With $35M more and some clever engineering, can Foursquare overcome its image problem?
Today, AllThingsD reported that Foursquare had raised a $35 million dollar funding round at a valuation a little above $600 million. That valuation may not be much higher than it was last time the company fundraised, but hey, $600 million is $600 million.
Yet despite robust user growth (from 33 million users to 45 million since April) and a string of big funding rounds ($76 million in the past 8 months), Foursquare is a company that's struggled recently to escape a negative narrative. Maybe it's because when it first launched the hype was so enormous that the only direction to go was down. Furthermore, while Foursquare regularly reveals how many users it has, it does not reveal how often they use the app. Many suspect this metric is not as impressive as Foursquare would like it to be.
But something's changed in the past few weeks: Foursquare overhauled its app so it's less about the check-in and more about passive recommendations that follow you where you go. Now, the narrative is starting to sway in Foursquare's favor, with Wired writing breathless headlines like "The Brilliant Hack That Brought Foursquare Back From the Dead." The crazy thing is that the headline might not be an overstatement.
It echoes something Fred Wilson told us at our last PandoMonthly, that Foursquare feels the way Twitter did in its early days.
“Back in 2008 and 2009, we realized at Twitter that 10% of Twitter’s users wanted to tweet,” Wilson said. Then Twitter reconfigured its service — and its public identity — to be more about consumption than creation. That's when it really took off.
Like Twitter, Foursquare has begun to focus more on passive consumption than active sharing. Users no longer have to check-in and share their location with friends to get tips about nearby restaurants. They just come to users automatically.
The last part of the equation is making the world aware that the app is no longer just about check-ins. If Foursquare can pull that off, then maybe Crowley can finally achieve his lofty vision for the company, as told to Wired's Ryan Tate:
“There’s going to be 100 million people that carry software in their pocket, [and] everywhere you go it’s going to tell you about stuff that you normally wouldn’t have known. I think that stuff is going to be built by Foursquare.”
Whether you buy that premise or not, Crowley has continually risked a bigger payday on the belief that something needs to exist, and he wants to be the guy who builds it.
Watch Crowley explain his unwavering belief in Foursquare in a video from our PandoMonthly series: