Dennis Crowley

Dennis Crowley

Co-founder & CEO of Foursquare

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 09, 2015

Discussion

Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
Hey hey, I’m Dennis Crowley the co-founder and CEO of Foursquare. I’ve been working on “building things that make cities easier to use” since I was in grad school at NYU. My grad school thesis turned into my first company, Dodgeball, which we sold to Google in 2005. For the past six years, we've been building Foursquare and Swarm, which are now used by more than 50M people around the world every month! Most of you probably know us for our two apps. The Foursquare app can help you find great places literally anywhere in the world and Swarm turns every day into a game as you check-in to earn coins, stickers and mayorships. The company is also hard at work behind the scenes tackling technical challenges. We've built a contextual awareness engine that allows us send all those smart pings to your phone and smartwatch and ad targeting technology (Pinpoint) that helps brands connect w/ people based on places they go. I also enjoy such things as snowboards, soccer, fixing broken dirt bikes, shooting arrows and throwing axes. Ask me anything!
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Welcome, Dennis! What's the backstory behind your hat? 😊
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@rrhoover Ha, Doug Fir is a music venue in Portland. I met one of the founders (Jeff Kovel!) on a ski trip this year and he gave me this hat. Kind of awesome, right? (I got the same sticker on my laptop) Doug Fir Lounge 830 E Burnside St (at SE 9th Ave) Portland, OR https://foursquare.com/v/doug-fi...
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@dens I noticed the sticker! It feels very Oregonian (my hometown!).
Tomas Ruta
Tomas Ruta@tomasruta · 2x funded founder, 3x CMO VC-funded co's
@dens Do you have any "Requests for Startups" - ie things that you would like someone else built (or problems someone else solved)?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@tomasruta Ha, I have a list in my Evernote of "things I wish people would build off the 4SQ API" .... we're starting to get around to just building these on our own (Foursquare hack projects -- stay tuned). As for non-Foursquare, I hate the existing TV structure and I really like the *platform* that Apple rolled out today w/ AppleTV + apps. Excited to see where that goes.
Tomas Ruta
Tomas Ruta@tomasruta · 2x funded founder, 3x CMO VC-funded co's
@dens If you/Foursquare had a 1bn USD budget for acquisitions, who would you buy?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@tomasruta Nabisco.
Jack Dweck
Jack Dweck@jackdweck · Product Manager at Unroll.Me
Hey Dennis! I've been using Foursquare since the early days and swear by it in NYC. Props for bringing back gamification to Swarm! What's one big lesson you learned from splitting Foursquare in two, and what would you do differently if you could do it all over again?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@jackdweck Hey Jack! Thanks for asking the first question! #1 thing we learned from the process of splitting the apps was the importance of communicating (and overcommunicating. and overcommunicating some more) to the fans and users of the product. I think we did a "just okay" version of this, instead of doing an A++++ job of it. I think we left some people confused early on and it took us a full 6 months or so to *really* explain the story to folks. In short, we underestimated how much work it would be to really tell the story of why we decided to split the apps.
@dens Honest question: Do you think Swarm+4sq was "just ok" initially and it's great now? I really understood the gamification being reduced to your friends only, as in most places it's impossible to be mayor of most venues due to cheating. And just the week after the leaderboard came back, I began to see again people doing tons of useless check-ins just to earn points (e.g: Checking in to country + city + venue instead of only venue)
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@felipecn I think the first version of Swarm that we launched was "just okay" --- we tried to make it more utility (e.g. the "where is everyone?" app) and we misread how many people just LOVE LOVE LOVED the game. But we heard you... and we made it a huge priority to not just bring the fun back, but to do it in a way that made it 10x better. I love what the team has come up with and I am VERY PROUD of the product and team behind it.
Teresa Hammerl
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
Hi Dennis, I always loved being a Foursquare Superuser. Can you maybe explain a little bit what it means to you and Foursquare and are there any future plans for it?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@colazionearoma The Superuser Community is one of the most important parts of the Foursquare story + ecosystem. There are more than 40,000 of you around the world (!!) and you're a big reason our data is so fresh & accurate. We always listen to the community and continue to build new tools (and toys) for the Superusers to play with. If you have ideas for things you'd like to see, I'd love to hear them!
Connor Lee
Connor Lee@connorrlee · Founder at Hosty.club
Dennis! What are your thoughts on the on-demand ride-sharing economy, and how does that impact your mission at Foursquare and Swarm? -Connor
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@connorrlee Have you seen the integration we did w/ Uber (via Button): http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/01... Foursquare is great at knowing where you should go. Uber is great at getting you there. Button helped us launch this today (vs. 12 months from now). I'm a big fan of lots of companies working together to make little experiences better / easier / more frictionless (is that even a word?)
