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February 25 2014

February 04 2014

Microsoft Invests $15 Million in Foursquare

Microsoft is investing $15 million in Foursquare as part of a licensing deal that will incorporate the the location-based service's data into Microsoft's web and mobile platforms.

The four-year deal, announced Tuesday, makes Microsoft the largest licensee of Foursquare data.

"In the near future, when you use Microsoft devices powered by the Windows and Windows Phone operating systems and products like Bing, places will be enhanced by Foursquare — to provide contextually-aware experiences and the best recommendations of any service in the world," Foursquare wrote in a blog post announcing the partnership. Read more...

More about Microsoft, Foursquare, Bing, Business, and Startups

What Microsoft’s Foursquare Deal Means For Developers

Microsoft and Foursquare have signed a four-year partnership with far-reaching implications for anyone making or using apps that taps into users’ locations, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley told ReadWrite in an interview Monday evening. The companies plan to announce the deal formally Tuesday afternoon.

Already, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have reported on the financial aspects of the deal: Microsoft is making a $15 million investment in Foursquare, an extension of a $35 million financing round Foursquare announced late last year, valuing the company at approximately $650 million. Microsoft will also pay Foursquare to license its data, which is sourced from users’ check-ins, or announcements of their locations to designated friends.

Dollars will help Foursquare, whose resources were stretched until it borrowed $41 million from investors last spring. But far more interesting is the potential for Foursquare to weave its location services into Microsoft's platforms, including Windows, Windows Phone, and the Bing search engine.

A Location Bake-Off

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley said details of the partnership, freshly struck, are still being drawn. "Imagine a bunch of present-tense and future-tense Microsoft products that have a little Foursquare touch to them,” he said.

It’s easy to imagine Bing search results for places, for example, having information about businesses that comes from Foursquare.

A far more interesting prospect is what Microsoft and Foursquare can do for a large group of joint customers—developers. Some 50,000 developers use Foursquare's application programming interface to add location features to their apps, according to Crowley.

But most simply use the API to “geotag,” or add a place name, to images, videos, or other forms of content, Crowley said. Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app, is the most famous example.

"Foursquare's great for that, but that's like a tenth of what Foursquare is doing,” he said. Instead, developers could query Foursquare’s database and discover a user’s relationship to a place—how frequently they check in, for example, and at what times of day.

That kind of data, unique to Foursquare, could let a calendar app recommend a restaurant for a lunch appointment, or allow a travel-booking app to add a list of recommended sights to an itinerary. In short, it could power the kind of experiences iOS users get through Apple’s Siri feature—but now on Microsoft's platforms.

Crowley calls those kinds of features "contextual awareness”—it’s also known as “anticipatory computing”—and building that kind of smarts into Microsoft's platforms is one of the ambitions of the deal.

The deal is not exclusive, so Foursquare is keeping open the possibility of striking similar deals with Apple and Google for their mobile platforms.

“We think about things like, ‘If Foursquare is baked into the [operating system] at some level, what would that look like?'" Crowley said, describing internal conversations at Foursquare.

Tags: foursquare

January 30 2014

Foursquare Now Lets You Order In Directly From U.S. Restaurants

Foursquare is teaming up with GrubHub Seamless, the company announced Thursday, meaning users are now able to order delivery from thousands of restaurants directly through Foursquare

A new GrubHub or Seamless icon will appear at the bottom of the Foursquare app when a user is viewing a participating restaurant. You'll be able to place your orders directly through the app; Foursquare announced that more than 20,000 restaurants from across the United States will now have that function within Foursquare

You can look specifically for GrubHub Seamless restaurants by searching for their cuisine type and adding the word "delivery" to the end of the search. For example, searching "pizza delivery" would return restaurants from the GrubHub Seamless network. Foursquare matched its own restaurant database with the GrubHub Seamless database to identify participating restaurants, according to a company spokesperson Read more...

