Before all the buzz and acquisition offers, Foursquare was just an idea in Dennis Crowley’s head. He recently sat down with Chris Dixon to tape an episode of Founder Stories. Above is Part I of that interview (we will post the rest throughout the week), in which Crowley talks about the origins of Foursquare and its predecessor, Dodgeball.
The company incorporated just so that it could get into iTunes. And when he raised his first $1.35 million angel round in 2009, Foursquare didn’t even have a bank account. He remembers (at the very end of this clip, around 6 minutes in) having to run to a Chase branch office in Manhattan, and telling the bank officer, “We need to set up a business account and we are going to wire in, like, a million dollars. Is that okay?”
Almost a decade before that, Crowley was bored at work at Jupiter Research when he first came up with the idea for a mobile social network, and then during the dotcom crash, he says, Dodgeball started as a way to “find out where all of our laid off friends are hanging out during the day.” However, it was pretty primitive, relied on WAP mobile browsers, and perhaps was too early. “It was really pretty lousy,” admits Crowley. Then he went to NYU’s ITP program kept developing the idea with Alex Rainert. Before they could raise money, Google bought Dodgeball in 2005 and then went on to essentially mothball the service. After Crowley left Google, he worked at mobile gaming startup area/code. Then in 2009, he teamed up with Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai to resurrect and rethink the mobile location service.
Dixon also asks Crowley why Google was not able to capitalize on social, despite employing, at one point or another, people like Twitter founder Ev Williams, Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, and himself. Social was just never a priority for Google, says Crowley.