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi Dennis - thanks for joining! How do you think about teamwork? What are some of the attributes of company culture that you think are most important when building teams?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@corleyh Great question -- I think the most important things are (a) setting a clear leader for a team (no co-leaders), (b) giving them clear goals ("hey you gotta ship this thing by X date" or "you gotta raise MAUs by 10% by X date") and then (and most importantly?) (c) trusting them to just go out and get it done (aka: get our of their way / stay out of their business). The more we stick to these rules (and we don't always do it...) the better results we have.
Hadi Rashid
Hadi Rashid@hadiudoit · Marketing Manager
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Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@hadiudoit Agreed!
Steven W
Steven W@mrwongsteven · Nice guys finish lunch.
@dens Did you pitch Dodgeball to Google or did they find you? Do you currently self fund your projects or still look for VC/Angels?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@mrwongsteven A little bit of both. I was at Google visiting a friend for lunch in 2004. Rumor got out that "one of the Dodgeball guys was in the office". And so I "pitched" like 4x that day to all different people... and then eventually it was like "you should just come here and work on this thing"
Zack Shapiro
Zack Shapiro@zackshapiro · Director of Engineering at BUMP (YC W18)
Hey Dennis, Any tips for managing your psychology as a founder?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@zackshapiro You ever read this Ben Horowitz post? It's at the top of my bookmarks list and I read it like 1x/quarter: http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/31... You have to make time for yourself and your life outside of work (e.g. my wife @chelsa and I try to get out of the city every weekend). It's one of the only things thats kept me sane during this crazy ride.
Zack Shapiro
Zack Shapiro@zackshapiro · Director of Engineering at BUMP (YC W18)
@dens Thanks Dennis!
@jason_
@jason_@jason_ · Living life in ludicrous-mode
@dens where do you see @swarmapp in ten years?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@jason_ On Mars!
Sameer Noorani
Sameer Noorani@sameernoorani · CEO, Roomvine
@dens Apart from gamification what do you think brought your first 100k loyal users? How did you make checking in useful or exciting for them?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@sameernoorani It wasn't just making a product they liked... it was making a community that people wanted to be a part of (figuring out badges, competing for mayors being a super user, being an early adopter, leaving tips everywhere!). That was a big eye opener for us... it's not just the product / the screens... its the community behind it that really makes it work
Andi Muskaj
Andi Muskaj@andimuskaj · Co founder @ Linute
@dens Hey Dennis! Really love Foursquare and the gamification of Swarm has made me very excited to use it. Nice work! I'm curious to know if the rate of checkins has increased year over year in the past three years.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@andimuskaj Checkins have been consistent (tho they've been WAY UP last few weeks -- since leaderboard/coins, etc -- which I guess isn't too surprising). The real story is (how much more signal* we're getting about places now (in the 2 app world) -- e.g. checkins, likes, ratings, tips, photos, etc etc... the crazy amount of data is what enables us to do so much interesting stuff with contextual awareness / predictive location tech.
megan quinn
megan quinn@msquinn · General Partner at Spark Capital
Dennis! What's the future of 4SQ lists and will it ever get easier to add places to specific lists, share lists, etc?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@msquinn Wassup Quinny! And yes, lists will get better :) In fact we're working on this right now... in fact I am working on this right now in another side window. Hold on.... :) (seriously tho, every build has subtle tweaks to list UX)
Olly S
Olly S@saltedlolly · Marketer
@msquinn You can save to specific lists already (at least on iOS, can't speak for Android). Long-press on the 'Save' button rather than simply tapping it.
Craig Elimeliah
Craig Elimeliah@craigelimeliah · Managing Director, Creative Technology
@dens What is Foursquare/Swarm's beacon strategy?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@craigelimeliah Eh, we're in the "wait in see" mode right now --- to give beacons to every pizza place (and get them configured, and in the right spots, and change the battery every year, etc etc) in the US in a real challenge. For now, we're really focused on trying to make contextual / presence aware systems that work WITHOUT beacons. You can see this already in 4SQ -- because of the, say, 10k people who have already checked in at that pizza place, we have a pretty good idea of the GPS / WiFi / etc fingerprint of the space... and we can use that fingerprint to figure out when you walk in / out of places in you have 4SQ on your phone. We're basically doing what people are TRYING to do w/ beacons, but we can do it without hardware :)
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@craigelimeliah BTW -- if you're interested in how this works behind the scenes, read Andrew Hogue's (SVP, Eng @ Foursquare) Quora post on it: http://www.quora.com/How-does-Fo...