More about Foursquare, Grubhub, Tech, Apps Software, and Mobile

December 19 2013

Foursquare Raises Another $35 Million

Foursquare has raised another $35 million in a Series D round of funding, the company announced Thursday.

The new round, which was first reported by AllThingsD, comes less than a year after it raised a $41 million financing round and brings the company's total financing to nearly $150 million. It also gives it a valuation of "just over" $600 million, according to the report.

Foursquare has been trying to prove that it can create a sustainable business, as reports at the end of 2012 suggested investors were worried about the company's user growth and monetization strategy. In recent months, Foursquare has expanded its ad offerings. Read more...

More about Funding, Foursquare, and Business

December 05 2013

Behavior-Based Anticipatory Computing Coming To Social Networks

We’ve been sharing our locations with friends and family for years, whether it’s checking in on Foursquare or enabling location information on Instagram. Even with Twitter’s latest update, users are encouraged to share their locations and metadata. But what, exactly, social networks are doing with that data has been somewhat unknown, until now. 

By aggregating personal data and preferences based on your check-ins, applications can begin to tailor suggestions for you, effectively driving decision-making and transactions. 

Your Smartphone Will Tell You What To Do

With Foursquare’s latest iOS update, the company is continuing its vision of telling you where to go next, not just where you are.

Foursquare is rolling out push notification recommendations and an application redesign that makes it easier for users to find out what’s happening around them. The company began testing the anticipatory computing functions earlier this fall for both iOS and Android, and is now launching the service to all iOS users.

People that opt-in to receive the real-time notifications will get an update on their iOS device that suggests what to eat at a restaurant, or what to do when they visit a new place. The feature runs in the background, and while it might seem like such a feature is a battery drain, the team at Foursquare promises it’s easy on your battery.

Foursquare has tried a number of different notifications, but the ones the company is launching today were favored among beta testers, Foursquare’s vice president of product experience Jon Steinback said in an interview with ReadWrite.

“We only want to send you something that will help you make your life better,” Steinback said. “The moments that we’ve chosen - when you sit down at a restaurant, or when you venture into a new neighborhood - people interacted with them the most.”

Foursquare will only provide notifications that are relevant to you personally. The application learns your behavior based on previous check-ins and recommendations. You won’t get notifications everywhere you go; rather, when you’re at a restaurant, Foursquare will crawl the tips and if there is one that fits your profile, you will be notified.

Additionally, a new swipeable carousel of suggestions at the top of the application’s home page will show location-based suggestions, such as deals around the corner or something saved to your to-do list nearby. 

Let’s Circle Up

Circle, is an app that shows you what’s happening in the surrounding community. It recently announced an update that includes a “proximity popularity algorithm.”

Already the application monitors your behavior and begins to learn your likes and dislikes. It can highlight different information based on your specific location. For instance, it will understand that you prefer to read about local news, but will also surface popular events happening nearby if the Circle thinks you might be interested. 

Circle lets users share and discover news and events, and members can select a variety of categories they are interested in, turning the application into a “virtual newspaper” that only displays relevant local information as it happens.

“Circle is Twitter for Main Street. We want to make it easy for people to discuss, discover and share what is going on around them,” Circle CEO and founder Evan Reas said in a statement. “We’re connecting the mobile Web to the real world in a way that hasn’t been done before. The Circle community is local to you wherever you are, and is a place to find and share what matters to you.”

While Circle is still a relatively small social network - it boasts 10 million users, compared to Foursquare’s 40 million - it is leveraging the desire for location-based news and suggestions to grow one million new members every month. 

Check-In To A Financial Opportunity

As Owen Thomas pointed out when Foursquare first unveiled the push recommendations, the company has set itself up for location-based advertising and can now help drive consumers’ spending decisions. 

Already we’re on social networks sharing information about ourselves, so why not have social networks instead tell us what’s going on? By suggesting where and how users spend their money, location-based social services could become a prime target for local advertisers. 

