Foursquare founder and former CEO Dennis Crowley is stepping down from his full-time role at the company, he wrote in a Medium post on Monday. He’ll remain on the board of directors.
“What started around my kitchen table in the East Village back in early 2009 has grown to nearly 400 people working around the world in 2021,” Crowley wrote. “What started as a quest to ‘build a Marauders Map’ and to ‘turn the real world into a game’ and ‘build a hipster version of Clippy’ has turned into one of the world’s leading location technology platforms, powering location services for thousands of apps and top brands around the world.”
Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai launched Foursquare in 2009 as a smartphone app that let people use their then-fledgling iPhones with built-in GPS to check in at their physical locations. It gamified the collection of location data, letting people earn badges for a certain number of check-ins (how many places were you “mayor” of?). Venues offered rewards to entice customers to check in.
But Foursquare did away with the check-ins in 2014, and introduced its Swarm app, which was much less popular (no more mayors!) and became a way for users to check in with friends and create “lifelogs.” Foursquare’s main business pivoted away from consumer tech toward a B-to-B model — consider that it was sitting on a massive trove of user data — and provided its location technology via its Pilgrim SDK to other companies. It claimed Uber, Twitter, Snapchat, WeChat, and Apple Maps among its clientele.
Crowley says in the Medium post (and has said in numerous interviews) that the point of Foursquare “was never to build an awesome check-in button,” but rather to invent “the future of location tech.” Foursquare “did over $100M+ in revenue in 2020, and we’ll do well over $100M+ in revenue in 2021,” according to the post.
He says he’s departing the company he cofounded to spend time with his family and because he has “lots of things I still want to build — many of which don’t fit neatly into the Foursquare of 2021.”