Gregory Koberger
Gregory Koberger@gkoberger · Founder, ReadMe.io 📘🦉
Hey Dennis! I'm such a huge fan of FourSquare; both check ins and now restaurant discovery. Dodgeball was a few years too early from a tech standpoint. When the iPhone came out, though, it showed you predicted both a market and tech that didn't exist when you launched Dodgeball. Any mobile trends you see coming in the future that are currently limiting Foursquare/Swarm from a product standpoint?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@gkoberger The big "magic trick" we can do at Foursquare right now is understand how phones move in and out of physical spaces -- e.g. are you moving or stopped? if stopped, are you at a place, on the sidewalk, in traffic? and if you're in a place, is it an interesting place (vs, say, a dry cleaners?) and if it's interesting, what can Foursquare tell you about that place... and is that thing interesting enough for us to warrant us buzzing you phone (or wrist) to tell you about it? This stuff is VERY HARD to do... so hard that there are basically no other companies doing it right now. Will we be the only company that EVER figures it out? Probably not... but for now (and for the foreseeable future), we see it as our job to invent this version of the future that we want to see (and to work with other companies to take our vision for the future and to help sprinkle it throughout other companies' products too)
Nikita Korotaev
Nikita Korotaev@nikitakorotaev · Incubating products @ Glocal Partners
Hi Dens, Thanks for bringing leaderboard & mayorships back. I was one of the superusers who was pissed off after the split, and hardy ever checked in on Swarm until the last update. Now I'm hocked again. Give us a hint of what is next for Swarm?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@nikitakorotaev MOAR FUN. :)
Graham Macphee
Graham Macphee@gmph · Product Designer, Facebook
Hey @dens! Today I saw an awesome project from a Foursquare designer (Input by @lankybutmacho). I'd really like to know your thoughts on side projects within the company and how you encourage and help the team with them.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@gmph Hmm.. lemme ask him. @lankybutmacho is a rockstar. No surprised he's cooking up something awesome. :)
Hadi Rashid
Hadi Rashid@hadiudoit · Marketing Manager
@dens Have you thought about using Augmented reality as a feature for Foursquare similar to how StarWalk 2 does? So i could walk down the street with my camera pointed forward, being able to see all the places, their reviews, which friends have been there etc live on my screen?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@hadiudoit Eh, interesting feature... but people just don't walk around the real world holding their phones like that. I love the idea of it, but I don't people in 2015 are doing that yet (maybe when Google Glass version 5.0 comes out??)
twoMouthed
twoMouthed@twomouthed
hey Dennis, what are some big features you're excited about? anything new in the works?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@twomouthed YES. I am working on a few new 4SQ projects now that I am really really into. Can't share here (sorry!) but you'll know em when you see em.
Sebastian Gonzalez
Sebastian Gonzalez@sebagon · Entrepreneur, VP Sales at WyeWorks
Hey @dens. Have you ever tried an automatic check-in feature?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@sebagon Yes, people hated it :) Its one of those things everyone asks for, so we built it and tested it (back in like 2011) and it was awful. So instead we focused on making it as easy and quick to checkin as possible.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
(1) What's something you'd really like to do, but still haven't done yet? (2) What's something you said you'd never do, but then did—and why?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@melissajoykong Been thinking about this one since the beginning of the AMA (and it's been driving me crazy that I didn't have a good answer... so making this my last question for this AMA) 1. To be honest, I don't have a crazy bucket list of stuff -- I've been pretty blessed with being able to travel a bunch and having a super interesting job/career and super supportive friends and family. I almost feel guilty for not having something super awesome here, but I'm going to say cross country road trip w/ my wife Chelsa, because I've always wanted to do that. 2. In 2001 I got laid off from my awesome dot-com job and it was a huge humbling / ego smashing setback for me personally. And then 9/11 happened and there were no jobs in NYC and we got evicted from our apt, and I eventually moved out of the city and was became a snowboard instructor for the winter. That is literally the last thing I ever expected I'd do, but it was also one of the most awesome / most fun experiences I've ever had. I always think of how supportive my parents were during that really upside-down part of my life and I'm super thankful for that.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
@dens Thanks for your thoughtful response, Dennis. Love the story about being a snowboard instructor. Amazing how deeply tragic events like 9/11 can catapult people into some of their most awesome/meaningful/important experiences.
Youcef Es-skouri
Youcef Es-skouri@technologix
@dens What's the % of your users who use only Swarm? Same q for Foursquare!
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@technologix It's roughly 40/40/20 (with the 20% being those who ping/pong back and forth between the two). When we look at this, we feel it *really* justifies our strategy to split the one app into two.
