Foursquare — the startup likely best known for popularising the “check-in” for users to share their locations with their social networks — has more recently been trying to make a name for itself as a location-based big data machine.
To grow its business, it partners with large tech companies like Twitter and Microsoft to gather data, and with advertisers like American Express to leverage what it knows about you to commercial ends. Today the company is sharpening its B2B pitch even further, with the Foursquare Location Cloud and Places by Foursquare.
As Dennis Crowley, CEO and co-founder of the company describes it, the Location Cloud will be the company’s big repository for all of its location data and geotechnology, used not just by its own two flagship apps, Swarm and Foursquare, but by other companies, such as Twitter, Pinterest and potentially others in the future. It also incorporates the new Pinpoint product for ad targeting, launched in April.
Foursquare today has a massive role to play with developers, with more than 80,000 using its location APIs. Today onstage at Disrupt NY, Crowley defended why it’s taken the company so long to commercialise a lot of the technology that it has in its repository.
“When we started in 2009, I really thought that stuff would work in 2011 and 2012 but the phones weren’t good enough. If we want to do that we have to build all this technology; we can’t just rely on what Google and Apple will give us from APIs and SDKs,” he says. “So in 2011 we got serious about it, building shapes and detection algorithms. It’s taken a really long time to build this stuff and so it’s only now that we’re able to offer [for example] push recommendation services.”
Places by Foursquare, meanwhile, is the company’s repository of Places, a database of about 65 million points of interest that the company says can be used as an end-to-end location solution. This is the database that is built out not just through the network of developers who use Foursquare’s API — which includes companies like Citymaps, Microsoft and Garmin — but also through Foursquare’s own apps.
Today, Crowley also touched on possible future scenarios, such as acquisitions (although he didn’t directly address the story we ran last month about a possible acquisition of Foursquare by Yahoo.
“It’s not like, ‘Hey if you get it, you take it,'” he said, explaining that the aim is not an acquisition but to build its business and continue to grow to hundreds of millions of users. “If we team up with another company would we get there, would it help?” Possibly, seemed to be the answer.
In the meantime, the company continues to build its own commercial business with more ad tech products for itself, and tools for others to use, and by plugging away at its free consumer apps. One of those, Swarm, got a big update yesterday that ironically brought back some of the legacy features like mayorships that might have looked stale on first glance, but made it famous in the first place and upset many loyal users when they disappeared.