As nearly everyone knows at this point, yesterday Foursquare closed a $20M Series B round of capital.
In the words of CEO Dennis Crowley, Foursquare’s “main priority will be to expand our organization to supplement the amazing core team we’ve assembled already” with this finanancing, that will enable them to “develop the next generation of mobile + social + local products that will excite our users and provide unique value for local merchants,” as well as to expand to a new office with new infrastructure (which we hope/assume means a LOT of new server capacity). All very reasonable uses.
Now here’s 5 ways how we’d put all those new resources to use.
1. Flush out the developer platform
To us, this should be at the very top of this list. Foursquare of course has an API, and a number of developers have built applications or integrated Foursquare functionality into their existing app, but overall, the numbers are small. One issue of course is what do developers get out of a service that is less than 2 million users, especially when they can build on other APIs with many more users and/or build apps that are purely their own?
This will be a key issue that Foursquare is going to have work on – how to entice developers? We’ve yet to see a “killer app” emerge from the Foursquare API, which is frankly a little surprising. The social media dashboards (i.e. Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Hootsuite, etc) have done a nice job with integrating the API, but frankly we doubt anyone uses those services because of Foursquare – it’s just a nice add-on to Twitter.
So what can Foursquare do here? Well, obviously, more Foursquare users will help, though in the end, developers themselves should be bringing users to Foursquare as well. Also, better uptime and expanded functionality of the API should also bring in more developers.
2. Get “Don’t forget to checkin!” window stickers everywhere
Foursquare lives and dies by check-ins. If users are checking in, they are engaged and the word spreads to new users. As such, Foursquare needs to do everything humanly possible to remind people to check-in, and the best way to do that is through the places that people check into.
This won’t take an army of salespeople either – what Foursquare should do is pay for the stickers, then let their users know that they are available. We bet that a grassroots effort would then come about to get stickers onto shop windows locally. If not this approach, fine, but Foursquare needs to get out there and Yelp! themselves up a bit (especially as Yelp! is now a major competitor).
Foursquare has to this point done an amazing job with business development, and they are certainly very interested in supplying tools to small businesses, but their value proposition still hinges around check-ins, so any “advertising” that Foursquare can facilitate will certainly spur long-term growth.
The Android app is still not as slick as the iPhone app, which is something that Foursquare should be able to quickly remedy with all this new talent they’re going to hire. Android is exploding and Foursquare needs to stay on top of it without a doubt.
For the iPad, we would really like to see some innovation from Foursquare, and we think that it could follow closely behind our last point…
4. Completely redesign the website as a hub
15 months after they launched, one of the biggest complaints that we still hear from Foursquare users (and we’re guessing that Foursquare hears too) is about foursquare.com. We’re pretty regular users of Foursquare’s mobile apps, but we only “check-in” at foursquare.com about once a month (and in fact Compete says their site traffic fell from April to May of this year). Simply put, there is really almost no need to go to the website in its current form (unless you don’t have a phone and check into foursquare.com/mobile on your laptop, but that’s probably pretty rare of a use case).
Don’t get us wrong – mobile is where Foursquare is at – but we would really like to see foursquare.com (and possibly the iPad app as we mentioned) become a “hub” of Foursquare activity, much more so than it is today. This will also be increasingly important as Twitter, and at some point Facebook, push their own “Places” location features (and possibly try to crowd out Foursquare and others).
Foursquare has the advantage right now of having a recognized (leading?) location sharing stream which will only get more interesting as more users come on board. They should use this advantage to build a destination hub that will supplement and pull together their mobile apps for people to follow when they are not out and about. A few mashups have attempted this using Foursquare’s API (but not to any great effect), but really, this should fall to Foursquare themselves, and hopefully we’ll see some very cool stuff from them with this.
One last thing…
We just wanted to say that we think that Foursquare made the right decision to stay independent, and good luck to them!