Taylor Crane
Taylor Crane@taykcrane · Product @ Hello Alfred
Hey Dennis, In NYC, Foursquare is king. Elsewhere, it's not. When I travel to SF, I'm reminded of how little the rest of the world uses Foursquare/Swarm. What's your plan to change this? The product is objectively better than anything else, but the data and users just aren't quite there outside of NYC. And I'm rooting so damn hard for you guys to change this!
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@taykcrane The US is tough because of all the competition (e.g people been using Yelp here forever and have no idea that a better alternative exists). 4SQ is HUGE outside of the US (because Google Maps is pretty lousy in some countries and Yelp is non-existent). For now the strategy is just keep doing what we're doing, sprinkle some ads around in the US, and let the users tell each other about the great things we're building. The best ad strategy is positive word of mouth from friends, IMHO
Sarthak Grover
Sarthak Grover@sarthakgrover · Consumer Tech 
Hi @dens! Long time Foursquare/Swarmapp "Check-in" user . I love the gamification/history but find it a hard sell explaining to others why do I check-in at places. "So you become a Mayor...okay....now what? You get coins. Ok....cool, so....virtual coins and sometimes free chips+salsa for the Mayor somewhere? So.....". What would be your Swarm elevator-pitch?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@sarthakgrover Not every minute of every day is fun... but Swarm can turn little pockets of boringness (waiting in line for coffee, pumping gas, etc etc) into small little fun moments. The big drumbeat for this year has been "just make it fun"
Sarthak Grover
Sarthak Grover@sarthakgrover · Consumer Tech 
@dens Fun it is! Glad to hear about the continued fun-ification plan for Swarm, very few companies ever think about that. I love the "turning little pockets of boringness into little fun moments" description. Thanks!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Dennis! Q: When should an entrepreneur keep going on their project/startup or hang it up? What framework should they use to make their decision? As someone who's worked on a passion for so long and grown it to the business it is today, I'm curious what advice you can give fellow entrepreneurs here.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@eriktorenberg A few people have asked me this in the past... to be honest, you gotta figure this out on your own. Are you tired? Do you have the team that can do it? Is the space still open (or did Google beat you to it?) Its not really a cookie cutter answer. Check out this Ben H post which has some good wisdom in it: http://www.bhorowitz.com/should_...
Hank Couture
Hank Couture@hankcouture · Software Engineer
Hi Dennis, Curious what made you first decide to become an entrepreneur when you founded Dodgeball?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@hankcouture I gotta go faster here... so many questions! I never was like "I want to be a CEO when I grow up!" ... it was more "there's these things I want to exist in the world... they don't exist yet... I guess I'll go make them... oh crap, now people are using them... and now I guess we have a company... and now my job is continuing to grow this product / community / company". I think the best products & companies have grown from this idea of "I want this thing to exist... so I guess I'll be the one that goes out and makes it". Also worth noting -- my dad was an entrepreneur too (owned an electrical contracting company in Boston) and I worked for his companies in the summer. Having the understanding of "hey, I guess you can just be your own boss" (because I saw my dad doing it) was something I grew up with (and I guess made it seem more accessible)
Ekta
Ekta@dollz87 · Product, Wally
Hi Dennis - huge Foursquare fan. Not just as a user but the fact that 100s of apps wouldn't have been born without it! We know you love location and Foursquare will keep you busy for some time to come but if you had to choose another industry/vertical, what would you tackle today?
Ekta
Ekta@dollz87 · Product, Wally
@dens PS big fan of lists - especially planning before a trip. Hope that gets a big push in future updates!
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@dollz87 You'll like what we're working on. cc TimJ & Marissa @ 4SQ :)
Paul Tomkinson
Paul Tomkinson@paultomkinson · Founder, Textras
Hey Dennis, love the 'new' design of Foursquare. Such a well done job there. I wonder, what are your feelings on the role of beacon technology in the future of LBS, and are there any cities you see disproportionate Foursquare (or Geo specific SWARM) usage in?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@paultomkinson Lots of beacons here today! I like the idea of beacons, but it's still really early (try explaining to the guy at the bakery that his beacon needs to be closer to the register and also needs a new battery). For years, we've been working on tech that basically does what beacons are supposed to do.. but does it without hardware. This is why all of those checkins are valuable (7 billion of them!) -- they've give us a map of the world meant to be read by cellphone sensors... and we're finding this is a really easy way to "fake" beacon technology.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@paultomkinson BTW -- if you're interested in how this works behind the scenes, read Andrew Hogue's (SVP, Eng @ Foursquare) Quora post on it: http://www.quora.com/How-does-Fo...
Ty Martin
Ty Martin@tymrtn · Founder, Turf.ly
I haven't yet seen any ads so far on either Swarm or Foursquare. What kind of advertising experiences should we expect to see? I would imagine the contextual engine allows for some impressive targeting.