Big companies want to get their hands on your geographic data, too. We recently told you why it would make sense for PayPal to purchase Foursquare to boost local business and developer relationships, and other businesses, payments or otherwise, would benefit from an infusion of location-based consumer information.

Whether or not consumers will find this type of location-based app advertising attractive ... or invasive ... remains to be seen.

We still don’t know what, if anything, other networks like Facebook or Twitter are doing with our check-ins, but if Foursquare’s update is any indication, our applications might soon be telling us what to Like even before like it ourselves.

Lead image by Memotions on Flickr

Tags: foursquare

October 14 2013

What Foursquare Must Do To Make Its Ads Work

Foursquare finally rolled out a self-service advertising product on Monday, after years of hesitant experimentation with ways of making money.

The new ads display suggestions for local businesses when users search within Foursquare's mobile app, in a format similar to the search results it already displays.

Businesses will pay per action—saving an ad for later use, sharing it with a friend or checking in at the venue—with a minimum bid of $1.

Acting Like Google (In More Ways Than One)

You know who this reminds me of? Google. Okay, stop laughing.

I strongly doubt Foursquare will ever be a Google-sized enterprise—its long-term survival as an independent entity still remains in doubt. That's not the analogy I'm making. Instead, it's this: Now that Google is a multibillion-dollar company, it's easy to forget its early missteps.

At one point, Larry Page and Sergey Brin thought they'd make money in enterprise search software. When Google first rolled out online ads, it charged flat rates. It took Google years after its founding to find the auction-based model that proved so successful.

Foursquare likewise fumbled its early attempts at advertising models. At one point, it thought it would charge businesses for displaying special deals when users checked in, founder Dennis Crowley recently told me.

"At one point, it's what we thought [we'd do]," Crowley said. "But then it felt weird, we're charging people to give stuff away?"

With its new ads, which any business with a credit card can sign up for and with prices based on a virtual auction, Foursquare is consciously imitating Google. It's hard to argue with imitating success.

What Foursquare Must Do Next

With 1.5 million businesses signed up to manage their location information on Foursquare, it would be foolish if the company didn't try to make some money off this base.

But ultimately, Foursquare needs to open up its advertising platform, which currently is only available directly through Foursquare's website.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have all built ways for third-party developers to access their advertising platforms. One reason why marketers love this is that third-party tools let them manage campaigns across multiple services. For Foursquare, as an upstart, this is all the more necessary.

Foursquare's ad management platform. Foursquare's ad management platform.

The good news for Foursquare is that it has extensive experience managing an application programming interface for consumer apps accessing its database of locations, used by Instagram, Uber, and other popular apps.  It should not be hard for its developers to build a similar API for advertisers. Indeed, Foursquare already has some programmatic tools for merchants—just not any yet for its ads.

The other thing Foursquare has to figure out is a way to ignite growth and engagement. Since Foursquare only makes money when users search within it own mobile app, it does not benefit from the millions of Instagram users who tag photos with Foursquare locations, for example.

There is much Foursquare could do to boost usage. While Foursquare embraced Twitter early on, it has failed to make potential of Twitter Cards, for instance, a way of displaying rich previews of app activity. Right now, a Foursquare check-in broadcast on Twitter displays a lame come-on to download the app; it could instead provide details about a local business beloved by the Foursquare user tweeting her check-in, a far more compelling bit of information.

Foursquare has also quietly revamped its mobile app, adding real-time recommendations and a streamlined feed of friends' check-ins. It is easier now to like a friend's check-in, boosting interaction between existing users.

Yet what Foursquare really needs is to sign up millions more users. Some 40 million people have downloaded its app and the company reports that its users check in six million times a day. And Foursquare is spreading around the world, at least in the globe's dense urban areas. Yet Foursquare has never given out a figure for daily or monthly active users.

Ultimately, without consumers, Foursquare cannot have a strong advertising business. The company's best hope is that its new advertising product takes off with its existing businesses and provides enough cash to attract fresh investment—which the company can then apply to spreading Foursquare around the globe. It is a risky, high-stakes bet—but for me, that's what makes the company so interesting right now.

Tags: foursquare

October 09 2013

With Real-Time Recommendations, Foursquare Checks Into Google And Apple's Turf

When ReadWrite last caught up with Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley in the company's San Francisco office in late August, he proudly showed off a map of the city—a secret map, he said, that only Foursquare could build, from the data his users feed it by announcing their location to their friends.

On Wednesday afternoon, Foursquare rolled out a product built on that map—real-time recommendations for iPhone users of local businesses.

All Over The Map

It's a careful, perhaps even overly cautious, extension of moves Foursquare has been making into anticipatory computing for some time. Earlier this year, Foursquare began testing local recommendations for Android users. And before that, it had subtly introduced check-in recommendations in its apps with a blue bar—taking a guess at where users were based on the accumulation of location data it's built.

That guesswork is a product of Foursquare's map, which adjusts itself over the course of the day to tie a user's physical location to a nearby business. It's not as easy as it sounds, especially in dense cities and malls. In locales where businesses are stacked on top of each other, it's not a simple matter of latitude and longitude.

The new recommendation feature also mines users' tips about local businesses for the specifics of a recommendation—for example, a specific sushi roll to order at a Japanese restaurant.

Ringing The Cash Register

Where this gets interesting is the money-making potential. By beginning to guide users to businesses without waiting for them to search, Foursquare no longer just measures intent—it can shape it. And that could be lucrative for Foursquare's still-nascent advertising business.

Alternatively, it could simply make Foursquare a more attractive acquisition for the likes of Apple or Google—or even PayPal, as ReadWrite has suggested. Services like Google Now and Siri are raising mobile users' expectations: They are increasingly unwilling to trudge through long lists of search results, and instead just want the right answer.

It's a high-stakes bet for Foursquare, which raised $41 million in debt financing earlier this year, and is hence under pressure to turn its location app into a big business. But this latest move suggests Crowley has a map to his destination. Now he just has to get his company there.

Tags: foursquare

September 09 2013

Foursquare Now Lets You Search for Individual Menu Items

Finding your next delicious grilled cheese or spicy burrito just got a little bit easier.

Starting Monday you can search on Foursquare for individual menu items. Whether you’re looking for FroYo or fried chicken, you can search through Foursquare’s database of 500,000 restaurants to find that dish near you.

Foursquare is able to perform the searches through a partnership with Locu and SinglePlatform. Over 43 million menu items are currently searchable

SinglePlatform allows restaurants to update menus instantly on the mobile app, web and even their Facebook page simultaneously. Since menu items are kept up to date by the restaurants themselves, so you won’t show up to get somewhere only to find your dream dish is no longer offered on the menu. Read more...

More about Iphone, Android, App, Foursquare, and Tech

June 17 2013

Fail Fast: How 5 Startups Got a Second Chance

"Pivot" is often viewed as a dirty word in the startup world, with the assumption being that the founders failed in some way. But sometimes failing — or at least acknowledging you're on the wrong course — is the best path toward success.

While founders at some companies like Evernote have prided themselves on staying 100% true to their original vision, many other well-known startups chose to overhaul or outright abandon their original idea early on, in favor of a different business strategy

Here's a look at some of the predecessors to today's hottest startups, several of which are now valued in the billions of dollars: Read more...

More about Twitter, Startups, Foursquare, Groupon, and Business

June 13 2013

Foursquare Time Machine Teleports You Down Memory Lane

Foursquare Time Machine

Okay world travelers, now it's time for some humble bragging, thanks to the new Foursquare Time Machine. On Thursday, the company announced this new way to visualize all of your past check-ins on its Foursquare blog, and what a gorgeous visualization it is.

