Foursquare’s First Designer, Mari Sheibley, Decides To Check Out After Four Years

In a piece entitled “Farewell Foursquare“, its first designer, Mari Sheibley, has let everyone know that she has decided to leave the company.

In any business, it’s just “time” to leave for early employees, it’s not just at startups and tech companies. This kind of thing happens everywhere, and usually, the best people go on to do more amazingly great things.

In Mari’s case, she is first going to take some time off and travel. “I have some projects I’ll be working on but nothing I want to talk about publicly at this time,” she wrote TechCrunch in an email.

To conspiracy theorists it might seem like more than just coincidence that Mari is leaving now.

It was only earlier this week that we wrote about Sunrise, a new calendaring app created by two other ex-Foursquare designers who also recently left. On top of that, there has been much written about how Foursquare, which has raised $71.4 million and according to the WSJ is reportedly seeking another $50 million more, has been having trouble convincing investors that it’s worth the valuations that have been placed on it, at up to $760 million. The company has been transforming from location-based, check-in-gamification app into a wider listings-based service, and that, too, may have had its teething pains.

None of this, apparently, was in play here. “I’ve worked on the same product for a very long time now. I still believe in Foursquare and our vision, I’m just ready for a change,” she wrote. “Foursquare is in good hands.”

In her blog post, Sheibley explains how she first heard from its founder and CEO, Dennis Crowley:

“In early December, 2008 I got an email from Dennis Crowley asking if I wanted to help him and his buddy Naveen out on a new “project”.

“I said yes.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Foursquare is noted as one of the most beautifully designed, and visually appealing applications, available on mobile devices. That’s not just me saying that, read the reviews on the App Store or Google Play. The insight that Sheibley unearths in her piece is enlightening, and shows exactly where the company might be going, by telling us where it came from:

“That “project” was called Foursquare. It was about recording where you’ve been, sharing with friends and discovering new places. For someone like me who used to record all the bars I had been to in a word doc, it was perfect. I could tell there was something special about Foursquare from the very beginning. The energy and excitement that Dennis and Naveen exuded was infectious and the product was addictive. It didn’t matter that they couldn’t pay me, I just wanted to be a part of something I believed in.”

From starting out at a coffee shop, to growing to over 150 employees over “three offices on two continents”, things sure have changed. Sheibley describes how much a part of her and her work are within the Foursquare that we use today, including all of those neat badges we collect:

“I’ve drawn hundreds of badges and icons, designed UI for web, Android and, most notably, iOS. I’ve watched the product evolve from a simple check-in service to a robust recommendation engine. I’ve designed t-shirts, hand cut fake tattoos, co-founded Tie Tuesday, and oversaw the design side of a massive company-wide app redesign. It’s been a wild ride, but like all good things, it must come to an end.”

In the same way that Twitter’s first designer was thankful to one of its founders, Ev Williams, it’s clear that Sheibley leaves with fond memories. What will she work on? She hasn’t said:

“I’m ready to tackle new problems and help other entrepreneurs bring their vision to life, just as I did with Dens and Naveen all those years ago.”

It will be interesting to see what’s next. We can guess that it will be beautiful. Foursquare is set up for the foreseeable future, as it’s clear that Sheibley’s design principles are deeply ingrained in its company culture.

Thanks for the tip, Danielbru.

[Photo credits:, and this.]