Foursquare Is No Fad, Argues Founder Dennis Crowley; Xconomy’s Podcast and Q&A
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distribution with bigger brands. Many of those brands like to create content and scatter it through the world for users to discover [when they check in at a location]. I think the brands like it, because normally you turn the TV off and you don’t think about the brand anymore.
Something that we’ve been wanting to do for, like, 10 years—and this is the story that we sold Dodgeball to Google on—is building a channel that allows local merchants to connect with the customers. You have people who are passionate about being the mayor of their coffee shop, and over time, when they check in, it’s like a mini-advertisement. We are able to give local merchants some statistics on who their best customers are. They can then go and create coupons that reward people for checking in five or 10 times or for bringing in three new friends. Users are participating because they like checking in, but then the venues are recognizing them for checking in and giving them some benefit in return. They want more people broadcasting that they like a certain place.
X: Check-ins are hot right now, but how long can that continue? You’re probably familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle for new technologies, where the “peak of inflated expectations” is followed by the “trough of disillusionment.” Assuming that you agree that there’s some truth to that pattern, where would you place location-based social networking along that curve? Has it reached the peak, or is it safely past it?
DC: I actually don’t think location-based social networking is a fad or hype. There is genuine utility, just like with city guides. In a sense, what we are trying to do is make better versions of CitySearch and Yelp and some of these other products that guide you to something that should be experienced. In terms of Foursquare’s growth in particular, if you had asked me in October, I would have said I didn’t think we were going to get any bigger than we were then, but we are continually getting bigger. We’ve been on Bravo and MTV. I don’t know when the cycle dies down. It’s not like 20 percent growth per month, it’s more like 50 or 60 percent per month, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
X: If Foursquare is doing so well now, why do you think Dodgeball failed to take off inside Google?
DC: It was a perfect storm of bad timing. When we joined, they were growing very quickly as a company, and we were very excited. But sometimes two people can get lost in a huge organization. What we realized afterward is that we still have this agenda for the things we want to accomplish. We want to continue down this Nike Plus road of encouraging people to do interesting things. It’s too early to let it go. We want to see the idea to the end.