones. In the process, they can earn recognition and incentives, such as badges, points or the title of mayor of a location if they check in frequently enough. Crowley envisions a business that boosts local merchants.

Crowley said he's not worried about the launch of Facebook Places, a similar location-based service, or Facebook Deals, which offers coupons or specials to users at nearby businesses. "Check-in isn't interesting," he said. "What's interesting is what happens after you check in."

He's also not worried about Groupon, which just turned down a $6-billion bid from Google. Crowley said Groupon and companies like it are more partners, than competitors, who could benefit from Foursquare's stats on how many times someone has been to a given location or the number of friends that person has checked in with.

Where will Foursquare be in five years? Will there be an IPO? An acquisition? Crowley's not too sure. But he's confident Foursquare will grow.

"I have a solid idea of what the product will look like after two years. No idea if we’ll be sold or independent in five years," he said. "The most frustrating experience for me was having a lot of things we wanted to build with Dodgeball and not being able to do them. Now we’re actually getting them done."

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-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Foursquare Chief Executive Dennis Crowley. Credit: Asa Mathat / All Things Digital

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