The animation flies you around all those haunts you've visited in times past, served up in a lovely 3D effect that you can autoplay to your heart's content. You can zoom in or out of its map showing all the places you've been, checking out each of your check-ins. The interface helpfully provides places Foursquare has recommended for you as well. Read more...

More about Foursquare, Social Media, and Apps Software

April 11 2013

Foursquare Borrows $41M, Checks In As The Mayor Of Debt Town

Foursquare has checked in as the mayor of Debt Town today after announcing $41 million in loan-based funding. Which really puts the pressure on the company to generate real revenue as it shifts its focus away from simple social check-ins and tries to recoup lost ground in the battle over local search.

No investors plunked down cash for new Foursquare shares. Instead, new investor Silver Lake Waterman led the financing with what other reports are calling a multi-year loan, while existing Foursquare investors — Andreessen Horowitz, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures — offered loans that will convert to equity if Foursquare's valuation rises.

In other words, Foursquare just put itself into the hole in a high-risk gamble. The Silver Lake loan will most likely force the startup to make regular interest and principal payments lest it risk default — creating a steady cash drain that most startups try hard to avoid. We've reached out to Foursquare for more information on that investment, and I'll update when and if I hear back.

The convertible debt, meanwhile, represents a hedge of sorts for the company's existing investors. They get to sidestep the question of Foursquare's actual valuation — which obviously suggests it's not doing that great — and, should things go south, may stand a better chance of recouping some of their investment than if they held nothing but equity.

A Foursquare In Flatland

This means Foursquare, which has increasingly found itself in trouble with the entry of Google+ and Facebook into local search, is under a lot more pressure to demonstrate that it can make money. Investors like Union Square's Albert Wenger claim they see opportunities for Foursquare to take off, with the explosion of smartphones and abatement of couponing services like Groupon.

Wenger highlights what Foursquare really wants you to do with its app: Don't just check in, but identify retailers and businesses more actively so that your data in turn can drive better local searches. It's a tough nut to crack, particularly since Android users are more easily tied to Google to do the same thing, and many smartphone users of any platform are apt to use Facebook.

This may be the key problem for Foursquare: it's too specialized. Users may be more likely to share information on Facebook, for example, because they're already using it to socialize. I don't use either service regularly, but if I did, I'd rather share a review with my more well-developed network of Facebook friends.

Foursquare is going to have to turn itself around and get more money coming in the door. If it can't do get positive cash flow through its services, it may have to resort to other methods, such as raise equity privately or publicly to pay off debt holders.

There's also the option my former colleague Jon Mitchell has put forth: Fourquare could sell itself to Apple. Or any bigger company, for that matter. Given Apple's need for better local data, Mitchell's argument makes a whole heck of a lot of sense.

However it does it, Foursquare now has to make money fast to work off this new debt in a very competitive market. If it doesn't get traction soon, Foursquare won't be mayor of anything.

Image courtesy of Juan Camilo Bernal/Shutterstock.

Tags: foursquare

September 04 2012

12 Things Students Should Never Do on Social Media

The last thing young people want is another set of rules. But these days, social media comes with great responsibility, whether you're just starting high school or finishing up college.

The fact is, irresponsible social media conduct could potentially ruin your education and negatively impact your career, not to mention hurt others in the process. (And we're not just talking kids, either.) But most of those consequences are preventable, often with just a little foresight.

We've pinpointed 12 social media mistakes that students should avoid at all costs, because after all, it's never as simple as "be responsible." And it's never as finite as "don't friend your teacher on Facebook." So…
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More About: Back to School Series, Facebook, Kids, Social Media, Twitter, back to school, college, education, features, foursquare, lifestyle, mashable

September 02 2012

August 03 2012

Turn Your City Into a Monopoly Board With Foursquare-Based Game

As of Thursday morning I own the Moscone Center. The Mashable office in San Francisco is also mine, as well as a a pretty popular bar across the street from my apartment. Tonight I have my sights set on picking up AT&T Park.

