Siobhan Quinn Says “Technology is the Underdog” in New York; A Check-In with Foursquare’s First Product Manager

4/11/11Follow @wroush

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a new Specials program which can almost be seen as an entirely new product. It helps merchants attract new customers and also rewards loyalty. That kind of initiative, when we launch it, is treated like a new product.

X: Okay, Question Two. Before you joined Foursquare, you were a product manager at Google for the Blogger blogging platform. How does working at Foursquare compare to working at Google?

SB: The really awesome thing about Foursquare is—I was at Google for seven years, starting in 2003—the same energy and excitement that we had there is definitely here. The one thing in common at both companies, and it’s more important than being incentivized by stock options, is knowing that you are working with world-class people, and that you will all benefit from each other’s knowledge and ideas. Google got a lot of things right, and we borrowed a lot of those best practices at Foursquare. The most important of those is an open, collaborative atmosphere. Sometimes the best ideas come from engineers, or the business team. So, like Google, we have an open meeting policy where anyone can walk into any meeting. The idea is that everyone has an idea that they can contribute and there are no barriers to communication.

One of the biggest differences overall is that here, we launch things very much faster. At the time I left Google, you had to go through a lot of refinement to launch anything. But it is Google after all, and it’s going to reach a lot of people. Here, we launch things every day, which is cool, because you can come to work and leave at the end of the day with something in the hands of users. We all trust each other’s capabilities and judgment, which, at our size, is something people can uniquely do. Obviously, because we’re small, every single individual here has an interest in the growth of the company. It’s really exciting to see metrics growing because of code you wrote. At a large company, you don’t always see your impact.

With regard to Blogger, it’s interesting because I probably wouldn’t have ended up at Foursquare if I hadn’t worked on Blogger. I used to be an engineer, and when I moved to the product team, the only product I wanted to work on was Blogger. Others would have gone into search or ads, but I felt like Blogger has so much potential. It’s still the largest blogging platform worldwide. It’s not Google’s most touted product, but that reach, that open communication, that free expression on the Web is really meaningful. I saw a lot of untapped potential and impact. That’s why I went to Blogger, and I learned a lot about how people want to engage with others, and how important the feedback loop and a simple concept like comments can be. No one likes to talk to an empty room. So one of my first projects at Foursquare was to launch comments on check-ins.

X: Question Three is related. At Google you worked from the Googleplex in Mountain View. How does the New York technology scene compare to Silicon Valley, from your point of view?

SB: There are actually a lot of differences. It’s surprising how awesome it’s been to be part of the New York startup scene. The first thing I noticed was that the tech startup scene here is really strong, but it’s also very intimate. We have a few of the bigger players, but not as many as in Silicon Valley. And the cool thing is that you are never very many degrees of separation away from those bigger players. I know that I’m probably only one degree of separation away from anyone here that I would want to meet. The first week I got here, I got to know many people immediately. There is something nice about … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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