Ty Martin
Ty Martin@tymrtn · Founder, Turf.ly
Bonus question maybe? How did your appearances on Family Feud affect your career path to entrepreneurship?
Thê-Minh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Thê-Minh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯@the_minh · Product Guy
@tymrtn I've got ads, both on Swarm (list of recent check-ins, after a check-in) and Foursquare (in the search feeds). I'm in Paris.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@tymrtn Really? Advertisers have been digging our offerings in Foursquare ("you searched for Italian... how about this great pizza spot nearby?") and Swarm ("just checked into a Gym... here's a Nike ad!"). You should take a look at what we're doing w/ our Pinpoint product -- helping advertisers target people who are not 4SQ users. It's become a very big / interesting business for us (and advertisers love it): https://pinpoint.foursquare.com/
Tomas Ruta
Tomas Ruta@tomasruta · 2x funded founder, 3x CMO VC-funded co's
@dens What's your growth strategy for South East Asia? What are your biggest growth challenges in South East Asia? Curious since this is where I'm based, and would also love to be able to think about how I can possibly help.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@tomasruta Foursquare is really big in SE Asia right now... and we didn't ever really do anything to stoke the flames. To be honest, a lot of our international growth "just happened" and right now we're still working on figuring out how to make the US as big as possible for both 4SQ and Swarm. ps: Biggest markets for us outside US -- Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Turkey ... Latin America, SE Asia
Thê-Minh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Thê-Minh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯@the_minh · Product Guy
Hey Dennis, First of all, thanks for the great products that Foursquare and Swarm are. I use Swarm quite a lot, several times a day and relied on Foursquare heavily while abroad. You brought back gamification in Swarm and it looks like you're pushing the game aspects a lot: coins, leaderboard, description on the App Store, etc. However, I find that other aspects like: - personal history (I like to browse my venues from years ago to prepare my next trip) - discovery (new places where my friends checked in) stay way too much in the background. Do you think these aspects are less valuable for the product? Or maybe you're preparing something big? Cheers! Thê-Minh
neiljain83
neiljain83@neiljain83
@dens Swarm & Foursquare rule. The history element provides great insights. Was there anything in particular that motivated you to build out a contextual awareness engine?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@neiljain83 This is what we started the company to do... like in 2009. This sentence below is copy and pasted out of a pitch deck from YEARS ago. This is what we are building. "Someday, hundreds of millions of people will carry software in their pockets that knows when their friends are nearby and when places & experiences they’ll love are right around the corner. Foursquare will power these experiences."
Chad
Chad@chad_strategic
DUDE, I LOVE FOURSQUARE! i'M THE MAYOR OF LIKE 15 PLACES!!! Thanks for bring back the majorship's. I have been tracking myself for like the last 3 or 4 years!
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@chad_strategic Ha, I hear this all the time. And I never get sick of hearing it :)
Eugene Turner
Eugene Turner@sircrumpet · Tech, tea and adventures.
Hi Dennis, I've been a long time fan of Foursquare, and I've been loving Swarm since the split. I was hoping to cheat a little and ask two (semi-related) questions that have been on my mind for some time. :-) Back when you launched the new Foursquare, Sam Brown wrote a great post on Medium about the design process and included a few screenshots of Foursquares that could have been. This one: particularly caught my eye because of it's emphasis on places "within a 10 minute walk". I've always kind of wished Foursquare's explore suggestions were a little more focused on places within walking distance from me, especially when I'm in the city. Can you shed some light on why you moved away from this idea? The other thing I've been wondering about (especially since the spit) is Foursquare's use in highlighting new and recently opened places, in addition to the established hidden gems. There used to be a "Recently Opened" filter in the app, but it always returned no results for me, and it's since disappeared. Are there any plans to expand on this in Foursquare, and how do you work to identify great new places given the de-emphasised nature of checkins within the Foursquare app? Thanks heaps for all the good work - Foursquare has long been one of the most useful and fun apps on my phone, and I love what you're doing to expand the platform on iPad and the Watch.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@sircrumpet This... > There used to be a "Recently Opened" filter in the app, but it always returned no results for me, and it's since disappeared. ... is coming back in a big way. Our data here is SO SO SO GOOD.... but few people know we even have it. (Heads up: Sam + Kamen + Sarah!)
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@sircrumpet ps: Sam Brown is a rockstar. I remember this post well... such great work.
Brendan O'Neil
Brendan O'Neil@brendan_o · Professional emailer at Robin
Given how much you think about location based services - what companies or tools have you excited in the field of location, beacons etc?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@brendan_o Skipped this cause I answered some other beacon Qs above. Thx!