All these acquisitions are part of a new game called Turf. Think of it as Monopoly set on top of Foursquare. The game allows you to buy up property in your neighborhood, purchase add-ons such as additional floors, and earn virtual rewards in the process.

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, the game is way different than anything you’ve played every before. "Real world Monopoly" is the one-liner that founder…
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More About: App, foursquare, iphone

July 29 2012

Everything You Need to Know About Foursquare’s New Merchant Tools

Last week, Foursquare announced a slew of new merchant tools that give business owners more power than ever before to communicate with their customers through the location-based platform. Before, business owners could claim their venues, set up a special and let the platform take it from there -- it was more of a passive marketing tool. The new additions make Foursquare's local updates far more dynamic, and they leverage location-based marketing in a more targeted way than Facebook and Twitter. The revamp has several parts:

Updates -- Share photos, specials and news to nearby customers, a la tweets or Facebook status updates
Specials -- Create and manage Foursquare specials (no cha…
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More About: Small Business, foursquare, geolocation, open forum, social media marketing

Olympic Check-Ins: Hot Foursquare Deals and Badges for London 2012

Location-based platform Foursquare -- which recently announced a slew of merchant tools -- is ready to take London by storm.

Though Foursquare was hindered from doing some things because of its partnership with American Express (the Olympics, as Morgan Freeman tells us, are proudly sponsored by Visa), the service will definitely have a presence on the ground.

"We have seen some more drastic growth in the UK, but it's hard to say what it is attributed to," says Omid Ashtari, Foursquare's director of business development for European markets. "We have had a great AmEx launch, some strategic partnerships and the redesign in the last few weeks, so there are many factors."

That's thanks…
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More About: Social Media, deals, features, foursquare, london 2012, olympics

July 26 2012

Turn Your Personal Data Into an Interactive Infographic


Want to see an interactive infographic all about you, your online activity and personal interests?

Vizify launched on Thursday a graphical bio service that pulls personal data from all your social networks to create a snapshot of who you are.

The free service analyzes your data and updates across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare, and displays it creatively on one page, so it can easily be shared with potential employers, clients and even dates.

"We were inspired by Zuckerberg’s Law -- yes, that Zuckerberg -- which states that the amount of online data about you doubles each year," Vizify co-founder Todd Silverstein told Mashable. "As we began sorting through our o…
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More About: Facebook, Jobs, Twitter, foursquare, linkedin, mark zuckerberg

July 25 2012

January 19 2012

Foursquare Will Bring 250,000 Restaurant Menus to Your Phone

Foursquare on phones

Check-in enthusiasts can embrace creative eating (read: eat something other than lunchtime burritos) thanks to a new integration of SinglePlatform to the Foursquare mobile app and Foursquare Explore, the location service’s desktop app.

SinglePlatform is a start-up that helps local businesses market themselves online, and it has more than 250,000 menus in its database. Thanks to that database, Foursquare desktop users will now have access to over 13 million individual food items in major U.S. cities. The official Foursquare blog tells us there’s more to come.

Menus aren’t available yet on the Foursquare mobile app, but users can access them by going to foursquare.com and m.foursquare.com on their mobile browsers.

SEE ALSO: Foursquare Brings Explore Tab to Desktops

The menus option will be a feature that will holds Foursquare above locale-based review sites including Yelp, Urbanspoon and Google-acquired Zagat, at least for now. Currently, none of these websites have a menu option. Other online menu directory resources include Menupages — which was acquired by Seamless — has over 35,000 menus. Seamless competitor GrubHub also recently acquired Dotmenu, which carries over 250,000 menus.

For now, Foursquare users may click through to the menus section of the right-hand side of venue pages. There’s also a price-filtering action available.

Tell us what you think about this new Foursquare integration of menus? How will mobile access to menus help you in your day to day?

More About: applications, foursquare, Google, iphone apps, Mobile, Social Media

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