Foursquare CEO: Yes, actually, we are generating revenue

Dennis Crowley doesn't give specifics but notes that March was the startup's best month so far for revenue. And he says other important metrics are on the upswing month-over-month.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
3 min read
Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference Monday in New York. Shara Tibken/CNET
NEW YORK -- Foursquare's CEO wants to dismiss worries that the startup isn't growing, saying that all important metrics are rising about 10 percent to 30 percent from month to month.

Dennis Crowley, who also is a co-founder of the check-in and local search app, noted that Foursquare "doesn't talk about growth numbers that much," but the company pays attention to the number of active users, signups, check-ins, people using search and other metrics. All are rising, he said.

"There's a little perception we're not growing, which is false," Crowley said Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference here. "We're performing well."

Crowley declined to provide specific details about revenue or other metrics but said sales growth is "steady" every month. March was Foursquare's biggest revenue-generating month so far, he said.

"There are a lot of folks who think we don't know how to generate revenue, are not generating revenue, and don't care about generating revenue," Crowley said. "They're wrong."

He added that he doesn't regret that Foursquare didn't focus on revenue earlier, saying it's the "kiss of death" to charge people too early for a product that's half baked.

Crowley said that Foursquare is "routinely" signing six-figure deals with merchants. He noted that the company's merchant program has been "very successful" with large national retailers and is now being pushed to smaller, local businesses.

Foursquare has been one of New York's hottest startups, but the company has faced growing pains of late. For years now, Foursquare has been growing fast, but it has reportedly faced trouble monetizing its operation, posing a challenge for investors to put a true dollar mark on its overall value. Earlier this month, the company raised $41 million in cash and debt to help fund its operations.

"We're not the shiny new thing anymore," Crowley said Monday. "People are understanding what we're trying to do, become the location layer. We're in that interesting hazing period where people are skeptical on whether we can be successful or not. Facebook went through it. Now we're going through it."

The amount of location data that Foursquare possesses is one of its biggest assets, Crowley said. Foursquare hopes to become the "location data layer" for the Internet, much like Facebook serves as a social-media layer, he said. Crowley said some companies, such as Vine and Uber, are using Foursquare's API, but many more should use the API going forward.

Crowley also said the "haters" are criticizing the Foursquare of 2009, not the Foursquare of today. The company has been downplaying Foursquare's gamification features. Though defining characteristics in the early years, badges, points, and leaderboards are no longer what Crowley wants his app to be known for.

"We've got to win back consumers," he said. "We need to show that Foursquare is something that can fit into their daily life. We're not just points and badges."

Crowley noted that Foursquare wants to become the place where users go to find a great brunch place in their neighborhood or other localized information. And he wants Foursquare to eventually predict and send recommendations unprompted. So instead of getting your phone out and actively searching for something, Foursquare can push alerts and make your phone buzz. Or Foursquare could integrate with wearable technology or in-car navigation screens to share information before you even ask for it.

"There's all this value you can tease out of Foursquare, but to do it, you need to take it out of your pocket and ask Foursquare a question," Crowley said. "We're at a point now where we can anticipate things people are interested in before they ask."