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
What has been the toughest lesson you've learned as co-founder and CEO of Foursquare?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@melissajoykong There is nothing easy about startups. There is nothing easy about being a CEO. There's nothing easy about managing people. It often seems glamorous on TV and movies... but its really hard. The biggest lesson has been "omg this is really hard, but we have to keep doing it, because if we don't, no one else will".
@dens Hi Dennis, I noticed a few weeks ago that members of your team were doing exploratory trips abroad (https://twitter.com/kvanscha/sta...). How're you thinking about your non-US audience? Anything you can share about your international plans? I'm based in Accra (capital of Ghana, West Africa) where there's a surprisingly active Foursquare/Swarm community, so I have to ask: would you happen to be planning anything for our part of the world?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@equartey Oh you should totally reach out to Karina on Twitter and ask about some of her findings. The super interesting part of building products is how no matter how you imagine people using them... people wilL ALWAYS find a use case you didn't imagine. And we see that happening all over the world. We're just starting to dive into some of these use cases to see if we want to officially "productize" them
Diliziology
Diliziology@diliziology
@dens Hi Dennis, I'm an SU3, I'd like to know if you are planning a way to keep your Super User community engaged in order to continuosly provide high quality edits (like no other platforms) in the long term. I know that Yelp, Google Local Guides, Facebook Places Editors and probably other communities have their own way to motivate and reward SU online and offline. Also in advertising (since you have now Pinpoint and other products), Google AdWords is doing interesting things with its Partners program to support agencies/freelancers, running contests and giving awards based on performance. How will the future look like for foursquare Super Users and do you see this role possibly "merged" with a rivisited Ambassador program? Thank you!
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@dens Hi Dennis, Thanks for doing the AMA! The story of the early days of Dodgeball and Foursquare often is told as hacked out products that get put in the hands of users and then iterated on until it worked out. In those early days, how did you figure out what people wanted? When you and Alex were pushing out new features for Dodgeball, what gave you the insight on what to build? What metrics were you focused on? What defined a successful new feature for you? Same goes for Foursquare. It seemed like it came out of nowhere at SXSW back in 09. Few ideas just pop out and work. What work or planning went into the SXSW launch to make sure that users would love Foursquare? Thanks, Sydney
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@sydney_liu_sl Hey Sydney! In those early days it was never "hmm.. I wonder what people will want" ... it was more "I want this thing, my friends want this thing, but no one else has built it yet... so I guess we'll go out and build it." I tell this to people just starting out all the time --- build the thing you want to use, and if you do a job, there's a good chance your friends (and their friends) will want to use it too.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@dens Oh one more thing... per this: >> What work or planning went into the SXSW launch to make sure that users would love Foursquare? .... we were scared that people were going to LAUGH at us at SXSW 2009. Literally, laugh at this ... "THIS is what you're been spending your post-Google days on? a checkin game???" .... we had no idea that people would love it as much as they did. That was a HUGE surprise and gave us a TON of confidence going back to NYC with the "well, this is now our job... let's do it" mindset.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@dens What's your favorite soccer team outside the US?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@nivo0o0 Dutch national team!
Cole Kennedy
Cole Kennedy@deleted-209412 · Content Strategist & Copywriter
What's your laptop stickering strategy? Always been impressed with your spread. That Electric Objects one is particularly sweet.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@cdohertyk Ha! Love Electric Objects! My strategy = If someone gives me a sticker and it looks cool, I stick it on. It only gets hard when I have to cover something else up :)
Nicholas Sheriff
Nicholas Sheriff@nicholassheriff · Founder, Medic Ventures
What's next for Foursquare in a passively engaged sensory driven world. Given the recent innovations around mobile computing where do you see the product offering playing a more active role within the core business? Offering up a consumer facing product for the next evolution or focusing more heavily on the business side around data and intelligence that can also help to power the next innovative startups in this next evolution.
remcvrOOm
remcvrOOm@remcovroom · CD at Mirabeau, columnist, speaker
Hi Dennis, Is there a place for Foursquare in the new Virtual Reality industry? I'm sure there is but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@remcovroom Too early to say, but I met some folks from a company called Penrose VR (http://www.penrosestudios.com/) who are doing storytelling thru VR and their work has BLOWN MY MIND.
Kelly Taylor
Kelly Taylor@ktinboulder · Product at U.S. Digital Service
@dens saw you intro the "WEB: A Human Right" movie in NYC a few months ago. I am blown away by apps that leverage the power of connected societies like Premise and others are doing to surface new datasets. Curious on your thoughts about Swarm globally and new data that will come from connection at scale like this.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@ktinboulder Ever use that app Dark Sky? The one that shows you in real time what the weather will be 1 hour from now? What if we could do that for crowds? For events? Predict where people will be, where people will want to be, etc etc. I think that's what datasets like the ones we have w/ 4SQ & Swarm can power.
