Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley has announced that he is stepping back from his full-time role at the company. During the first seven years of the company, he was the startup’s Chief Executive Officer. In 2016, Crowley moved to an executive chairman position. He’s also been running the Foursquare Labs R&D group since then.
Going forward, Crowley won’t be working full-time at the company. He’ll remain on the board of directors as co-chair with Factual founder Gil Elbaz.
In 2009, Foursquare was better known for its location-based social network. People would check in to locations to share what they’ve been up to with their friends. Users would earn badges and mayorships.
Over the years, the most active users had amassed thousands of checkins. Foursquare became a great app to keep track of places you like. You could also use it to discover your friends’ favorite places.
That’s why the company decided to split its main app into two separate apps — the Foursquare City Guide and Swarm. At the same time, the company started working on developer APIs and SDKs so that other companies could take advantage of Foursquare’s location data.
That business in particular has been quite lucrative. With the company’s Pilgrim SDK, developers can build location-aware apps. For instance, an advertiser can send a personalized notification based on where you are. Foursquare tries to be as accurate as possible and can sometimes even figure out when you enter or exit a venue.
That SDK enables many different possibilities. It’s easy to track the impact of an advertising campaign on online sales, but what about offline interest?
Foursquare’s SDK can help advertisers and brands see whether an advertising campaign has an impact on foot traffic. Of course, you can also combine that data with other customer data.
The company has become an important advertising and marketing platform focused on location. Overall, the company has generated more than $100 million in revenue in 2020. And it plans to grow in 2021 and beat that number.
Crowley mentions two reasons why he’s leaving now. According to him, the company is doing well, and he’s been working on the same thing for 12 years already.
“Foursquare hasn’t just found its way … it leads the way. I used to say that my goal was to make the name ‘Foursquare’ synonymous with ‘innovation in contextual aware computing’ … And, here in 2021, we’ve built the tools and frameworks that can make that so,” Crowley writes in a blog post.
“Also, 12 years is a lot of time. I have lots of things I still want to build — many of which don’t fit neatly into the Foursquare of 2021 (and, hey fellow founder, it’s fine to feel this way!),” he adds. He's also going to spend some well-deserved time with his family.
Crowley has been an iconic startup founder during the Web 2.0 era. He managed to attract tens of millions of users. It’s clear that he’s been a great product CEO during the early years of the company. And now, the company is also generating revenue. So it’s going to be interesting to see what he builds next.