KYLE [email protected]_L_WIGGERS OCTOBER 2, 2018 12:00 PM
Image Credit: Foursquare
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You might not realize it, but you’re probably a Foursquare user. Snapchat uses the firm’s location data for its geofilters, and Uber sources it for business names. In all, Foursquare counts more than 120,000 companies among its list of clients, and it sees room for growth on the horizon.
The nine-year-old New York company today announced a $33 million series F round of equity funding led by tech- and retail-focused firm Simon Ventures, South Korean search engine Naver Corp., and Union Square Ventures. The first close of $25 million took place on Friday of last week, and Foursquare said it expects a secondary close of “at least” $8 million by the end of the year.
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It’s Foursquare’s first fundraising round since 2016, and it comes six months ahead of its 10th anniversary.
Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck said it’ll use the new capital to “refine” its products, expand its engineering team, and “double down” on research and development — all toward the goal of facilitating the estimated 90 percent of consumer spending that happens offline, in the real world.
“In the past decade, we’ve built a company that’s now the gold-standard location partner for many of the world’s leading tech giants and brands,” Glueck wrote in a blog post. “We’ve grown from a consumer app into a leading location technology platform, with media, enterprise and SaaS solutions for thousands of retailers, restaurant groups, publishers, developers, ad-tech companies and more.”
Foursquare has gone through something of a transition recently.
In September 2016, it celebrated 50 million monthly active users and 10 billion check-ins across its app. (Check-ins have since topped 12 billion.) That milestone came shortly after an internal decision to pivot away from the first iteration of its consumer-facing app, which awarded badges and stickers to users in exchange for checking into locations, in favor of Foursquare City Guide, a search-centric venue discovery service.
Rather than emphasizing location sharing, Foursquare City Guide displays personalized recommendations based on time of day, check-in history, expressed preferences, friend groups, and other factors. In that way, it complements Swarm (released in 2014), a sort of personal lifelog and digital history of all the places you’ve been.
But the Swarm and the Foursquare apps proper are a smaller slice of the company’s business than they used to be.
Late 2017 saw the launch of Pilgrim, a software development kit that lets third-party apps send contextually targeted messages. By using a combination of signals such as GPS, cell tower triangulation, cellular signal strength, and surrounding Wi-Fi networks, it’s able to guess a user’s location without requiring them to check in.
Place Insights, which debuted just a few years before, tracked foot traffic trends from tens of million of real-world places. Then came Pinpoint, a location-based digital advertising system, and Attribution, which drew connections between digital ads and brick-and-mortar purchasing patterns. The latest release of Attribute takes into account more than 500 different factors, including historical visits, time of year, the day of the week, distance from store, and app and platform usage.
Much more recently, Foursquare launched an entry-level Places API aimed at app developers, startups, and small to medium-sized businesses. In addition to providing access to location-based data, it enables them to tap into photos, tips, reviews, and details about the more than 100 million locations in its Places database, which see roughly four million updates a day.
The success of those services can’t be overstated.
Pinpoint counts more than half of the Ad Age 100 as advertisers. Apple, AccuWeather, TGI Fridays, Spotify, iHeartMedia, Hilton, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Pinterest round out the big spenders that use its data and behavior-tracking tools. And it’s seen 50 percent revenue growth year over year for the past three years — not to mention overall growth of 491 percent growth in three years.
“Location is not a solved problem, and we are constantly improving our understanding of how a phone sees the world,” Glueck wrote. “[W]e’ll continue to upgrade our coverage of densely populated places and improve our ability to detect extremely short consumer visits — such as at a drive-through. Scale is another critical growth area: We’ve made tremendous strides in our addressable audiences through a steady drumbeat of new partners and data sources, using our first-party data as a differentiating truth set.”
Today, via Pilgrim, Foursquare tracks about 3 billion visits per month in 150 million venues, and roughly 25 million people globally. And it powers geolocation for over 1 billion users a month across its network of partners.
It’s fresh off a 2017 hiring spree, and today employs a staff of 300 across its new Flatiron headquarters and its sales and engineering offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Singapore.