Olly S
Olly S@saltedlolly · Marketer
@dens Have you looked into using the Dark Skyp API for improving Foursquare recommendations? If you know where I am, and that it is hot and sunny there right now, then show me all the great ice cream shops in the area, and restaurants with outdoor seating. Similarly if it's freezing, show me places with fireplaces. You get the idea. :)
Ryan Gilbert
Ryan Gilbert@ryangilbert · Making FAQ Pages easy @askfrequently
@dens Please predict when the gym won't be so packed... please.
Tyler Burgett
Tyler Burgett@tyburg · Software Engineer
@dens hello! Long time fan. Currently awaiting approval from Apple for an iPhone app that use the excellent Foursquare API. I do have a question about venues and categories. A local restaurant has two locations, but when the venues were created two different categories were used. As a consumer of your API, is there a way that I can contribute back to Foursquare and maybe help to clear up this mismatch? Thanks, Tyler
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@tyburg Yes, you can become a Superuser (which grants you editing rights!) https://foursquare.com/edit/join
Tyler Burgett
Tyler Burgett@tyburg · Software Engineer
@omerzach Ah, thanks! I should have poked around a bit more, I have been mostly dealing mostly with the explore and checkins endpoints.
Tyler Burgett
Tyler Burgett@tyburg · Software Engineer
@dens Signed up. Thanks for doing an AMA!
Omer Zach
Omer Zach@omerzach · Engineering Lead, Sigma
@tyburg No worries, let me know if I can help with any of that :)
Eric Willis
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
@dens Thanks for doing this AMA. Besides communicating a bit better when splitting the apps, is there anything major you wish you could go back and do differently with Foursquare?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@erictwillis To be honest, the only regrets I have go back to non over-communicating. To anyone working on a small company, I'd say get a whiteboard, split it down the middle and make a list of "what we need to do" and "what we are NOT going to do". Add to each regularly, and then keep re-prioritizing the "what we need to do" list over and over and over again. (and hang this whiteboard in a very public place)
Ben Parks
Ben Parks@benjaminjparks
Hi Dennis - how will you enhance the way that businesses on Foursquare communicate with consumers on Swarm? Do you foresee a platform strategy like FB Messenger? https://www.messenger.com/business or something different?
Taylor Crane
Taylor Crane@taykcrane · Product @ Hello Alfred
@benjaminjparks Piggybacking off this to mention Path Talk Places, which is a now-defunct feature of Path Talk that was phenomenal.
Sarah Best-Wilson
Sarah Best-Wilson@arunninglist · Principal, Sarah Best Strategy
Hey @dens - how are you doing these days! This is Sarah (formerly of Explore Chicago) - I'll try to ask you a fun one: fave coffee / foodie location? fave oddball Foursquare location (Mars??) I had fun adding movie locations to Foursquare back in the day.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@arunninglist Hey hi! Fav foodie place -- oh man, so many spots I love, but I ams psyched to go to my friend Sarah's friend chicken restaurant tonight: https://foursquare.com/v/birds--... Fav checkin? Easy! Mars Rover. Oh man, that was so much fun :)
Sarah Best-Wilson
Sarah Best-Wilson@arunninglist · Principal, Sarah Best Strategy
@dens Rad! That looks delicious - will check it out next time I'm in town. And the team at JPL is amazing - definitely my social media crush.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hey @dens! I have a twofer =) 1.) Is there an interesting story behind why you chose Hermey as your Twitter avatar? =) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ru... 2.) Ryan Graves was an intern at FourSquare back in the day before going on to become an early CEO and Head of Operations at Uber. Just curious if you had any interesting reflections or insights about what he was like then vs now, and perhaps advice to give to young entrepreneurs / hustlers looking to work for hot startups or become part of something bigger =)
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@alexcartaz Ha, zero backstory behind the elf... I just liked him. I added it as my Twitter avatar at SXSW 2007 and haven't changed him since. As for Ryan -- I ran into him in SF a few weeks back and it was great seeing him. Ryan is just a classic hustler... there's things he wants to do, and opportunities he sees, and he just goes out and grabs them. Same w/ Tristan (our very first BD intern who went on to be founder/CEO of Bevel). There's a ton of folks at 4SQ (past and present) with that same drive / mentality.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@dens who else is in the 4SQ mafia ? ;)
drew✨
drew✨@drewsiah · dreamer
Do you plan on opening up the Swarm API so that coins can be earned and used in other apps?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@drewsiah I literally have this conversation every day. :) I am very bullish on these ideas (tho it's hard to turn "game currency" into "real currency")... don't rule it out tho!
drew✨
drew✨@drewsiah · dreamer
@dens in the hospitality industry we're comfortable using "real currency" for marketing - which is how i view "game currency". i'd much rather comp someone's meal because they played my video game than put an ad in the alt-weekly. hope y'all figure it out!
Andrey
Andrey@andreymaslak · Mobile Product Manager ✈️
Hi Dennis, no questions, just saying hi ;)
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@andreymaslak Hi back!
Andrey
Andrey@andreymaslak · Mobile Product Manager ✈️
oh, actually, I've got one comment. looks like your servers sending push notifications to swarm users suffer from high load. I might be mistaken but thats definitely something you guys should check.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@andreymaslak Tell me more about this?
Andrey
Andrey@andreymaslak · Mobile Product Manager ✈️
@dens check twitter :)
Tom Limongello
Tom Limongello@tomlimongello · CEO of Truffle
Hey Dennis! A while back sam lessin wrote about how maps should better reflect level of agony in terms of how to judge travel decisions. Since Foursquare is one of the most innovative players in the mapping space I wondered if you had any thoughts about how maps could improve so that a decision to go to a restaurant or travel to a point of interest on 4sq could be an easier decision for the user.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@tomlimongello Hey pal! I feel like our whole company is set up to help answer these Q's. I always tell the team here that "the best version of Foursquare is the one you don't have to remember to use" ... it's the one that knows you, and learns about you, and proactively recommends things to you. I think that's the future. "Hey Dennis, you gotta try this new lobster roll place in the East Village... because I know you love lobster rolls! Go there someday this week!" I want to get messages like that DAILY.
Oded Vakrat
Oded Vakrat@ovakrat · CEO at Earny
Hey Dennis, We will be competing to represent San Francisco in the Global MasterCard Hackathon Finals in December. To better prepare, my question is- how do you see the future of the payments with small businesses in regards to credit cards, mobile payments, etc...?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@ovakrat Oh man, this is more of a 30 minute talk than a 140 char answer. Someone has to figure out the POS space (loyalty, discounts, etc) in a way that works everywhere (and not in 10 diff ways at 10 diff places). I thought Google Wallet and Paypal Here and Groupon Breadcrumb and Square (and now ApplePay) would have all figured this out by now... but payments is SUPER HARD for 1000 diff reasons. My dream is that the Brand New Taco shop that just opened up down the street can someday use 4SQ data to help send a message to all the people who have been to *other taco places* in the neighborhood, and then can offer a discount to all users who actually come in and try that place. We can do the targeting now ("you like taco places! but you've never been here! go!") but the payments piece is still really fragmented.
Leona Jones
Leona Jones@leonjohnstone · App dev
1) Besides Foursquare, what are your favourite tools/apps/techniques for exploring the world around you? 2) When you dream of an alternative universe in which exploring the physical world is way more awesome, what things do you imagine?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@leonjohnstone 1. Twitter ("Hey Twitter, where should I go in Richmond next weekend?") and Instagram (aka: creeping on people's photos of things in far away lands and wanting to go there someday) 2. I imagine what Foursquare will be 12 months / 18 months / 2 years from now. People at 4SQ are going to tease me for saying this, but I really want to build a hipster version of this guy that knows about every cool place in the world:
Grégoire
Grégoire@gregoiren
Hi Dennis. Why were private check-ins removed from Foursquare/Swarm? Any plan to bring them back at some point?
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@gregoiren Because less than 1% of people used them and they took up like 10% of the checkin UX. (aka more UX = more for people to look at = more confusion). We have the "should we bring them back" conversation every now and then :)
@dens hi Dennis! Do you have certain rituals that you maintain to keep you grounded as an entrepreneur? e.g. you mentioned the bhorowitz article that you read 1x a quarter.
Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley@dens · Co-Founder, Foursquare
@momusbah Just make time for yourself --- I make sure I have time to go running, play soccer. I make sure I have hobbies that don't involve computers and the internet. Forcing myself to unplug on wkds (which I had to try really hard to do) has helped me SO MUCH
Leona Jones
Leona Jones@leonjohnstone · App dev
In your opinion, what are some misconceptions about the way people travel and explore their physical worlds?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
HUGE thanks to @dens for taking the time to chat with us today!
Olly S
Olly S@saltedlolly · Marketer
Hi Dennis, I've always been a bit supporter of what you guys are building, and I am one of the few people who really supported the split from the outset. However, I still think it would offer a better experience for Swarm users if the app showed the venue profile within Swarm after check-in. This would avoid that awkward jump to Foursquare, and would mean Swarm users can view tips and write their own even if they don't use Foursquare. It seems like a no brainer to me. Is this something you have considered?
Sherwin Wu
Sherwin Wu@sherwinwu
What was the hardest part about gaining traction in the early stages of Foursquare?